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Aizle to re-launch at Kimpton Charlotte Square Hotel, Edinburgh

By Sharon Wilson Aizle will re-open its doors July 22 but at Kimpton Charlotte Square Hotel not at its former St Leonard's premises. Opened in 2014 by husband-and-wife team Stuart Ralston and Krystal Goff, Aizle became known for its signature surprise tasting menu. Diners being privy to only a list of local, seasonal ingredients. Chef patron Stuart Ralston, has said: “I am really delighted to announce this exciting new chapter for Aizle. We have had six outstanding years at Saint Leonard’s Street and I will be sad not to return there, but the time is right for a change. I am looking forward to having a bigger space, and being able to offer more covers. We often have a waiting list for Friday and Saturday nights, so hopefully we will be able to accommodate everyone who wishes to dine with us. Kimpton Charlotte Square is a stunning Georgian-built hotel in the heart of the New Town and very close to my other restaurant, Noto, which makes it handy if we need a cup of sugar! It also means I can bring all my staff out of furlough and guarantee them a job, which I would not have been able to do otherwise.” Kieran Quinn, General Manager at Kimpton Charlotte Square Hotel, said: “We’re incredibly excited to be welcoming Aizle to Kimpton Charlotte Square. From the very initial discussions it felt like a natural partnership, we share a similar ethos and values and as a team, they are as passionate about providing service as full of charm and personality as we are and Stuart’s exceptional dishes are some of the best in the UK. “As we reopen our doors this month, it feels like the right time to make some exciting and innovative changes and Aizle will complement the existing offering within the hotel perfectly. The space is ideal for the Aizle team, an oasis at the heart of our hotel, and with BABA also reopening on 30 July this brings our Restaurant and Bar offering at Kimpton Charlotte Square to a truly exceptional level.” Aizle will be located in The Garden in the centre of the hotel and open for dinner Wednesday to Saturday. It will offer a six-course tasting menu for £70 per person, with an optional £50 drink pairing. There will also be a private dining room seating up to 14 guests. Everything at Aizle is made in-house, from the live ferment in the sourdough, and the hand-churned butter, to the aquavit and aged kombucha in the cocktails. Aizle, Kimpton Hotel, 38 Charlotte Square, Edinburgh, EH2 4HQ

Brand new brasserie back from the brink

AN AMBITIOUS new restaurant that launched just weeks before lockdown has come back from the brink – after its owner was told it was too new to qualify for grants and the furlough scheme. Pier Brasserie, the £100K transformation of the former Prezzo site, within Newhaven’s prime former Fishmarket building, launched with much excitement and anticipation in February. Within weeks it became clear that the spread of Covid-19 was set to devastate the sector along with the dreams of owner Mark Patonyi, one of city’s most esteemed restaurant manager, previously front of house at Martin Wishart’s The Honours, Manager of Martin Wishart at Loch Lomond and general manager of Steak Restaurant at Picardy Place. Now, Mark, 36, alongside head chef and friend Vladimir Garcik and a further team of two, has opened a take away offering, enabling foodies to sample high-quality bistro dishes while taking in the views of Newhaven lighthouse and the bridges, from the harbour. The father of one, who moved to the UK from Hungary in 2007, said: “It may sound cliché, but 2020 has been an unbelievable rollercoaster of emotions. “From the highs of our amazing opening – and those initial few weeks which saw us packed out – everything came crashing down. “It looked like we would never be able to recover – and it has been heart-breaking that we can’t even offer our team the small comfort of furlough, as we’re so new we didn’t receive our PAYE reference number until after the 19 March cut-off date. “We’re still doing everything we can to appeal that, as it just feels so unfair. As a new business we’ve not had any chance of building up cash reserves. “Up until a few weeks ago it didn’t seem feasible that we could launch a take-away offering, but it got to the point I couldn’t sit around and wait for my fate any longer.” He has subsequently launched a carefully selected menu utilising the best local and Scottish produce, including seafood landed in the harbour and meat from Donald Russell butchers. Included in the menu will be ciabattas, fish and chips, burgers, salads and desserts – as well as few options available each day for children. Mark added: “The menu is an honest reflection of the food we were serving in the restaurant prior to lockdown – and easily enjoyed outside or at home. “We’ve put in place all safety precautions too and had the team practice everything rigorously to ensure we can do this in the safest possible way. It gives us a chance to safely gear up to a potential part-opening in weeks, depending on how guidelines change. “I also want to give a huge thanks to those that have offered kind messages during lockdown, knowing the situation we’re in.” Ahead of the February launch Mark had been at the heart of the £100,000+ transformation of the site, project managing each process to ensure they meet his exceptionally high standards – as well as hand-picking a 15-strong team. For more information about Pier Brasserie or to get first sight of the new menu when it launches, visit: PierBrasserie or follow us on Facebook @pierbrasserie and Instagram @pierbrasserie

