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DO you like cheese? Do you like peas?

Then you'll love cheesy peas.

Couldn't help thinking about that spoof ad from TheFast Show the minute I clapped my eyes on this week's menu.You see, I like duck (particularly if it's crispy, shredded and served with pancakes) and I like cottage pie (although I've never quite worked out what, if anything, distinguishes it from shepherd's pie).

So, as you can imagine, I was positively drooling at the prospect of duck cottage pie.

Apart from anything else, at pounds 14 a portion (served with honey mustard cabbage) surely it had to be pretty good?

Well, it was good. So good, in fact, there wasn't any of it left.

Damn. If only we'd headed straight to TheScotsmanHotel (plan B) instead of wasting our time at another restaurant (plan A) next to Haymarket Station.

(I won't bore you with the details right now - but read it andweep in a couple of weeks.) Still, never mind, even though the last of the duck cottage pie had flown out of the kitchen some hours earlier - if anyone wants to tell mewhat it was actually like I'd be grateful - we still had a fairly enjoyable night at the North Bridge Brasserie, one of the restaurants within the aforementioned luxury hotel.

With its ornate, high ceiling, towering marble columnsandimpressive gallery, this part of The Scotsman is simply stunning. At the risk of stealing some of Billy Connolly's old patter, it actually looks like the inside of a wedding cake.

Service is just as grand.The young chap in the crisp suit who greeted us at the door before sorting us out with drinks and some nibbles would walk straight into a butler's job at Buckingham Palace.

However, don't start thinking it's all a bit too stuffy. Once seated at our upstairs table, we were left in the very capable hands of Katie, an extremely bubbly South African girl whowent on to deserve every penny of her tip.

Although please don't talk to my mate Dan about tips...

Slightly confused by the fact that Edinburgh taxi meters go up24p at a time (what's that all about?) he'd just given our cabbie pounds 7 and told her to keep the change.

All 4p of it - don't spend it all in the one shop, darling.

Anyway, our waitress Katie - and I promise she fared better than the poor taxi driver - wassoononhand with some crusty bread (sundried tomato) and a wee dish of o lives.

A good start. Even better if they had provided a couple of cocktail sticks for the o lives. Surely you're not expected to eat them with your fingers in a swanky joint like this?

After placing our order, Dan paid a visit to the toilet and I can't help thinking how muchmoneyhe could have raised for charity by turning this long trek into a sponsored walk. 'That's incredible,' he gasped after returning to our table about 20 minutes later.

'They've actually got signs up that say KeepGoing, AlmostThere and You've Made It.'

'So where exactly are the bogs?' I asked. 'Harthill Services.'

After making a mental note to keep my legs crossed for the rest of the evening, I got tucked into my starter - crabcake with chilli jam - and, even though the pounds 6.50 price-tag stuck in my throat a little bit (irrespective of our location), I have to say it was an excellent appetiser.

Good, moist crabmeat - and plenty of it - with a nice, crunchy coating, served simply with really tasty slices of coriander marinated tomato.

Sure, the chilli jam could have been more fiery, but who wants extremely spicy food when the toilet is about three miles away?

Across the table, Dan thought the duck pate was lovely, although I'm convinced the rotten sod only ordered it to remind me of the cottage pie.

However, as per usual with this stuff, there was too much pate and not enough of the bread (bruschetta in this case) to spread it on.

Howcome that's always the case? Still, I suppose that left more room for his main course - rump of Pethshire lamb with clapshot and fried haggis. 'The lamb is medium-rare,' Katie pointed out while taking our order.

'Is that okay?'

'Er, no,'Dan replied. 'I'd like it cooked.' His wish was her command and the lamb - a fine slab of meat - was delicious.

The fried haggis - well, you can't really go wrong, can you?

And for those of you still scratching your heads ever since I mentioned clapshot, here's the definitive description lifted from one of mywell-thumbed guidebooks...

Clapshot - a mish-mash of swede, potatoes, chives and onions, sometimes (though not in this case) served with cheese.Very tasty stuff.You should try it.After the bitter disappointment of missing out on the duck cottage pie, I really neededsome comfort food. Andwhat could be more comforting than fillet of beef with creamymashed potatoes and stroganoff sauce?

The beef was superb - noneed for a steak knife - and the chef at the North Bridge Brasserie knows the secret of how to make terrific mashed potato.

If only someonewould showhimhow to makegood cauliflower cheese.

My pounds 2.95 side order was dreadful - the sauce was far too runny and a mous e with eight pairs of nostrils would have struggled to detect any cheese.

Wouldn't fancy trying his cheesy peas. But I'll definitely be back some day for that duck cottage pie.

NORTH BRIDGE BRASSERIEAddress: The Scotsman Hotel, 20 North Bridge, Edinburgh Tel: 0131 622 8200 Open: Seven days for breakfast, lunch and dinner Bill for two: pounds 60Food: 4/5 - terrific, apart from the cauliflower cheese Service: 5/5 - smartly unstuffy Decor: 4/5 - a feast for the eyes Toilets: 3/5 - don't forget hiking boots Value: 3/5 - reasonable for the locationTotal: 19/25


Posh nosh: The Brasserie's decor is top notch and the service and food don't disappoint either in this classy joint
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Feb 5, 2005
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