Monday, 30 November 2015

An early festive family lunch at Frankie & Benny's

I've found over the last couple of years that my blog has become a bit less about sharing excellent Edinburgh restaurants and more about family friendly high street chains. The reason? My daughter Paige, who in the blink of an eye is now 2. And kids don't come cheap so I find myself looking for places with money saving deals and vouchers, of which there are plenty. 

Gone seem to be the days where I was feasting on a fine dining menu at Harvey Nicks and Contini Cannonball.  Now you're more likely to find me wolfing down a pizza and sporting a Christmas cracker hat across the table from my daughter while trying to draw daddy yet again with the free crayons! It's all a bit against my ethos for feeding my child - I'm not a fan at all of 'kids menus' which are generally dried up fried food with chips. However, there does seem to be a place for this kind of restaurant that caters for families and allow my husband and I to eat a hot meal without too much trouble! Admittedly it's partly laziness - I know when I walk into these places we will be welcomed with a highchair, some kind of free entertainment for Paige (in the shape of aforementioned crayons!) and quick service. Anyone with experience of dining out with a toddler knows that speed is the name of the game! 

My tastebuds might not always be grateful but the rest of me is. Grateful that I have a need for "family friendly" high street restaurant chains because I know how fortunate I am to have my lovely little family. And that brings me to my latest experience at Frankie and Benny's. Less about the food and more about the experience for the kids...

We were joined by grandparents, cousins and uncle on a cold November Sunday afternoon at Fort Kinnaird for a family get together to try F&Bs new Christmas menu (2 Courses £16.95, 3 courses £19.95 - kids also eat free on Boxing Day)

Our table was filled with balloons, crackers, streamers and party poppers which the kids were thrilled about and it set a nice party tone for our lunch. I absolutely adore Christmas so I was also delighted! 

The festive menu is an interesting mix of traditional mixed with the usual F&Bs offering, so something for everyone. I opted for the buttermilk chicken tenders with rocket and a salsa verde Mayo to start. They were nice and crispy, however, the rocket had gone slightly mushy by the time they arrived at the table. 

Hubby went for the Mac N' Cheese Cake - a crumbed macaroni cheese cake drizzled with BBQ sauce and topped with coleslaw. He seemed happy with it and the presentation was nice. 

For main I thought I'd try something a little different so I opted for the Mushroom & Courgette Wellington - puff pastry filled with mushrooms and courgette with a hint of brandy, served with rosemary roasted potatoes, minted butter vegetables and a mushroom and white wine sauce. 

What arrived was sadly on the disappointing side. The pastry was more like shortcrust to me and the mountain of wrinkled veg looked a little sorry for itself. However, my dining experience seemed to be in the minority amongst our party as everyone was happy - perhaps I just chose poorly. 

Hubby had the Rigatoni Meatballs Italiano - juicy meatballs, red and green chilli, lemon zest, red onion, rigatoni pasta and Neapolitan sauce baked in the oven and topped with a crunchy cheese crumb. More the kind of thing F&Bs does best. 

There was no festive kids menu so they all ended up dining off the usual kids menu of burgers, pizza, sausages, chips etc. No complaints from them! I wasn't able to manage a dessert so I went for a salted caramel hot chocolate instead (which was really a dessert) and it was yummy if a little messy! All in all we had a very pleasant afternoon. The staff were welcoming, friendly and attentive and the atmosphere is great if you're planning a family or office Christmas bash. 

Writing this blog has started a bit of a mission. To find myself in excellent Edinburgh restaurants again that welcome families too but don't limit her food choice to fried/oven type food. Your suggestions are very welcome! 

*Thank you to Frankie & Bennys at The Fort for providing a voucher to try their new festive menu*

Friday, 16 October 2015

Family feast at Brewers Fayre Craig House

I was recently invited along to the Brewers Fayre at Craig House on the outskirts of Edinburgh (well Musselburgh). Not my usual hang out but with a 2 year old we find ourselves in these kind of family restaurants a bit more often nowadays and are regularly disappointed with the soggy fried food on offer. But I was very pleasantly surprised with the lovely dinner we had here. 