CHOP HOUSE at HOME - serving best of British beef and innovative cocktails

By Sharon Wilson The independent steak restaurant group has launched 'Chop House at Home'. Chop House's unique offering is 'Best of British' dry-aged beef as part of a sharing feast available for collection or delivery. The menu gives customers access to exceptional Scottish beef that can be cooked easily at home alongside a selection of popular and delicious sides. The focus is on ease or preparation, consistency, and minimal washing up! Cuts of beef range from 400-900g - chateaurbriand, porterhouse and bone-in-rib - and come with instructions on how to cook the perfect steak. Prices start at £65 each and include a bottle of wine, triple-cooked beef dripping chips, sesame 'slaw and wild garlic mushrooms. Additional items include placemats, napkins and wipes. Managing Director Mark Fraser pointed out: "restaurants are about much more than great food, they're a social ritual in this country and have been sorely missed - we want customers to be able to have a really special experience when they use 'AT Home'. In addition to steaks, Chop House have added a selection of extra items such as Newhaven lobster from Welch fishmongers, a cheese selection from Mellis and a range of cocktails and wines from in-house. The team have also added a BBQ range to their online store featuring steak sandwiches, dry-aged burgers, and larger BBQ packs for the Scottish summer. Director Michael Spink commented “the future for hospitality is unclear and we want to be able to safeguard as many jobs as possible by broadening our offer to include a permanent online store”

Cafe St Honoré - back in the kitchen.

Sharon Wilson Neil Forbes and his head chef Joe at Cafe St Honoré are the latest chefs to head back to the kitchen. They join the rosta of restaurants now offering a take-away service. The menu includes a selection of Cafe favourites using great produce plus a bottle of organic wine. Orders start Monday (29 Jun) for collection from the restaurant on Thistle St Lane on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. (2, 3, 4 July). Menu Below. You can book here THE MENU - £67.50 for two Sourdough bread with a whipped crowdie & black pepper dip Starter Belhaven smoked trout with heritage potato salad, horseradish, organic salad leaves & fennel Main course Confit Kype Muir duck leg, braised lentils, root veg & Peelham Farm organic salami Side Cabbage with Arran mustard & tarragon Dessert Organic lemon posset, Perthshire raspberries & shortbread Flapjacks to enjoy with coffee

Cutting Chaii - tea for two

Diana Spencer It's unusual for a brand new restaurant to be an instant success, especially one that is slightly off the beaten track. However, after just two months, Cutting Chaii's reputation is building momentum. It is thanks, says the owner Sajal, to overwhelming support from the local community. The restaurant's location has helped, certainly. Salamander Street's slightly seedy repute is definitely a thing of the past, with lots of new residential developments in the works. Plus Cutting Chaii is just a stone's throw from busy Constitution Street and The Shore.

