Friday, July 27, 2012

Howie's Victoria Street, and some music at Sandy Bell's

Friday 6 July
After a literally stunning afternoon out at Ian Hamilton Findlay's garden, Little Sparta, we came back jubilant, bone-tired, and a touch gobsmacked.

It was all we could do to stagger up Victoria Street to a restaurant we'd seen and been attracted to, Howie's.
Of course, on a Friday night they were booked to the gills, but the kind manager said she saw a table where the couple looked like they would be moving on soon, and the young barman got us some glasses of wine as we sat on a banquette watching less hopeful diners get shooed off.  We were happily seated within 20 minutes for what turned out to be  our best meal in Edinburgh.
We had started off drinking a Trivento Tribu syrah 2011, and we then went on to an even nicer malbec from the same vineyard.
Our starters with one plate of game terrine (pigeon, pheasant, chicken, and smoked bacon) with spiced orange marmalade, and another of locally hot-smoked salmon paté rilletes with semi-pickled cucumbers and salad.
Our mains were confit of duck leg with spicy tomato cassoulet of chickpeas, onions and chorizo, and slices of a juicy haunch of Rutherford Estate roe deer, served with a potato cake topped with rutabaga-like neeps, blackcurrent jus, and arugula.  The latter even put the Witchery venison in the shade.  All the flavors were strong, simple, and well combined.
On our last night in Edinburgh, we hoped to hear some good Scottish music, so we walked over to a local place called Sandy Bell's.  There was such a crowd that you could barely hear the musicians, and one guy even wanted to start a fight over Holt resting on someone else's seat.  But everyone else we met (two identical twins who were not so identical; a recently-bereaved singer and her 81-year-old pal; editor of a physiological journal at Cambridge; and a guy with a dog who should have been "Garryowen" from Ulysses but was too good-natured) was cheery and welcoming.  We stood and were stood to a round of creamy Dark Island ale, and had a wonderful last night in Edinburgh.

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