With an extremely warm welcome we were showed to our table in the cosy restaurant, overlooking the gardens and outdoor kids play park (had it not been evening and freezing we would have ventured out). Paige was given crayons and a magazine to colour in. A nice touch. 

The menu has your usual "pub grub" favourites on offer: burgers, curries, fish, steaks, pasta etc but also has a different themed buffet each evening, for example, Mexican, curry, chip shop, pizza. On this particular evening it was Chip Shop. It looked really nice but we opted for something else. Here's what we had...

To start:

Spicy potato dippers (£2.79)

Garlic and parsley breaded mushrooms (£3.29)

Southern chicken goujons (£3.99)

Paige also got a starter with her kids menu (from £3.99) of vegetable sticks with dip. Often some dried up carrot, but this was a lovely fresh array of peppers, cucumber, carrot and celery sticks. She was impressed and ate almost all of it! 

Everything was really fresh and crispy with an array of dips to accompany them. Paige loved the chicken! And yes that was a lot of food for the three of us, however, I was kindly told when ordering that I'd be cheaper getting an additional starter as they were 2 for £2.50 - a bargain! 

Already quite full, our mains arrived. I went for one of the new curries on the menu - a chicken balti and hubby ordered the Ultimate sausage and mash with a giant Yorkshire pudding (£8.49)

My curry was delicious (genuinely better than some Indian take aways I've had!) and was served with a crisp popodom, mango chutney, light naan bread and rice.(£8.29)

Paige's spaghetti bolognaise arrived with peas and garlic bread which I barely expected her to look at after our starters but you guessed it, she ate the lot! We've never seen her eat so much! 

Never one to shy away from dessert, I went for the Cadburys Indulgence sundae (£4.29). It was huge and scrummy and completely unnecessary, however, I was ably assisted by my ice-cream-loving partner in crime, Paige. 

All our drinks (including Costa coffees) were free self serve re-fills too. Great service from very friendly staff and brilliant value for money. For a family friendly out of town restaurant with plenty of parking - this place hits the spot perfectly. 

Brewers Fayre
Carberry Road, Inveresk 

Friday, 18 September 2015

Duck's Inn - An East Lothian Gem

I've always loved East Lothian, so any excuse for a sunset drive along the Gullane Coast to try out a restaurant with a brilliant reputation, and I don't take much persuasion.

The restaurant in question was award-winning Duck's Inn in Aberlady, owned by Malcolm Duck. 

I received a very warm welcome as I found my way through the cosy lounges to Donald's Bistro, where I was shown to a lovely candlelit table for two to await my dining companion for the evening, Katie.  

The owner Malcolm, an extremely pleasant gentleman, came to say hello and tell us about the two menus on offer that evening from Head Chef Michal Mozdzen.  There was the a la carte menu, which we went for, and the fixed price (which comes in at a very reasonable £18.50 for 3 courses).  I always think it's such a nice touch when the owner makes an effort to say hello, and he went round every single table that evening, not just ours.  Before I'd eaten a thing, I'd fallen in love with the place.

We were both so looking forward to having a good old natter over delicious food, and that's exactly what we did. Sadly, being pregnant I couldn't enjoy any of beautiful wines on offer time!

So, here what I went for:

Starter: Smoked Salmon, beetroot, herb, Katy Rodgers Crème Fraiche (£9.50)

It was heavenly!  A really generous portion size with beautiful smoked salmon and the creme fraiche went perfectly with it.  It was nice to have a mix of the two types of beetroot too.  Delicious!  I was excited for main course...

Main Course: Glazed Short Rib of Tweed Valley Beef, mash potato, caramelised shallots, pickled mustard seeds, red wine jus (£24.50)

I have to apologise for my poor photography, which does not do the food justice at all.  My main course was amazing - the tender beef came away from bone so easily and melted in the mouth.  It was cooked to perfection.  We ordered a side of green beans and salad too which went nicely with the dish.  