The new restaurant/bar is modern in design, and though small, there is plenty of space between tables. Authenticity is important. The name, Cutting Chaii, refers to a tradition, particularly in Mumbai, of sharing a tea between two. Literally cutting it in half, which is what diners are expected to do with the tapas-style food. All the dishes are based on real Mumbai cafe food, rather than the more British curries in most Indian restaurants. This means there is a wide variety on offer, with grilled meats, curries, vegetarian options, wraps, pastries, salads and kebabs all featuring on the menu. Three to four dishes are recommended for two people, and for tapas, the portions are pretty generous.

On Sajal's recommendation, we started with the Khasta Kachori - deep-fried pastry with dal and potatoes, served with chutney, sauce, peanuts and salad - not something I had ever come across before, but it was sweet, spicy, crisp and fresh.

Our main course selections were all very different but equally brilliant. The Lamb Boti had been marinated in a blend of spices for 24 hours before chargrilling, to produce succulent meat, served with mint yoghurt and salad. The Karahi Lamb curry was perfectly slow cooked in a sauce with green chillis, and was, unsurprisingly, rather fiery; while the Mother Butter Chicken was the creamiest, richest butter chicken I have ever had, but still with a kick of spice. The naan bread, the real test of any Indian restaurant, was fluffy, bubbly, slightly charred, soft and sweet.

The latest Leith sensation is definitely a big hit with the locals for its freshly-cooked, locally-sourced and flavoursome food; but book early to avoid disappointment. Though the restaurant was fairly quiet on a Thursday night, the phone was constantly ringing with new reservations. Cutting Chaii 18-20 Salamander Street, Edinburgh, City of Edinburgh, EH6 7HR 0131 553 1000 Wed - Mon : 05:00 PM to 11:00 PM Tuesday - Closed

Decanter - winery and dinery in Bruntsfield

By The Go-Between Who said Edinburghers were cold and unfriendly? Not in the lovely Decanter Bruntsfield wine bar - so new that the carpenters were still winding up when we arrived on their much-anticipated first night. We were welcomed with open arms (literally - who doesn't need a bear-hug at 6pm on a Thursday?) into this cool but exceptionally cosy neighbourhood hangout. So glad to find my new local office J is well up to the mark, and - oh, joy - actually comfortable, with uniquely designed furnishings. While Jonathan gave us a rundown of Decanter's community-based plans over a decent house Prosecco, Billy was cooking up a storm of tasty eats. The menu is varied & very interesting - definitely not your average bill of fare, with some less predictable delights such as pheasant bites fragrant with orange zest, & a cracking quality signature sharing platter. Though there's plenty to satisfy vegans/vegetarians, the single 'weird oddity' sampler dish, which will change regularly - and one that actually suited my friend Fiona, who's lived in Hong Kong so is familiar with this 'delicacy' - was crispy chicken feet. Blissfully, all wines are available by the glass, so our gang of five did our best to sample the individually chosen initial wine list, with lots to enjoy and also plenty of intriguing surprises including oddities such as a white Malbec. The longer-term plan is that customers will engage in helping to select forthcoming lists. Before Spring has sprung, a downstairs restaurant/private dining area will have been completed to add space, and it looks like they'll need it. The cocktail list was fascinating for mixology fans like me, but they weren't yet serving on this initial visit, due to the back bar still being assembled & the likelihood of a tray of cocktails being upended by departing tradesmen. However, I will be returning soon as there appeared to be more than enough house recipes due to be shaken up by bartender Stephen to keep the interest going over the first few months. Currently open from 5 every day, the new Decanter 'Winery & Dinery' plans to open all day once their additional downstairs restaurant & private dining spaces are complete in March. Decanter 183 Bruntsfield Place EH10 4DG 0131 466 5359 5pm-11pm 7 days

