Monday, 28 May 2012

Review: Steak Edinburgh

There are a couple of things that seem to be quite 'fashionable' foodwise at the moment - foraging and steak. I'm too lazy to forage, but I am a fan of a steak. There are quite a few steak restaurants in Edinburgh and the number is increasing at the 'higher' end of the market. Steak opened at around about the same time as Kyloe (formerly The Restaurant at The Rutland), but it's located at the other end of Princes Street in one of their old competitors buildings. Formerly known as Hawk&Hunter, 12 Picardy Place has had a revamp, getting Mark Greenaway on board - Scotland's latest celebrity chef. Steak is another, very different, offering to the ever popular area. I was quite excited when Victoria, one of the lovely Edinburgh Cake Ladies, sent a tweet out asking if anyone fancied trying Steak's Thursday Steak 'n' Shake night - at £13.50 for a 250g sirloin and chips, it was a good deal.

The ladies arrived at Steak. It's a pretty impressive entrance - past a concierge desk, into a dark room, mostly lit by candles. Backless bookcases dotted with hardbacks, church pillar candles and oversized bottles of spirits separated the space into three areas. The front, with the bar, has two enormous tables, the middle (where we were) another enormous table, and the back a variety of sizes.
photo from the Steak website
It was dark. Very dark. I could just imagine my mother saying "if I'm paying money for food, I want to be able to see it". She'd have a point. Considering how few diners there were at 7pm on a Thursday, pumping music out at an over-loud level also seemed a little odd. This is the Abercrombie & Fitch of Edinburgh restaurants.
photo from the Steak website
We were seated, after some kerfuffle about having a table that would have seated 14 having 9 on it. The waitress handed out menus. After that it got a little confusing. She only seemed to talk to the two of us at one end of the table at a normal volume, rather than trying to speak to us all from a sensible mid-point. That was slightly awkward. She didn't mention the Steak and Shake offer - we had to ask what the shakes of the day were (Bounty, peanut butter, chocolate, vanilla and strawberry). She didn't know if I could substitute it for a non-dairy option (note - the website offers a smoothie option but there was no mention of this) so I ordered a Tomato Juice and hoped for the best. It was not the best service I've ever had, but considering the enormous tables and the pumping music, I'm hardly surprised that she struggled.

We ordered, and our steaks came perfectly done. Everyone was impressed at how beautifully cooked they were, and how well presented. And - bonus points - the generous portion of bearnease sauce came automatically rather than as an 'extra'. The chips were good as far as chips go.
I ordered a side of "Buttered Spinach and Hazelnuts" and was disappointed. Although there were a good number of nuts sprinked on top, it completely lacked seasoning. It cried out for salt, pepper and a pinch of 'something' (nutmeg, perhaps), and I have no idea if butter even went near it. I suspect not - towards the bottom of the portion, the spinach floated in 2-3 tablespoons of water implying it'd been steamed and reheated rather than freshly cooked in butter. I was very glad I'd not tipped it out onto my plate - my steak would have been swimming.
Some of the other ladies ordered sides and fared better - the truffled macaroni cheese was tasty - not a massive portion, but highly flavoured and nicely crusty on top. I'd recommend it as an alternative to chips if eating from the a la carte.

I should probably also mention the tomato juice. It arrived along with the shakes at no extra cost - good to know that there's an alternative. However, it was no 'regular' tomato juice. I have no idea what I was served, and if I'd been with people I knew better, it would have gone back. It was watery, and fizzy. Yes, fizzy. It tasted weird too. It's taken me the best part of 3 days to work out what the strange aftertaste was (to begin with, I could only describe it as slightly sour), but it tasted like someone had topped it up with carbonated water. You know that slightly unusual metallic taste? That, but with lemony tomato juice. Not good at all.

Steak Edinburgh has so much potential. I have issues with the website (a woman suggestively biting into a raw steak on the front page? Seriously?) and interior, but these are probably be a matter of taste. Decent steak is a treat for every carnivore, but to encourage return visitors, it has to get the basics right or run the risk of being labelled as All Fur Coat and Nae Knickers.