Dessert: Valrhona Chocolate Marquise with blackberries, honeycomb (£8.50)

Absolutely stuffed, I wasn't going to have a dessert but when faced with this on the menu, I couldn't say no.  It was rich and creamy and the sorbet on top (which I think was blackberry) went perfectly.  I have to admit I couldn't finish it...sadly.  

Katie opted for the Charred Port Seton Mackerel, pickled cucumber, fennel, dill vinaigrette (£7.50) followed by the rib eye steak.  

For dessert, Katie went for the Caramel Parfait, apple, toffee walnut from the Fixed Price Menu. 

As if we hadn't had enough to eat - the petit fours we received with coffee were a dessert in themselves, and as delicious as everything else we ate that evening!

A huge thumbs up from me for Duck's and I cannot wait to return. I have been raving about it to anyone who will listen!

Duck's Inn
Main Street
EH32 0RE

Thursday, 27 August 2015

The Cake & Bake Show Ticket Offer

2 for £20 TICKET OFFER

I am delighted to part of a community of fab foodie bloggers attending the Edinburgh Cake & Bake Show which takes place at Edinburgh's RHC 30 October - 1 November. For more info visit

I will be blogging after the event so check back in at the beginning of November, and hopefully I will see some of you there! Please see details below for the ticket offer: 
The Cake & Bake Show, in association with NEFF is an experiential live event for baking and cake fanatics. The event is set to turn up the heat with 3 new exciting shows in London, Manchester and Edinburgh. These events have capitalised on the popularity of all things baking and host the perfect mix of live demonstrations, expert classes, market stands, live competitions and so much more to develop your home baking hobby!
PLUS! See and meet renowned baking stars, patisserie experts and the industry's best cake decorators. From demonstrations on the Super Cake & Bake Theatre in association with NEFF, to do-along classroom sessions and book signings - there will be lots of opportunities for you to learn from the best! 

Tickets are now on sale! Just quote BLOG20 when purchasing to get 2 tickets for £20!
Ticket offer t&cs- *Offer valid on Adult full price advance tickets only. Offer ends 29.11.15 - Ticket terms and conditions apply.

 Information correct at time of posting.

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Review of Gusto Edinburgh

Last week I was invited along to review Gusto Edinburgh on George Street. So hubby and I met for a cheeky after work date night. 

When I arrived at 7pm the restaurant was already busy and buzzing. We had a great table (a nice comfy booth) right next to kitchen. So while I waited for my date I had a good view of the chefs busy at work. 

I decided, as the designated driver, to treat myself to one of the non alcoholic cocktails - a strawberry and mint cooler and it was delicious. They had a really nice selection which is often lacking from a drinks menu. 

We nibbled on some freshly baked rosemary focaccia with oil and balsamic vinegar (£3.50) while we perused the menu. 

Our waitress for the evening was Izzy and she was very lovely. In fact all the staff we came across were. I opted for the meatballs (£5.95) for starter and, on Izzy's recommendation, hubby went for a deli board with prosciutto, Dolcelatte and a smoked provola cheese.(£6.95)

Hubby raved about his starter and mine was bubbling hot, spicy and tasty. The sauce was lovely mopped up with more bread. 

After a nice break our mains arrived. Hubby went for the roast rump of lamb (£17.50) which was served with soy beans, asparagus and trofiette pasta and cooked pink just how he ordered, and I went for the 6oz fillet steak (£20.95) which came with fries and roasted vine tomato. 

We ordered a side of spinach and garlic mushrooms to share and I ordered a peppercorn sauce for my steak (£1.95). My steak was cooked perfectly and everything was lovely. 

My only criticism would be it was expensive considering no other sides or sauces were included, and the sides (£3.25 each) were small for their price tag too. 

The desserts, for me, were the best part of the meal. I opted for the Nutella and Mascarpone calzone...

