Saturday, 23 May 2015

Nail of the Day - Kiko 280

Rating: 7/10

Kiko is a budget Italian make-up brand which I first discovered in Sicily in 2010. The shade 280 is a bright, creme orange that I purchased for about €3.90, which is a bargain considering the formula, application and wear-time. I don't wear it often, but every time I do I'm pleasantly surprised by how much I like it. It's bright and happy, and the application is fairly stress free.

The formula is a cream so it is prone to streaking and it is a little opaque after 2 coats, but considering the difficulty of producing an orange nail polish, the formula is still good and fairly easy to work with. However, when I applied my Essie Good to Go topcoat weird things did start to happen (the whole polish dragged) so I wouldn't recommend applying a topcoat until the polish is completely dry. Without a topcoat, you'll get about 3 good days of wear before chips.

I'm off to Italy again this year, so no doubt I'll be returning with some more Kiko polishes to add to my collection... Woohoo!

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Eating @ Pho Vietnam House, Edinburgh

My score: 3.5 or 4/5
TripAdvisor review: here.
Location: here.

Last week Anthony Bourdain's 'No Reservations' was on the tv and he made a return trip to Vietnam, and instantly I was craving the fresh tastes of Vietnam.

Vietnam being somewhat far away, I had to settle for Pho Vietnam House on Grove St. I've actually visited this restaurant before, but it was four years ago just after the place had opened. I didn't know anything about the flavours of Vietnam, and if I'm honest I don't really know now, but I've cooked a few Vietnamese dishes before so I like to think I have a general idea of the flavours I'm looking for. At the very least, I expect fresh flavours!

The place is a little out of the way unless you know where you're going (it's on a side road of Morrison Street) and is a fairly small restaurant. I guess it fits about 30 people maximum. I gather that it's fairly popular so I would recommend booking if you intend to head there on a weekend. The decor is nice enough (a homely feel) and the staff are attentive. It's BYOB.

The starter and dessert menu is fairly limited, but there's a nice selection of mains and about four different choices of pho to chose from. I ordered the prawns salad for my starter and the raw beef pho for my main.

As I was the only person in the restaurant at the time, my starter arrived fairly promptly. It was a nice size for one person, but at £6.95 a little overpriced! My decent sized bowl of pho was only £7.95. If I'm honest, all the starters are over priced. The salad came with four large prawn crackers which was a pleasant surprise. Guilty pleasure, hello! The salad was a mix of cabbage, onions and carrots and was covered in crushed peanuts and crispy shallots. The sauce was slightly sweet, with hints of mint that I appreciated. The texture was the  right blend between soft and crunchy. The prawns themselves were a let down, however, as I'm pretty sure they're the sub standards frozen prawns you'd get in a prawn and mayo sandwich. If you order the salad I recommend to get it with chicken. Prawns aside, I certainly enjoyed my salad. Salads don't have to be boring!

So, as I said, I've visited this restaurant once before and at that time I also had the pho. I don't remember very much about it which in retrospect was perhaps a sign. My bowl arrived shortly after I finished my starter. The pho came with the usual accompaniments (mint, a quarter of a lime and cabbage) and siracha was available on the table for those who need a hit of spice. The beef was nice and pink when it arrived and the broth was clear, a good sign. Before I added my condiments I gave the broth a sip. Mellow flavour with a hit of chilli; nothing too overwhelming. I did notice straight away however that it was missing any star anise/cinnamon flavour. Afterwards I piled in all the mint and lime that was available to me. A hint of siracha and it was time to eat. The noodles were well cooked, just tender but not too soft. Nicely done. The beef was soft but seemed to be lacking any beef flavour. It was more texture than flavour. The soup was at a good temperature; hot enough to enjoy without burning your tongue! I enjoyed my first few slurps but the more I ate, the more I began to realise that the broth was just lacking any oomph. No amount of extra mint or lime would help, I just couldn't get the taste out of the broth that I wanted. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't a bad broth, but it wasn't making my tongue dance with delight. I expect a pho to be fresh and zingy; alive with flavours! For me, this somehow fell short. It has all the makings to be a good pho, but the flavour of the broth just seems to be a little lacking. It's a shame.

It's hard for me to rate this restaurant because while the food didn't blow me away, there was nothing wrong with it specifically. I feel that this could be a great restaurant, but at the moment I feel that the owners are content with having a good restaurant. If I do return it will be to try something other than the pho, but if the rest of the main dishes are of the same caliber I won't be returning. This restaurant is so close to being an amazing taste of Vietnam in Edinburgh, but just seems to fall short.

(Bad quality phone photos coming soon. Yay.)

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Eating @ Affogato, Edinburgh

My score: 5/5
TripAdvisor review: here.
Address: here.

A gelateria in Scotland seems like a pretty risky enterprise in my opinion, but thankfully Affogato does gelato so well that I'm certain they'll be having customers no matter what the weather. At the very least, I'll be there!

