Food & Drink



ScotSihan Hotel. 20 North Bridge. Ettnburgh. 0131 622 281-4

Given that the Scotsman is trying to give the Balmoral and Sheraton Grand a run for their money in the sumptuous hotel stakes in Edinburgh. the only real surprise is that it took this long to open a flash. fine dining restaurant here. You'd never know it was previously the whisky and Cigar lzar. 399. All that appears to remain in this Subtly lit. intimate dining den are the bespoke cabinets that once displayed the many single malts. Now. thanks to a bit of gauZy fabric and filtered light. they make a Suitable design element that offers silhouettes of ‘.'.’ill(3 bottles. Presumably expensive vintages. too. because food (evenings only) doesn't come cheap at Ver nilion: it's $39 for a meal. But there is definite exclusivity. Executive chef Geoff Balharrie and his team have their own kitchen down here. Dishes include plump seared scallops on Stprno\.'.'ay black pudding. served with broad beans and mint beurre blanc. for example. Or how about a dessert of caramelised lemon cream with rhubarb soup. honey and cardamon ice cream? The menu is as smooth and silky as the 30-year-old scotch they once poured here. (Barry Shelby)

An intimate _ ' and excl’mw‘i : dining

FOOD AND DRINK SPOON 15 Blackfriars Street, Edinburgh

Speaking to Richard Alexander. it's difficult not to compare him to a defiant David before his battle with Goliath. The popular chef is set to open his own cafe. Spoon in July and he's more than ready to rise to the challenge. If Alexander’s name is familiar. it‘s with good Alexandér » reason. Since leaving (fitz)Henry's in 2001. he's been goes it chef extraordinaire at the popular Rogue restaurant on 'alone Morrison Street. So should Rogue enthusiasts expect

more of the same? 'There's a fine line between what you ant to do and what the public expect when they come to a café.‘ says Alexander. 'lt's about toning (loam. Your natural instincts might be to prepare a sandWich like gorgonzola and pear with red onion inarriialade. but wno knows if people will go for that sort of thing?'

Alexander's keen for Spoon to offer a selection several notches above your typical cafe fare. “Some people are more interested in the multinationals like Starbucks. But these places are all the same. T‘ieg. to, and go for that "‘J/lllflll’lg formula" every time.'

Or. I suggest. Wilftt they think is a ".‘xinning' style? 'Absolutely' says Alexander. ‘They've got all the same sofas and sell the same big mugs of tasteless coffee. We're trying to do something different. ‘.'.’e're renovating the kitchen and we've got an interior designer in to do the front of house.‘

And tnerr decor ooks to be as inventive as their culinary offerings. 'lt's going to be light and airy with a ‘eel to :t.‘ says Aiexandt-zr. 'We just want to create a relaxed. chilled out space for people.‘

And he's no: a man to be scared by the competition. '80 many coffee houses in Edinburgh are about St‘,i(: and no content.“ he says. Everyone works to the same template but we‘re going to change aii tnat.‘ lAnrra lvliilari

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In the Devil's Garden: A Sinful History of Forbidden Food (Canongate £14.99) 0.


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‘Food writing’s shameful secret is its intellectual poverty,’ said food writer John Thorne and no one can accuse Stewart Lee Allen of any deficits in brain power. His new book, a follow- up of sorts to his lively travelogue-cum-history of coffee The Devil’s Cup, offers the same smart and entertaining prose.

Yet you can’t help but feel that Allen has been drawn towards food writing - in this case a series of lively anecdotes, myths and tales by accident. He has travelled the world and clearly seen the sublime connections between culture and cuisine. One thing led to another and now he’s a food writer.

Thorne’s barb should be more accurately thrown at publishers looking for the next best seller. In the Devil’s Garden’s real flaw is the artificial convention of the seven deadly sins which is intended to provide structure to Allen’s prose. All that it’s done is create chapter headings into which his observations, menus and recipes must fit; however awkwardly.

So pride becomes linked to nationality (fair enough) which takes Allen to a yarn about people who eat clay (huh?) which then turns to thoughts on the Hindu caste system (wha?) that ultimately leads to a discussion of Christ via his apparent violation of kosher dietary restrictions.

In sloth’s chapter, we read about how a baguette symbolises the penis. What does this have to do with idleness? Very little, alas, although it does give the author another chance to work in a bit of sex.

Thank god that at least the chapter titled greed touches on Nestlé’s ruthless and deadly promotion of baby formula in the Third World as well as the dubious industrial farming practices in the West that helped give rise to mad cow disease.

And Allen's last tale in gluttony’s section is deviously delicious. It tells how Francois Mitterrand’s last supper involved the eating of a protected songbird, ortolan, following the historic rituals that the French long applied to consuming this delicacy. Gluttony, indeed. Too bad that elsewhere, Allen appears to have made a meal of it. (Barry Shelby)


Making a meal of food



In Edinburgh: l "Mali Strut, sslcyln 30 The “alum, 2.1;“6444-

2. 870W)ka hm, 553-8!“

On Sunday afternoon our elJefi‘ prepare a superb and innovative menu. Relax

Excellent value at £17.50 per person.

.n 3 12 Ashton Lane Tel 0141-334 5007

Sunday Lunch

and enjoy a ivondeifirlfour-eozuzre lune/J and a glass offizz.

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