...which was divine! Warm oozing chocolate and creamy mascarpone. Say no more.

Hubby went for the mini donuts with chocolate dipping sauce which were lovely, but not a patch on my calzone! 

We had a really nice night and I love the atmosphere of Gusto Edinburgh. It would be suitable for a girlie night or equally a romantic date. The food was great, if a little pricey for the portion sizes, particularly for the mains we chose. But the service was excellent and worth every penny! 

Thursday, 14 May 2015

A Vegetarian Feast Fit For A King!

Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending a one-day 'Vegetarian Feast' course at The Edinburgh New Town Cookery School on Queen Street. 

I was welcomed in out of the cold morning by Colette, who turned out to be my tutor for the day. The group made our way into the demo kitchen for a cuppa (with shortbread, freshly made, naturally) before heading up to the kitchens where the magic really happens. 

There were 8 of us in total, a mix of vegetarians and meat eaters, like me. Colette ran us through our menu for the day:

Spring Quinoa Salad
Dolcelatte Tortellini with Walnut Sauce and a pear salad
Wild Mushroom Ragout on Crispy Polenta
Marinated Aubergines with Oregano and Tahini 

So off we set to work making our lunch for the day which was the quinoa salad and aubergine. Colette had helpfully weighed out most of ingredients and pre cooked the quinoa so we had lots of chopping to do. The smell of beautiful fresh ingredients was intoxicating! We made a lovely marinade for the aubergine consisting of chilli, coriander, oregano, garlic, lemon juice and olive oil. It could be used just as successfully with chicken or fish.

I won't bore you with all the details of my chopping and mixing but here's the end result and it was absolutely delicious:

In addition to this we made polenta to grill later with the most amazing wild mushroom ragout made with cream, garlic, white wine, Parmesan and truffle oil. 

I will definitely be making this again as it would be delicious with pasta.

Lunch, with wine, was served in a lovely airy dining room overlooking Queen Street. We were also served coffee and freshly made banana bread. Pleased with our hard work, we started the second half of our day. Pasta making! 

We were shown how to make the tortellini which is surprisingly easy. We also made a gorgeous Dolcelatte filling. Sadly mine got completely squashed on the way home so I don't have a photo but it tasted amazing!! 

Throughout the day I picked up lots of little tips and extra recipes from Colette who was extremely knowledgable and personable. I'm sure I asked a few silly questions but was never made to feel so. 

I can't recommend The Edinburgh New Town Cookery School highly enough - such a friendly team and the food was heavenly. There are many other courses on offer from gap year courses to children's baking sessions, so please do check out their website 

With thanks to ENTCS and Porter Novelli PR for inviting me along for the day. 

Edinburgh New Town Cookery School
7 Queen Street

T: 0131 2264314   

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Surprisingly Family Friendly at The Huxley

Nowadays my restaurant choice is somewhat limited to "family friendly" venues. I'm sure my view of what constitutes family friendly is probably different to others, but for me it's quite simple: all we need is a clean highchair with a working harness, healthy food choices for kids (or option to just have smaller portions from the main menu) and clean baby changing facilities. Anything else is a bonus in my view. 

So when we arrived at The Huxley (previously The Rutland) for an early dinner with our toddler (Paige, 18 months) I have to admit I wasn't expecting it to be particularly family friendly. But I was very pleasantly surprised. 

First off, it's been done up to a lovely standard with quirky (and comfy!) chairs. Our highchair was clean and the harness in tact - tick. The main menu isn't huge, it knows what it does best, namely burgers and hot dogs with a light bites and sharing boards menu. There is also a separate children's menu with some healthy options (2 courses plus a drink for £7). Another tick. For Paige we went for spaghetti and meatballs, hubby had the "piggy" burger and I went for an unusual deep fried avocado with a wasabi dip which was absolutely delicious! 

I also had the Vietnamese spring roll which were not deep fried, they came in rice wraps and were light, very fresh and tasty. 

