This weekend we flew to Edinburgh for our friends' wedding. We left our house at 7.15am and were enconsed in the lovely Hotel du Vin by 11.15am - amazingly quick and about half the price of the train. I've never been to Scotland before, which is fairly shameful, so wanted to make the most of it and slowly eat my way around the city and it made sense to start with an early lunch to line our stomachs before all the wedding fizz.
I started with the oysters tempura in the shot above as I'm completely in love with oysters and have to have them if they're on the menu. These were uber light and crisp and almost mussel-like thanks to their quick frying, and served with a fancy ketchup. I thought they were excellent, but they almost dulled in comparison to Rich's Comte souffle. See below for the sheer size of it. I've never seen anything like it in all of my Masterchef watching years! It tasted incredible with the definite tang of Comte coming through and literally whacking you over the head with the addition of the sauce.
For mains I plumped for the duck shepherd's pie, which the waitress said was one of their signature dishes. It was rich with deep duck flavours and very well made with a crunchy yet creamy potato topping:
It didn't quite live up to the famous version I had in New York at Balthazar, which just has an extra je ne sais quoi. Here's a terrible photo of Balthazar's:
Rich had the Toulouse sausage and mash, which again was terrific but stopped short of his favourite, which is the Toulouse sausage at Aubaine. I need to find out where they get their sausages from because nothing else comes close.
The bill for the Hotel du Vin Bistro came to just under £70 and included two glasses of nice chardonnay, two beers and a healthy tip. They were also doing a deal for a sharing chateaubriand with sides and a bottle of good red wine for £50 which was very tempting!
The wedding was at St Giles Cathedral, so pretty special, and then next door at the Signet Library where we were treated to some authentically Scottish canapes including some delicious haggis bonbons and a lovely smoked trout crostini. There was also tablet - kind of like a crunchier fudge - and stovies - a homely beef and potato stew - at the end of the evening. I can't resist putting this pic of Leo in his wedding outfit up here as the kilt is just too much...
The next day we were up early and raring to go. I'd asked for Twitter's assistance in what to eat / do / places to go in Edinburgh and my friend Leanne really came through with the recommendations, so we headed off to our first stop: Oink / @OinkEdinburgh.
Oink exclusively serve Scottish hog roasts, with or without extras like haggis, stuffing and a few sauces. Apparently Leanne liked it so much she tried to get them to cater for her wedding in England. Hopes were high, and the piggy in the window looked exceptional:
We were mindful of a full day's eating ahead of us, so we shared their classic roll of roast pork rather than going for the aptly named larger 'Grunter' and topped it off with apple sauce and haggis. It was good, but I wasn't doing cartwheels over it. The haggis compared to yesterday's wedding bonbon lacked the necessary peppery taste and combined with the soft pork was almost undetectable. The roll needed crunch and I realised we were criminally missing crackling, which we had to go and ask for. Then they only gave us one tiny piece! Having said that, the crackling elevated the roll to something rather special and I would definitely queue up for one again. Pic below before we had the sense to request crackling.
Next door to Oink there is a cute little artisan cheese shop, I. J. Mellis / @IJMellisCheese which we immediately patronised, being utter suckers for such things. Determined to take a piece of Scotland home with us, we bought wedges of a Scottish brie called Clava (remarkably good), a Stilton-like Dunsyre blue and an interesting hard orange cheese called Auld Lochnagar (surprisingly strong, nutty and tangy).
The menu was awash with tempting Scottish fayre including Scottish smoked salmon, West coast mussels, wood pigeon and other local goodies but I finally settled on that very Scottish classic of Cullen Skink (a chowder of smoked fish, leeks and potato in loads and loads of cream). On a cold rainy Edinburgh day, this bowl of essentially a deconstructed fish pie is exactly the ticket. I loved it and feel aggrieved that we are coming into spring now so comfort food swimming in creamy broth is rather off the menu.