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Cockatoo ruffles my feathers; Great menu but service is nothing to crow about.

Byline: TamCowan Award winning critic

To say we were both absolutely Hank Marvin when we walked into The Cockatoo in Dalkeith is a bit of an understatement.

Put it this way - a funeral was in full swing in the lounge (a good Scottish job with plenty of laughs and drink) and we were seriously tempted to do a Jack & Victor and help ourselves to the sandwiches and sausage rolls.

Sensibly, though, we sat at the bar and perused the mouthwatering menu. Packed with plenty of comfort food and lots of "made in-house" dishes, I'm guessing the pages are laminated so it's easier to wipe away the drool.

After being ushered into the bright, smart conservatory, my mate Neil observed: "It looks like a Brewer's Fayre but it isnae."

Nope, no numbered tables at The Cockatoo. But they don't do themselves any favours with the cheap sachets of condiments on every table. Get rid.

Also, any chance of some coasters on the polished wooden tables

Condensation from the cold drinks meant the same old problem - lots of little puddles and big wet patches on your breeks.

Another wee grumble - a chipped wine glass. I know we're from Motherwell but we don't all like swigging vino straight from the bottle.

One final gripe (for now).Service. While very cheery and friendly, was also extremely slow (poor stuff with only two tables occupied on the quiet Wednesday afternoon we visited).

I asked for a toothpick after my main course and I honestly think I would have been quicker driving back to my dentist in Motherwell.

Still, lots of positives at The Cockatoo. The cracking kids' play area out the back must have been going like a fair during that splendid summer.

The parking facilities (yep, even after 10 months behind the wheel, I still like plenty of space) are terrific.

And, even though they don't specify which year, The Cockatoo was apparently "highly commended" as Scottish Family Pub of the Year (I'll assume we're talking fairly recently rather than, say, 1973).

According to a huge banner outside, The Cockatoo is also "the home of chicken piri piri".

I wonder if Portugal might have something to say about that

This is the house speciality, apparently, and you can order it "hot" or "very hot'". As a lover of all spicy food, I'd normally have waded straight in. However, this was my first bite of the day and I'd had a decent bevvy the previous evening, so let's just say discretion was the better part of valour.

Anyway, Neil started with the potato skins. Served with sour cream and lots of oozing, melted cheese, they were great - mainly because they were PROPER potato skins and not those big, thick wedges that would choke a Clydesdale horse.

Nope, these were like the peelings left in the bottom of the sink when your mammy was making the Sunday dinner, which perhaps begs the question - so how the feck were they PS5.50

Meanwhile, I had the haggis fritters and they were fine.

I asked for sour cream instead of whisky sauce as I'm not too keen on whisky.

In fact, I might even be allergic to it. Drank two bottles the other night and I was violently sick.

Next up, an 8oz sirloin steak for Neil, served on a sizzling, smoky skillet that made the accompanying onions and mushrooms even tastier.

The beef was very good but we couldn't believe the chips were the cheap frozen efforts - a huge let-down after all the "made in-house" patter on the menu.

Memo to the chef - see, when you've peeled the potato skins, I've got a cracking idea what you could do with the stuff that's left over...

Neil also turned his nose up at the very bland pepper sauce - particularly as it cost a whopping PS2.95!

Sorry, is this The Balmoral Hotel or a pub on the outskirts of Dalkeith

Bizarrely, the light, puffy homemade onion rings - the best I've tasted for years - were only two quid for a huge bowl.

I also loved the chicken fajitas. Piled high on another sizzling skillet, I'm guessing they'd been prepared with a liberal splash of the "very hot" piri piri sauce as this dish was wickedly spicy.

(Now I really want to try The Cockatoo's piri piri chicken.)

Dessert

A decent sticky toffee pudding for Neil but I wasn't so keen on the chef's apple crumble with custard. Considering the crumble's the best bit, I thought there was too much apple and custard. Too much stodge, not enough crunch.

One final thought, folks. That was 750 words and not one dodgy "cockatoo" joke. I bet regular readers are stunned...

tam.cowan@dailyrecord.co.uk

THE COCKATOO

Telephone: 0131 660 1211.

Open: All day seven days.

Wheelchair access: Yes. 75

Bill for two: PS60.

Food: 5/10 - a bit hit and miss.

Service: 3/5 - very friendly, if a tad sluggish.

Decor: 4/5 - ask for a table in the lovely conservatory.

Toilets: 3/5 - fine.

Value: 3/5 - big portions but a few items way overpriced.

TOTAL 18/30

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THE BEST BURGER VEGGIE

750g grated 150ml carrots brand Scottish flatbreads.esame

400g chickpeas

1 small onion, chopped

200g self-raising flour

2 tbsp sesame paste seeds

2 tbsp tahini Pinch of salt and cumin

1 tsp ground black pepper

150g natural oil yogurt

1 egg

3 tbsp rapeseed

1 tbsp milk

1 tbsp rapeseed bs

100g wholemeal brea dcrum oil

1 lemon, zest and juice

HOW TO MAKE THE PERFECT... VEGGIE BURGER

Each week, a top chef shows you how to make a perfect dish. This week it's the turn of Jacqueline O'Donnell, from The Sisters restaurants in Glasgow, with her veggie burger recipe.

Burgers:

Pop a third of the carrot into a blender with chickpeas, onion, tahini, cumin and egg. Whizz to a thick paste.

Heat oil and fry rest of carrot until soft. Add to the paste with breadcrumbs, lemon zest, juice and sesame seeds. Season and shape into burgers.

Chill if you have time.

Either barbecue or place into a frying pan, depending on the weather.

Serve inside the flatbreads.

Flatbreads:

Warm a grill to a high heat.

Mix ingredients together to form soft dough. Divide into four pieces and press into ovals, about 5mm thick.

Place on a baking sheet. Brush one side with oil and grill on high until puffed and golden, then turn over, brush and same again.

Fill flatbread with carrot burger, a swirl of yoghurt, and salad, then serve.

Glasgow sisters Jacqueline and Pauline O'Donnell opened their doors 15 years ago, with the quirky saying, "big sis cooks, wee sis serves". They have restaurants in Glasgow's West End at Kelvingrove and just off Crow Road at Jordanhill. For info, go to www.thesisters.co.uk This article is in association with Taste Communications, Scotland's food champions.

THE COCKATOO Old Craighall Road, Millerhill, Dalkeith EH22 1RZ

CAPTION(S):

WICKEDLY SPICY... The chicken fajitas were hot and delicious
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Oct 19, 2013
Words:1576
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