I mean, look at that delicious gelato to the left. Creamy, home-made, bursting with flavour and all delightfully served in a crispy waffle cone (or a tub, if you're that way inclined...). Yes, this is gelato like they make in Italy and thankfully it's come to Edinburgh's West End. Since I discovered this shop earlier this month I've been back 3 times, recommended it to all my friends, taken an Italian friend and I intend to be taking family there next week. Did that I mention I love gelato? I won't deny it.

All the gelato is home-made and changes on a regular basis. I myself have had coconut, dark chocolate, chocolate malt, fig and ricotta gelato and dark chocolate sorbet (the moment I tasted the dark chocolate sorbet I knew I was in love. The fig and ricotta is pretty damn delicious too!). If you're not sure about what flavour you would like the friendly staff are more than happy to let you taste their wide selection of flavours because, let's be honest, trying to choose between salted caramel and stracciatella can be a hard choice. A small cone (£2.80) comes with 2 flavours as standard, as in Italy. The serving sizes are pretty generous and the price is completely fair. For gelato this good, it's an outright bargain! They also sell milkshakes, cakes and other ice-cream based treats.

The cafe itself if very homely and a bit like the Tardis in that it's a lot bigger on the inside than you would expect! Comfy couches, maps of Italy, candles and an inquisitive old dog (yes, this cafe is dog friendly) create a comfy, if not thrilling, atmosphere where you can happily sit and chat for hours. The shop is open until 10pm making it a wonderful spot for late night relaxation and chat.

Simply put, Affogato is a taste of Italy right here in Scotland. Can't wait until your next holiday for your gelato fix? Get yourself to Affogato. Job done.

Mi piace il gelato!

Friday, 11 July 2014

Easting @ Petit Paris, Edinburgh

My score: 4/5
TripAdvisor review: here.
Adress: here.

When I was in Paris, I stayed at a Korean hostel that served delicious Korean food, and the only time I ended up eating out I ordered a French version of a Turkish dish (ha!), so I'm no expert on French food.  In this spirit of ignorance, I was excited to try Petit Paris' offerings as I'd read good things on TripAdvisor.

Petit Paris is located in Grassmarket which is a prime tourist spot, which would normally mean it is a place to avoid (like the plague), but I am pleased to say that Petit Paris is not a tourist trap. The restaurant itself is exactly as one would expect for the area: outdoor seating, atmospheric interior and hunky French waiters enticing in the passing tourists. Aforesaid waiters are friendly and attentive, and I had no complaints with the service. A 10% service charge is added to the bill if you sit outside or are a party of over 8. The menu is fairly priced for Edinburgh, with a small, but wide, selection of dishes. There is also a decently priced set meal if you want to spend less than £10.

My friend and I ordered a glass of the house white each, and while he settled on the cod in saffron and mussel sauce, I ordered the vegetable and goat's cheese pie. We were also given some delicious bread and butter and a side of chunky, salty chips (I'm not sure who dish these belonged to, but they were most welcome!). I was told me pie would take about 20 minutes to cook, but I can't say I felt that I waited to long for my freshly baked pie. All I can say about my friend's dish is that he enjoyed it. As for my pie, it was really rather delicious! The pie is obviously freshly baked and comes to the table in a piping hot ramekin, with the butter still freshly sizzling. The pie crust is light, and on the right side of flaky. The vegetables on the inside (courgette, pepper and tomato) are soft and perfectly seasoned, and the goat's cheese doesn't overpower the dish as can sometimes happen. It's not a heavy dish, but it does an excellent job of satisfying one's taste buds and tummy. At £14.80 it is about £2 overpriced for my liking, but it was delicious and if I'm honest, I'd order it again. Especially if it comes with a side of chips...

So, do I recommend Petit Paris to all those tourists and non-tourists who find themselves in Grassmarket and in need of nourishment? I most certainly do!

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Eating @ Quattro Zero, Edinburgh

My score: 3.5/5
TripAdvisor review: here.
Adress: here.

Ah, Quattro Zero! I have mixed feelings about you! So much promise and yet...

Let me start by saying that I am reviewing the take-out lunch menu ONLY, and not the restaurant as a whole. With that out of the way, on to my review!

One rainy workday lunch time I was asking around my work colleagues for recommendations on where I could get something other than a sandwich for my lunch. Upon the suggestion that there was a restaurant nearby that I could get a slice (ha! How little I knew at this point) of wood-oven cooked pizza, I was sold and dutifully headed to Quattro Zero.

To my taste buds, the perfect Margherita pizza has a thin, hand-stetched base, a rich tomato sauce, a sparing layer of fresh buffalo mozzarella and a drizzle of olive oil on top. Some fresh tomatoes and basil would be nice. Cook it in a wood oven and I am a happy camper!

For me, the pizza was disappointingly average. The pizza dough is fresh but has a strange aftertaste, especially the crust. The tomato sauce is slightly too sweet and exceptionally normal (no secret recipe sauce here!) and, the worst crime of all, the pizza is covered in cheap mozzarella that solidifies into a cold 'cheese' lump very fast! The end result is an unexceptional pizza that has a lot of promise but ultimately fails to deliver.