Paige's spaghetti was a huge portion so great for older kids (and greedy parents!). Hubby's piggy burger was a beef burger with pulled pork and pork scratchings on top which got the thumbs up. 

What's great about The Huxley is they provide a free kids pack with a colouring and games book and crayons which kept Paige happy the whole time we were there. A huge tick! For older kids they offer iPads loaded with games and cartoons. Not something I would usually advocate at dinner, but sometimes needs must! 

As it was my birthday (hence the glass of bubbly!) hubby did the half time nappy change. He assured me the baby changing facilities were spotless and the strap worked on the changing table, which in SO many places it doesn't! Only comment would be, a simple chair in here would be useful for getting trousers and shoes back on a wriggly toddler. 

For desert we shared the peanut butter brownie. We both regretted sharing as it was the best brownie we've tasted - and I've tasted a LOT of chocolate brownies! It was light and melt in the mouth and very easy to eat, with a big dollop of vanilla ice cream. 

Paige got a lovely fruit platter which she devoured promptly. As you can see from the below photo it had a great selection and was cut up to suit her perfectly. 

So all in all a very happy family! I would recommend The Huxley for a family meal and they also have an extensive breakfast menu so I think we'll be back to check that out soon. (Note children under 18 are not permitted in bar after 6.30pm). 

Thanks to The Huxley for hosting us for this review - very much appreciated. 

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Sunday Afternoon Tea at The Scotsman

I love when Sunday comes round and I have lots of nice things planned with my family. This Sunday I had a particularly lovely day planned. It started with pancakes in bed (made by me and Paige) followed by Paige's first ever trip to the cinema, to see the Peppa Pig movie. She loved it although, between you and I, I think I loved it more!! We then ate like little piggies in Pizza Hut for an early lunch. And this makes me a very big piggy as I promptly went from Pizza Hut to The Scotsman Hotel (no difference eh?!) for afternoon tea with my mum. 

Being completely inappropriately dressed for the horrible wet and windy day it was,  I arrived early so went to the North Street Brasserie for a coffee to wait on mum and warm up. I love it in there. It's cosy and comfy and you can just pop in for a nice coffee in lovely surroundings. The building is beautiful.

So, enough about my Sunday, you really just want to know what the afternoon tea was like right?! We were shown through to a beautiful warm room and were given the choice of tables and our tea menu. I went for the jasmine green tea and a cheeky glass of prosecco seeing as I had a driver (aka mum!) 

It soon got very busy. We were firsty given the savouries which consisted of a brioche roll with truffled egg mayonnaise, Cajun chicken, tomato salsa and sour cream wrap, smoked salmon and cream cheese on rye bread and Parma ham and pesto palmier. There was also a cheddar and herb scone with beetroot butter. 

I have to admit, personally I prefer to have all the savoury and sweet food displayed together as I like to dip between the two and take a rest! I also like the wow factor of being presented with a tower of food that I know I have all afternoon to nibble my way through. But maybe that's just me. All the food was lovely, especially the truffled egg brioche rolls which was quite decedent. I found the savoury scone too heavy so I just had a taste.  

After quite a long wait, we received our sweet treats (as I said, it was busy). This consisted of a fruit scone with clotted cream and a selection of jams, and a selection of cakes which included an amazing brownie, macaroon, lemon meringue tart, a chocolate truffle lollipop and a cheescakey type thing! 

The scones were huge, which for a cream tea would have been great, but I found them too big for an afternoon tea. Again, I just had room for a taste by the time I'd devoured all the other delicious treats. But I always love a massive dollop of clotted cream...heaven! 

If you're looking for a reasonably priced afternoon tea in beautiful surroundings then this hits the spot perfectly. The staff were friendly and did a great job considering how stretched they were. 

Afternoon Tea at The Scotsman is £19.95 (Prosecco costs extra). 

Thank you to The Scotsman for inviting me to try out your lovely afternoon tea!