Desserts at Home by Chris Turnbull

By Jill Blair I’m getting quite used to ordering food during the lockdown. Last weekend we had wine and ice cream delivered while we were watching a film and felt very cosmopolitan! We really are missing restaurants, though, especially as a treat for a special occasion. As far as restaurants in Edinburgh go, there is no denying that Michelin-starred The Kitchin is an institution. Renowned for superb quality ingredients, creative cooking, and attention to the finest of details, it’s wonderful for a treat. Chris Turnbull is the head pastry chef there. If you have been fortunate enough to taste his desserts, you’ll be all too aware that Chris really ticks all of those boxes. His desserts are sublime and sophisticated. Recently Chris has launched an ‘at home’ dessert kit so you can have a go at making his dishes in your own kitchen. We ordered a kit for two people this weekend: dark chocolate tart, honeycomb, and vanilla creme chantilly. The bag arrived full of little pots of correctly weighed and measured ingredients. There was a recipe card and another showing what the dessert could look like, but with words of encouragement to let your own creativity flow. It was like a grown-up chemistry set, and I couldn’t wait to get started. The kits at the moment contain a lot of single-use plastic tubs. However, they are still developing the service and changing to more eco-friendly packaging is something that Chris is planning to do in the future. Although I enjoy baking and cooking at home, I hadn’t attempted anything quite so delicate before so this did push me out of my comfort zone, but in the best way. I really enjoyed making the honeycomb and will definitely do that again. The chocolate filling was so delicious and rich I could imagine making a bowl of it and just dipping fruit. I was determined to attempt my own little twist, so I sliced ripe nectarine and cooked it in a pan with some brown sugar, honey, and a few knobs of butter. I was really chuffed with my finished dish! Chris has expanded the delivery area for the kits, and they are proving very popular. Keep an eye on his Facebook page for details of the next one. (Jill Blair) Facebook Website

Diageo $100 million recovery fund to help pubs and bars after lockdown

By Sharon Wilson Diageo, maker of GUINNESS, has today announced a new global programme to support pubs and bars to welcome customers back and recover following the COVID-19 pandemic. “Raising the Bar” will be a two-year programme available from July 2020. Through “Raising the Bar”, Diageo will provide $100 million to support the recovery of major hospitality centres, including: New York, London, Edinburgh, Dublin, Belfast, Mexico City, Sao Paulo, Shanghai, Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Nairobi, Dar es Salaam, Kampala, Sydney and beyond.  This $100 million programme includes the $20 million Community Fund announced in the United States on 12 June 2020. Diageo designed the “Raising the Bar” programme following a global survey of bar owners to identify what they need to reopen after lockdown. Their top priorities include hygiene measures, digital support and practical equipment to transform how their outlets will work. The “Raising the Bar” programme will provide targeted support to help pay for the physical equipment needed for outlets to re-open. For example, in the UK, Diageo will provide initial funding for: ‘hygiene kits’ with high-quality permanent sanitiser dispense units, medical grade hand sanitiser and a range of personal protection equipment (such as masks and gloves); help to pubs and bars to establish partnerships with online reservations and cashless systems; mobile bars and outdoor equipment. From 24 June 2020, bar owners will be able to register their interest for the “Raising the Bar” programme via globally and in the UK and Ireland. Bar owners will receive regular updates on best practice training and resources and be able to participate in global surveys to share insights, as they build back their businesses.
Ivan Menezes, Chief Executive of Diageo commented: ‘Pubs and bars sit at the heart of every community. We have launched “Raising the Bar” as so many outlets have been impacted by this crisis and badly need help to open their doors again.’
‘We are calling on governments around the world to provide long-term recovery packages to help the hospitality sector. These businesses play an essential role in bringing people together to socialise and celebrate – something that we have all missed so much during this terrible crisis – and sustain hundreds of millions of jobs, which provide a first foot on the employment ladder for young people.’ The UN’s International Labour Organization has forecast that 436 million enterprises worldwide face serious disruption and one in six young people will be unemployed due to COVID-19. The hospitality sector will be one of the hardest hit, as pubs, bars, clubs and restaurants provide hundreds of millions of jobs for many full and part-time workers.
The impact of COVID-19 on the hospitality sector has been widespread, with the closure of venues the world over. As governments begin to ease lockdown measures, the public want to come together again to connect with their community and socialise safely. By providing access to free digital support, technology, training and equipment, Diageo aims to help bars open their doors again.

