5 Web Guides to Edinburgh, Scotland

Recently I was on a facebook group where one of the participants was asking about what to do in Edinburgh. I'd normally sit and talk about what was going on in Edinburgh and interests, being slightly pushed for time, I added a set of links - which appeared to be useful so I thought that these may be worth putting into place here for any visitors to Scotland's capital city to wade through for inspiration. Have fun in Edinburgh next time you come visit us in Scotland.

Eat, Drink, Discover Scotland 2014

Eat Drink Discover Scotland 2014 Logo

Eat Drink Discover Scotland 2014 Logo

Woo hoo. I got my tickets. The Eat, Drink, Discover Scotland 2014 event is being held at Royal Highland Centre, Edinburgh, EH28 8NB - just next to Edinburgh Airport.  I wasnt going to go if I am absolutely honest. I find these large scale foodie things actually a bit annoying - as the crowd can outweight the artisan nature of the food I enjoy best. But it's in Edinburgh (almost assuming that a bus out to the Gyle counts as Edinburgh and not Ratho) and some of the food producers actually were on my list of things I'm already enjoying so feels like a wee trip to the contemporaries seems like a good shout.

If you're heading out there let me know in comments below. I'll whack up a review kinda thing after the event - may take me a day or two as the Thistly Cross Cider is a favourite in my house. Discounted tickets (£8 off the £15 normal cost) available @ http://www.bite-magazine.com/product/904/12/13th-14th-september-2014-eat-drink-discover-scotland.

Personalised Chocolates (yep I dont get the acronyms)

I know I aint down with the kids. But earlier this week noticed that Thorntons Chocolates were talking on their Twitter feed about how some pop star person (nope I dont know her either but she did have a picture of her with Jason Statham). Anyways she did have the following pic up of a chocolate Champagne Bottle. I have no idea what the acronym means.
Thorntons Chocolate Champagne Bottle

Thorntons Chocolate Champagne Bottle

Apparently it means "I will never let you down" but TBH the interweb could be pulling my leg. If you want one you can buy one over here.

Ethical Coffee from Bird & Wild is it a damn fine coffee?

Bird and Wild Coffee Logo

Bird and Wild Coffee Logo

  There’s a scene in Baby Mama (Tina Fey, Amy Poehler), where two people on a first date mistakenly assume the other is a vegetarian and so end up at a vegan restaurant where the waiter proudly describes how one dish tastes a lot like dirt. I’m tempted to say the same thing about Bird & Wild’s Ethiopian organic ground coffee, only I would go so far as to say it doesn’t taste enough like dirt.  While this organically grown batch does possess an earthy, roasted flavour, the taste does not resonate past the top soil. Lacking is the rounded floral note, the deeper, bitter sweet, which compels one to close their eyes while savouring sips, as exceptional coffee is capable of doing. Despite the “Great Taste 2013” stamp, origins unknown, on the packet, I would venture that the Ethiopia variety of Bird & Wild is not yet great – but it is good and furthermore seems to be made with good intentions. Continue reading

United States Meets United Kingdom Real Ale Festival

I should to all intents and purposes have a dislike for a brand who consistently moves into locations and to my heart seems to forget where they are and instead create a homogenous pub atmosphere that could be anywhere and at any time. But in all honesty when a good pint of ale comes in at under £2 then I have to stop grumbling. JD Wetherspoons; the Carron Works in Falkirk, does this nicely, and my local branch (I think pub chains have brances - may need to think on this for longer) consistently has good beer, and this weekend the beer was better than I'd expected as it had a USA twist. Not that beer from the States is better, just it made a change from the Scottish brews I'd been consuming in the previous weekends. On Friday night I ended up imbibing a few beers after a long week at work - one of those when you leave on the Friday from the office the heart rises with desire to do nothing more than forget the week that was. Anyway ramblings aside, Wetherspoons were running their "United States Meets United Kingdom" real ale festival. And TBH the beers were pretty damn good;
United States meets United Kingdom Real Ale Logo

United States meets United Kingdom Real Ale Logo

The Festival runs for another couple of days so thought I'd give it a shout out. The full tasting notes can be found here, reading them I think I may need to go back and try some more of these. My favourite had to be Titanic Cappucino Stout (I have a thing for beer that tastes like coffee). http://beersmanchester.wordpress.com/2013/04/18/manchester-a-beer-is-born-jw-lees-manchester-pale-ale-launch-joshua-brooks/ talks of a vanilla and capuccino titanic stout - gonna have to find this good stuff.

City Cafe Edinburgh Review

City Cafe, Edinburgh

City Cafe, Edinburgh

There are places on this planet that are designed to help you escape from the troubles of the general day. Unfortunately these places are generally filled with the swine of the human race at 5pm - colloquially these are known as bars and pubs. Thankfully the City Cafe does not fall into the full of pigs category - unless you have the hickory ribs as I did yesterday that were delicious.