What rescues Quattro Zero is that this freshly made, 12" pizza only cost me £3!!! Yes, that's right, £3!  For that price I'm willing to overlook the flavour flaws of Quattro Zero's Margherita pizza and I know I will be returning every now and then for a quick pizza fix. The lunch menu is quite varied encompassing burgers, pasta, panini and, of course, pizza. Everything is priced within £3 to £5.

By the way, pictured is Quattro Zero's mushroom and thyme pizza (also £3) that my workmate ordered. She loves Quattro Zero's pizzas, so I guess in the end whether you enjoy your pizza depends on your personal preferences. At £3 a pizza, it's certainly worth a try!

Friday, 13 June 2014

Eating @ Rice Terraces, Edinburgh

My score: 4/5.
TripAdvisor review: here.
Address: here.

It has taken me far too long to write this review! So, let's get on with it!

Rice Terraces is a fairly new restaurant and as far as I know, the only Filipino restaurant in Edinburgh (and the whole of Scotland?). During my time in Japan, I made had many Filipino friends and I remember how fondly they talked about their (pork) food but as none of them were big cookers, I never got to try anything Filipino. With this in mind, I headed to Rice Terraces with an ignorant but excited mind.

The restaurant itself is tucked away in a fairly quiet back street in Edinburgh's south side, but if you know the area it's not hard to find. It's essentially opposite Homebase (free parking anyone?). The restaurant it not too big, about 25 people max, and the decoration is simple but pleasant enough. A word of warning, the bathroom is cold! 

As I said, I have no idea about Filipino food beyond the basics (adobo, lechon and polvorón being about the extent of my knowledge) but luckily the staff (a family affair, by the way) are friendly and are happy to explain about their food and make recommendations. The waiting staff all seem very proud of their food, which is a nice sign. I decided to go for a starter, main and dessert and with a little help from my server chose Lumpiang Sariwa, a spicy pork dish that I forgot the name of (opps) with a side of rice, and Ube Halayan. To drink I had mango juice and plenty of water. All of my dishes arrived in good time and the service from the waiters was attentive and friendly. On to the food!

My starter, Lumpiang Sariwa, was certainly larger than I expected! It also tasted completely different than I expected! it was like a thick pancake, covered in crushed peanut and filled with bean sprouts and other veggies. Occasionally I get a kick of black pepper where someone hadn't mixed properly, but otherwise the filling was good and the pancake was good overall. The veggies in the middle were tasty and fresh and the overall experience was a good one. The peanut and garlic sauce was delicious but I could have done with more of it! Not enough gravy is a crime.

I have forgotten the name of my main dish, apologies, as it was on the list of specials, all of which sounded delicious! My dish came to my table sizzling hot, and I was asked if I wanted a fresh egg cracked and scrambled on my dish, which I most certainly did! This is optional. The dish consisted of (deep-fried?) pork cubes in a smokey, peppery gravy. This dish was apparently spicy, but I have an extremely high tolerance to spice and say this was about... a 7 out of 10? But don't trust me because I love spicy food... The dish was good, but I wouldn't order it again, if I'm honest. It was a little too heavy for me, and although the dish had good flavour, as a stand-alone main (with rice) it can become a little same-y. There are many other wonderful sounding mains at this restaurant that I would rather try!

As for my dessert, well, this was called a soufflé but it most certainly is not! Ube Halayan is a very heavy, thick dessert made of ube, a delicious purple tuber, and coconut. There was a delicious caramel/chocolate sauce around the outside, but again this was in short supply! I must warn you that this is a very heavy dessert, and best shared! The texture is like a very thick mousse, and the flavour is of mild coconut and ube (uhm, duhh). I can't say I loved it, but I think if I had someone to share it with, or had eaten a lighter meal beforehand I would have enjoyed this. It was freshly made, which I appreciate.

My overall experience at Rice Terraces was good, and I certainly recommend anyone to try this restaurant! The portions are huge, the food is freshly and lovingly made, the service is friendly and the price is fair! However, I recommend this as a place to visit with family or friends where you can order a wide variety of dishes and enjoy many different flavours and textures. For me, I don't think I ordered the best dished for my tastebuds, but I will certainly be back to give it another try!   

For a nice list of Filipino food, please see here

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Eating @ Bobby's Sandwich Bar, Edinburgh

My score: 4/5.
Address: here.

It seems unfair to judge a shop on a take-away bacon bap, but that's what I'm doing. It is, after all, a take-away sandwich shop. So how was my bacon bap? Well, there was a good amount of bacon and it was nicely warmed. Also, it had a good proportion of fat to bacon and a nice smokey taste. I got a gentle amount of ketchup, as asked, no butter, with a nice soft roll. I must say that the bap was very pleasing. Service seemed a bit slow but everything seems slow when you're in a rush. 3 to 5 min was all I waited, truth be told.

So, for £1.35 this bap was definitely worth getting, and I will come back to Bobby's Sandwhich Bar in the future to satisfy my bacon needs!