Monday, October 17, 2011

I'm not dead. I've just been recuperating (and eating!)

Don't worry. I haven't died from hyperventilation!
There are several reasons why I haven't posted anything here for the past two weeks and none of them has to do with my premature death as a result of trying to bake too much for the Dingle Food Festival!

Firstly, I had to spend some time recuperating. I'd worked myself ridiculously hard (59 hours over four days) and ended up a gibbering wreck. Thankfully, I'm over that now.

Despite my gibbering, I have to say I enjoyed the food festival this year. There was such a great atmosphere on the streets of Dingle as people wandered through the town, sampling little taster plates of local foods as they went. The two food markets were exceptionally busy and I loved meeting lots of Twitter friends and fellow food bloggers at my stall. I grabbed every opportunity to chat but unfortunately, I was so busy that there wasn't time to have a chinwag with everyone. Nor was there any time for me to take any photos of all that was happening around me but thankfully, Aoife of I Can Has Cook has a great write up here.

My second reason for not updating is that I've been away. I got a chance to go to Scotland for work and as my boyfriend has a lot of family in England, we decided to combine it with paying a visit to them. So, we climbed into the car at 6am on a Tuesday morning, drove to Larne just north of Belfast, took the ferry to Cairnryan in Scotland and arrived in Edinburgh just shortly before dinnertime. We spent three days in that wonderful city (where I once spent a happy summer as a student), then travelled north to Oban and the island of Mull and generally mooched and ate our way around the Highlands. 

Isn't Scotland pretty?

We then travelled south to Hereford (with a pitstop to see the Angel of the North just outside Newcastle, which is totally worth a visit), followed by two days in London and another day in Gloucester. Finally, we arrived back in Dingle 12 days later, having travelled more than 2,000 miles and had an absolutely great time.

We ate lots of good food while we were away. I've got so much to tell you about eating in Edinburgh - having eaten in the fabulous 21212 and No. 12 Picardy Place - but I'm going to start my series of holiday posts by sharing some tips about three other great restaurants in that city.

Dingle may have a strong (and growing) food culture, as the success of its annual food festival attests. But the one thing I miss about not living in a city is the quality of Chinese, Indian, Japanese and other foreign cuisines. It’s something we just don’t have and I often wish we did. So, when I go to the city, I want to sample some of those foods – as well as foods that typify that city too.

I went to three places in Edinburgh: the Chinese Karen’s Unicorn, the Indian Mother India and the tapas bar Café Andaluz – all of which have lots to recommend them. (My apologies in advance for the quality of the photos - I only had my phone with which to take them.) 

Karen’s Unicorn was recommended by Mark Greenaway, the chef at No 12 Picardy Place.  We’d been impressed by the modern Scottish food he cooked for us and had to follow his advice as a result.  The restaurant looks enticing from the outside, its blue twinkling brightly in a sedate Edinburgh square. 

We were instantly greeted by the staff and what wonderful staff they were. I don't know if I've ever met any friendlier or kinder. We were dithering over our choices when the lovely Danny said that if we chose something we were unhappy with or didn't really like, we could always send it back.
“It’s important to us that our customers are happy,” he said. Wouldn’t it be great if all restaurants had that policy?

We had dim sum, steamed pork buns, war tip dumplings, battered ginger monkfish, crispy beef and a side dish of stir-fried vegetables. My favourites were the pork buns and the monkfish. The buns were soft and fluffy, steamy, slightly sweet and filled with a contrastingly spicy meat filling. 

The monkfish was a lovely Chinese take on the Scottish classic of battered fish - the batter was crisp, the fish perfectly cooked and the spicing gave the dish a light, fresh taste. Yum! 
Our meal, which was more than enough to feed two people and included four beers and one dessert of lychees, cost £50 - good value, don't you think?

Café Andaluz is an attempt to recreate the fiesta of Spain in Scotland. It's fabulously decorated with tiles, Moorish lamps and colourful fabrics and its menu is a varied range of classic Spanish tapas as well as some dishes - such as the beef carpaccio with wasabi and pickled ginger in a spicy dressing - that fuse Spanish cooking with other cuisines. 

Unfortunately, I didn't take photos but I did enjoy my meal here. I had aubergine stuffed with herbed couscous and topped with melted manchego cheese, which was a dish of simple, strong flavours, and battered lime-scented prawns served with a lime aioli. This was fresh, crispy and bursting with citrus flavour.  

Richard (I don't know if I've told you that that's my boyfriend's name!) had the beef carpaccio, which combined its strong flavours in a brave way and featured beef of a very high quality, as well as sea bass served in a citrus mango dressing, which was light and zingy.
The atmosphere here was buzzing. We drank delicious beers. And it cost us £20 each. 

On another day, we had lunch at Mother India, one of Edinburgh's best-loved Indian restaurants. Everyone who works here is Indian. There are Indian film posters on the walls and the menu specialises in tapas-sized plates of Indian food, which means that you can mix and match different dishes. 

We had aloo gobi with green beans, chicken korma, machi massala (a spiced fish dish), boiled rice, raita, coriander chutney and aloo paratha (Indian flat bread stuffed with potato) and it was all good. All of these dishes were simply and excellently spiced and tasted like something the best kind of Indian mamma would make - wholesome, hearty, homely food. The bill, which also included sparkling water for two, came to less than £25.

I would recommend all of these as places to eat in Edinburgh, particularly as places to eat with large groups of friends.

I'd also love to know where your favourite Indian, Spanish or Chinese restaurants are. After all, who knows when I'll next be in your city, craving some foreign foods.

Karen's Unicorn, 8 Abercromby Place, New Town, Edinburgh EH3 6LB
Café Andaluz, 77 George Street, Edinburgh EH2 3EE
Mother India, 3-5 Infirmary Street Edinburgh EH1 1LT 


  1. Sounds like a fabulous break, Sharon. I love Scotland!

  2. Arlene, I once spent a happy summer in Edinburgh as a student soaking up the sights and sounds of the festival but I'd never explored the rest of the country. It's so beautiful.

  3. If I ever go to Scotland on a mini-break I will use this as my guide. Great shots. Scotland does look pretty.

  4. Mona, I haven't even started yet. I have wonderful posts to come about modern Scottish cooking and a fantastic shop/café/oyster farm alongside a lough. There's so much to discover in Scotland, although it does get cold up there!