Divine Wine at Le Di-Vin

By Chris Berry 'Wine bar'. For those of us who grew up in the eighties this term evokes memories of venues packed with punters dressed like extras from Dynasty, glugging over-oaked chardonnay to a backing track by Sade.  Fortunately, the modern incarnation is a lot more palatable, as a recent to visit to Le Di-Vin joyfully proved. Nestling in a former church building, Le Di-Vin is the younger sibling to next-door restaurant La P'tite Folie, both owned by Virginie Brouard. Entering the bar it is apparent that wine is the star.  A whole double-height wall is dedicated to decorative pewter bar, backed by shelves of quality wines, expertly sourced from across the globe: 164 bottles to choose from. Yet a visit to Le Di-Vin is far from an overwhelming experience - quite the reverse. The staff are warm, welcoming and have the knowledge to deftly guide patrons.  Accompanying the wine is a cleverly matched menu of food - more of which later.  To appreciate the breadth and quality of wines available, my dining/quaffing partner and I were offered a mini-wine tasting. Whites included: a grassy, grapefruit-laden Picpoul de Pinet; an Australian Riesling with subtle elderflower and apricot flavours; and a stunning Chablis - steely dry, but with brioche hints.  Reds were equally fine: South-American Carménère that was full of rosehip and rhubarb (amazing, given it isn't usually my favourite grape); cherries and raspberries, courtesy of an "easy drinking" Sangiovese; and a great plummy, spicy Malbec.  Do I sound a wee bit 'Jilly Goolden'? The wine was so well balanced and enjoyable, I don't care! The very clever thing Le Di-Vin does is match well-prepared, tasty - yet straightforward - dishes to accompany the impressive range of fine wines. We consumed a very moreish planchette of mixed charcuterie and French cheese as we sipped and chatted.  Quizzing Virginie, she elaborated about the food.  "If people want a three-course dinner, we direct them to our restaurant.  If they prefer to relax with good wine and food that doesn't require a kitchen full of chefs, it has to be Le Di-Vin". Welcoming, airy, yet intimate.  With some of the best wine I have tasted in a while, plus inviting, uncomplicated food, I shall certainly return to Le Di-Vin soon. Le Di-Vin Wine Bar 9 Randolph Place, West End, Edinburgh, Midlothian, EH3 7TE 0131 538 1815 Mon-Sat 12 noon till late; closed on Sunday

Easy elderflower champagne

By Sharon Wilson Apart from eating delicious restaurant takeaway food Mrs Bite has been foraging, pickling, fermenting and preserving. But, I always seem to come at life from a different direction to the prevailing wind. As Lockdown tightened, our oven broke. So while social media feeds were a roll call of artwork-worthy sourdough me and the mister were taking the back off the stove (ok he was), ordering parts (me) until finally finding an unfixable fault. Ikea we await your re-opening! Never mind we have gas rings and ordered lots of beautiful produce. The garden began to give, and long country walks were a source of food too from wild garlic to jack-in-the-hedge to elderflowers. I have made wild garlic soup and strawberry jam, preserved lemons, made fools and played with kefir. I have pickled vegetables and made whole meals out of what would at one time be called 'scraps'. I have bartered and shared. My lastest adventure is elderflower champagne. You need elderflowers, organic unwaxed lemons which I ordered from Spain via Crowdfarming, sugar, vinegar, sterilising fluid and a big bucket. I am posting the video I followed. I have 20 litres undergoing a second fermentation and no explosions so far. Come to think of it .....I better go and burp those bottles. Happy homesteading!

Edinburgh couple launch home delivery service

Stockbridge brunch fave The Pantry delilvers during COVID-19 PANTRY AT HOME’ 15/05/2020
Neighbourhood breakfast, brunch and lunch spot, The Pantry, is coming to a kitchen table near you - your kitchen table, to be exact as Pantry at Home launches today. 