City Cafe Food

My boss always says that "sharing is caring" and at times this is true; at others its just a damned inconvenience to have someone else order when all you want to do is eat one thing rather than taste various things. Yesterday was a sharing day so I ordered The Butchers Board (£14.00) containing :
  • Full rack of BBQ Ribs,
  • chicken fillet strips
  • 2 baby cheese burgers and
  • premium pork bangers
  • pea shoot salad stuff
  • hickory smoked BBQ Sauce
Was damn good - the baby cheese burger coulda been a little bit bigger; for baby I would probably replace with foetal sized, but the ribs were great and the meat fell off the bones easily and were sticky.

City Cafe Beer

I like beer. Not that fizzy lagery stuff beloved of the weekend fighters that adorn every pub in every city every Friday and Saturday night. But beer and TBH when I go to a bar and it has a specific menu devoted to beers from Scotland I am happier than a child at xmas. The beer menu does not dissapoint; unless you're looking for a session beer. Everything was 4.2% + and some peaked at far higher than that so beware when ordering. The Twisted Thistle IPA was a nice sassy number and the Schiehallion was as ever delightful. I was later to wander off to the Half Way House and imbibe some rather fine Raven Ale; but in terms of it being truly good after the beer previously I could not in all honesty atest.

City Cafe Edinburgh Information

Diner style cafe by day and source of booze at night
19 Blair Street
Phone: 0131 220 0125

City Cafe Edinburgh Score

3 / 5 stars
The City Cafe on Urbanspoon

Top Dive Bars of London

For all that I prattle on about food in all honesty I find more than half the places I eat/drink as being full of imbeciles and operated by staff who think I should be grateful that they have deigned to allow to me eat at their restaurant. This really annoys me. One of the places where I feel comfortable is generally in a place where uncool people hang out without being made to feel that they are in someway freakish and look out of place. As a result generally when I visit any city in the world I start to search out dive bars;
A church for down-and-outers and those who romanticize them, a rare place where high and low rub elbows—bums and poets, thieves and slumming celebrities. It’s a place that wears its history proudly 1
And yes this is how I look at a dive bar, except the piece about slumming celebrities; if someone is a celebrity they can go and find somewhere else to drink so I can have a drink or twelve in peace. Oh and if a bar has a ping pong table rather than a pinball table, a roof terrace rather than a smoking area or contains a restaurant menu rather than a bar menu it's unlikely to be on my list of places to in which to escape the thronging masses of Londinium. Posts will go up over next couple of days and I'll try and make this a series of positive posts rather than whining about how expensive bars are in London, or the fact that no one ever says excuse me as the trample you underfoot etc.

London Dive Bar References

  1. Definition of a dive bar is taken from a 2010 edition of playboy magazine

The Artists Residence, Brighton, England

It is a rare thing these days where I stay in a "boutique" hotel. I'm Scottish so suffer from the short arm and deep pockets issue; resulting in me generally staying in the cheapest places known to man. Alongside this somewhere as far South as Brighton is equally rare. However I was speaking at a conference and my work was paying as a result - duly I ended up staying in the kinda cool hotel "The Artists Residence".
Artists Residence, Brighton : front door

Artists Residence, Brighton : front door

I should have known that the lurid, neon pink front door was a gateway to a place that was going to mess with my head and be a bit more than the general B&B I was expecting. my work to send me to. Continue reading

The urge to eat more noodles in London, Dubai and Edinburgh

It doesn't matter where I am, currently sitting at the side of the pool @ the Majestic hotel in Dubai, I want noodles. Can't help myself; whether it be a great pad thai or a cup of ramen noodles for daily lunch I eat a lot of noodles. Am currently scoping out the noodle scene in Dubai - not decided where I want to go but as soon as I do I will have a wee review online. I just read a recent post over at Eat Love Noodles review about eating at Mr A Wongs restaurant in London. And my attention was drawn to the image of the quail egg croquette (no noodles they are a couple of images further down in the post).
Qualis Egg Croquette from A Wong restaurant London Victoria

Quails Egg Croquette from A Wong restaurant London Victoria

Damn that looks good. But I am starving and TBH I would need to eat many quails egg croquettes to sate my hunger today.

Review of Coffee @ Madinat Jumeriah Hotel

There are few things that make me wonder about the true cost and value of certain things. In Dubai the price fluctuations between places is probably as acute as I've seen it. I generally use coffee as my benchmark; something which I'll often use as a standard item which can create a wide spectrum of qualitative and quantitative factors. I've had great value filter coffee @ a 24/7 shop in Manilla (cheap as get out and just what I needed after too many bottles of red horse) and had great value coffee in the hills of Mauritius watching the sun set made from civet bodily filtered coffee (bloody costly but tasted fantastic and rounded off a meal). Continue reading