Steak 'n' Shake Thursdays: £13.50
Buttered spinach and hazelnuts: £3
Truffled macaroni cheese: £3

12 Picardy Place, EH1

Monday, 21 May 2012

Event: Edinburgh Cake Ladies do Terrific Towers of Traybakes

I can't remember how I discovered the Edinburgh Cake Ladies. It was a while ago - maybe nearly a year ago - but it was a good day. My first event just happened to be this one (which I didn't blog about - it was during a non-blogging phase). It was great. I meant it when I said cake is amazing. And my Guinness and chocolate cake was pretty bloody good.

Moving forwards, these ladies have started to become regular elements of my social calendar. There is something wonderful about being able to chat food all evening at a supper club or a pudding club with people who won't judge if you go back for seconds. In fact, as I have discovered since last October, it's positively encouraged.

Last Wednesday saw the arrival of Towers of Terrific Traybakes. The ladies have stepped away from the cakes lately towards a wider variety of baking (in fact, no-bake for some of the ladies this week). Although I'm a fan of variety, I do have a bit of a fear of traybakes. I should whisper when I admit I don't really like them. I can't put my finger on why (unlike cupcakes, which I can tirade about). I think it's the over-sweet over-chocolatey tendency that they can have. They're so often made with low quality chocolate in cafes that I get half way through and can't finish. After this lot, though, I am converted...
My dinner! Clockwise from top: lemon and blueberry, fig and pistachio, pavlova slice, Canadian Nanaimo and a millionaire's shortbread marshmallow.  
My effort: Yorkshire parkin. I used this recipe.
At the end of the evening, the tupperware come out, and the leftovers are divided up to take home. A great way of getting to try things that there just isn't room for on the night (or as one lady said - as a reward for her babysitter!)
A lovely evening, getting to know lovely people. In fact, we were all so busy chatting that we didn't notice a certain Colin Firth coming in to buy some art. I could not be more gutted!
Thanks to the Edinburgh Cake Ladies for organising it, and the marvellous Bon Papillon cafe for hosting us!

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Event: Pudding Club

Pudding Club. Two words that got 15 women very excited.
At my initial foray into the world of supper clubs, I sat myself down next to the lovely Wendy. To cut a long story short, after a lot of wine and chatter, she told me that she was starting to enter the Supperclub world, and was looking to host a Pudding Club… cue weeks of excitement, menu discussions via twitter with excited attendees, and the next thing I know, I’m knocking on Wendy’s front door.

We were welcomed in to her lovely living room, where a long table was set for us. We chatted and mingled for a few minutes, sipping Pink Lemonade until it was time to begin.
Wendy had said that she would be serving tea and coffee throughout the meal, as well as providing jugs of water. This was a great idea – a couple of us were driving, and I love a cup of tea with my pudding. I did, however, sample a cheeky wee half glass of lovely dessert wine that one of the other ladies brought
… And so it began.

A trio of starters. A cocoa rich chocolate mousse, a delicate pomegranate and prosecco jelly, and a beautiful buttermilk pannacotta. I’m not usually a pannacotta fan – it can be too rich and milky for me, but this was beautifully creamy, slightly tart from the buttermilk, and with a lovely speckle of vanilla. The strawberry sauce on top was perfect too.
 … After that came the lovely sticky toffee pudding – mini portions were spot on, served with the most amazing toffee sauce, and a thick vanilla custard....
… fresh fruit pavlova…
…cheesecake two ways – baked rum and raisin, and fridge-set cherry…
At this point, I couldn’t continue with the full portions, and shared pieces with one of the other ladies!
And finally, on to our 'dessert'...
A trio of icecreams - ginger and coconut, keylime pie and raspberry. 

It was a wonderful night - good food, good company and a good host. It was relaxed but meticulously organised, and a perfect treat.

If you're interested in knowing more about Wendy, her catering business, or her supper clubs, she can be found at