‘Pantry at Home’ is the brainchild of co-owners Chris and Charlotte Thompson who also own two restaurants, a pop up ‘tuck truck’ and a catering and events service.

Initially launching with delicious, comforting, restaurant "ready-meals” like ale braised ox tail, parsley mash, parmesan and panko crumb as well as gorgonzola, confit garlic, cavolo, mixed 'shrooms mascarpone and gnocchi among other mouth watering delights; the service will go on to deliver hot meals including breakfast and brunch favourites.

Co-owner Chef, Chris Thompson says, "I’ve missed being in the kitchen. But I’ve spent the time making up dishes that will taste just as mouth-watering re-heated and enjoyed at home. As well as making sure the hot dishes that we will introduce later, travel well and taste just as good as if you were in our restaurant. I’m excited to bring what people love and enjoy to them during a time it will be appreciated more than ever.”

The Pantry who has had to furlough 100% of their team during lockdown has been able reinstate 2 members who will support the launch of the delivery service. As the offering develops and the public look for a different way to enjoy food in the future, Charlotte believes having this additional channel which caters for a ‘new normal’ will benefit her customers. "We’ve missed the restaurants and our customers and we can’t wait for that to resume when the time is right. But until that is safe and possible, I wanted to bring something positive to people who have been so supportive of us. This delivery service will operate within the city bypass but I knew I wanted to be able to send beyond that too. The Pantry is about neighbourhood communities so being able to deliver to places like North Berwick, Midlothian and Livingston was important to me.”

Customers can sign up to order via the Pantry website where they can also opt to pay it forward and send a meal to a loved one or deserving someone in their community as well as to two local charities; Make 2nds Count and Soul Food.

Fishers - in the city

By Sharon Wilson Fisher’s is a classic city centre bistro specialising in fresh fish and seafood with the service and décor you would expect from a smart establishment. It was also just fresh from winning Best Seafood restaurant of the Year at the Evening Times Restaurant Awards when Bite visited last month. There is a Fishers Favourites menu (cream chowder and fishcakes are personal faves) and there are always fresh oysters, natural, grilled and tempura. My grilled half dozen came this time around with seasonal wild garlic butter and toasted hazelnuts, the crunch mixing nicely with the creamy oysters from Loch Creran. Shell slurping is acceptable. Liz had chosen, from the a la carte, sea bass and lime tartare with pickled fried red onions.Again freshness and texture were keynotes here. Liz is a WSET Level 4 wine student so took advantage of the Coravin system to taste Pinot Gris Reserve, Rolly Gassmann, 2008 Alsace. To my novice palate it had honey, stone fruit, some minerality and was lusciously full bodied and somewhat sweet. Liz had chosen it to riff off of the fresh piquant tartare.

For main course I chose halibut with spring onion & pumpkin seed spelt risotto; a delicious hunk of fish on a nutty base. The halibut was very slightly overdone for my taste and I think the plate would have benefited from a squish of lemon juice but we are splitting hairs; the course was delicious. Liz tucked in to hand dived Orkney scallops, anchovies, parsley & mint oil and commented "the unusual use of mint on scallop dressing with parsley oil was a tasty & refreshing way of adding fresh piquancy to the rich scallops”. The bivalves came with "deliciously moist crushed garlic oil potatoes”. Desserts were a stretch for our tummies but I admit I was game. I wanted the classic crème brulee which came in a wide shallow dish with the thick glass brittle of burnt toffee on top and a sugary disc of home made shortbread. Liz chose a scoop of vanilla ice cream and one of rhubarb sorbet from Over Langshaw farm in Galashiels, which she said were ‘spectacularly good’ with the texture of the sorbet being creamy, velvety and fruity. Fresh seafood, fine wines and creamy desserts ticked all the boxes for us. There is a reason why Fisher’s is so popular and with all the new kids popping up I note that it remains excellent value for money. Fishers in the City 58 Thistle Street, Edinburgh, Midlothian, EH2 1EN 0131 225 5109 12 noon - late.

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