The month started – or more accurately January finished – at Maialino. This is the best place in town for bacon rolls that I’ve found. The double pancetta is a particular winner with me.
I’d not been in Checkpoint in what felt like a long time. That’s a bit strange as I’m in that neighbourhood a lot at the moment. We had both good drinks and good burgers on our visit. I’ll be back again much sooner next time.
I had an enjoyable lunchtime visit to the Peanut Gallery in Tollcross for crisp and light sourdough pizza. It’s an unusual little place that feels like someone’s front room. The pizza was different to others I’ve tried in the city so is a very welcome addition to what is now verging on an insane number of new pizza places.
Ronaq is a reliable Indian with two branches across the city. We visited the one in Comely Bank and had a pretty good time. Their lamb chops were the highlight.
I had a cracking lunch in Lady Libertine, a place I enjoy very much.
In terms of bars, I visited the Raging Bull for the first time and found it on good form. I had a fun night in the Peartree with the assembled customers and staff from the excellent Cheapshot, my favourite coffee place of the moment.
The new menu at Lucky Liquor arrived at the start of February. The Wicked Blue was a particular delight. An initial sampling of their wares was followed by a classic Monday night trip to Chez Jules for steak frites.
It was nice to see Jody Buchan on his birthday, back behind the stick at Kin. His gig as Monkey Shoulder brand ambassador has limited his time in delivering bad chat to adoring customers. It was good to see that balance restored.
I had a couple of joyful visits to Nauticus which is on continuing good form. Beer Man and I had a fun little jaunt around the city centre including stops at the Pop-Up Geeks, House of Gods and the Bow Bar.
I visited Basil’s for an enjoyable evening with my pal Anne. From a little background reading, it sounds like the place had a slightly stumbling start, but we found it on very good form. The cauliflower fritters were profuse and delicious and the pastrami short-rib was lovely. The place is a slightly odd fit for the location – a highly gentrified version of a well-loved local boozer that had hit hard times – but I’d be happy to visit again.
We visited Rokkaku Ramen once again, this time at a 5-day pop-up they ran in Ooh Mami, on Bernard Street. The venue was excellent and the food delicious.
In the middle of the month, it was a joy to be back in Copenhagen, where my lengthy world travels starting in blazing hot conditions back in August 2018. The temperatures were rather colder on this occasion, but the city no less of a glorious spectacle for it.
I had a couple of days working on day-job tasks where they’d gone to extreme lengths to deliver healthy food choices. Lunch featured no butter, dinner no wine, and coffee breaks a type of flapjack that was possibly the sweetest substance on Earth.
Once freed from this haphazard approach to event catering, I quickly headed to Ruby, the city’s most celebrated cocktail bar where I was looked after in fine style by a treasured former Bramble and Black Pearl alumna.
Drinks were excellent and the feel of the place beautifully welcoming.
I had been given a hot tip by none other than the manager of my beloved Lucky Liquor that I should make it my business to dine at Rufino. An informal, lively Italian with a strong natural wine list, I couldn’t have been more impressed. Their pasta of the day, offal stuffed cappelletti in a pecorino and mint sauce, was as close to the perfect plate of food as I’ve ever been served.
It was hard to match that experience, so I took a different direction the next day and headed for Yolkie Egg Joint for breakfast. Specialising in substantial breakfast rolls and burgers, I enjoyed one of their classic egg, cheese and bacon rolls and couldn’t resist adding in a burger to make it a truly epic piece of breakfast filth.
I’d long had hopes of dining at Manfred’s so was delighted to do so for lunch, the same day. Specialising in local and seasonal vegetable dishes, their signature dish is – slightly curiously – steak tartare. But this mix of well-sourced veg with incredible quality beef worked splendidly. The tartare was outstanding but I think the flower sprouts with crisp shallots were even better.
I kept it pretty light in the evening with a trip to John’s Hot Dog Deli in the meatpacking district. A favourite spot of Action Bronson, apparently, these were hotdogs a cut above the norm. And their beer selection was very good, too.
I then headed to nearby cocktail favourite Lidkoeb. There I found not one but two former Bramblers lurking in their whisky attic. This is a fantastic spot that is clearly very popular with the locals.
The next day I headed for a quick breakfast at Kompa’9 then coffee at Cub, before more wanderings around the town concluding with lunch at the Caribbean Housewife. There I had Surinaamse Dame, a delicious peanut soup.
In the evening I headed to the former site of Noma which is now home to Barr. A much more mid-market offering than the gastronomic wizardry of Redzepi’s ground-breaking place, Barr delivered really good dishes with the signature schnitzel an absolute delight.
I concluded my trip with lunch at the excellent Bæst, following a wee beer at Brus, just over the way. I’d been to Bæst on my last visit and loved it so much. It’s just a completely fantastic place with exceptional pizza.
After this ‘working trip’ to Copenhagen where I seemed to find ample time for much dining fun, the opposite was true with a trip to London ostensibly on a complete holiday, but with the small matter of the Class Bar Awards to attend.
Essentially, it was a fairly boozy trip so my appetite was driven more towards late-night dining and hangover recovery dishes.
I arrived in town on the afternoon of the awards and headed for Islington where I was staying. I’d timed it well for a mid-afternoon grub-up at Ottolenghi. It served me a healthy late lunch, but was a touch underwhelming.
Then it was on to the excellent Three Sheets for pre-event snifters before the chaos of one of the bar trades biggest parties of the year. It was my first time in attendance. The event is mainly targetted at bartenders, but I was one of this year’s judges so had a legit reason for being there. There was a lot of free booze and mercifully few photographers.
The next day was very quiet but I managed some drinks at Lyaness, Fam, Bar Tincture and Satan’s Whiskers, all of which are firm London bar favourites. This was after a splendid lunch at St John, where I had the pleasure of a short fanboy chat with chef Fergus Henderson. I made time for a Beigel Shop salt beef bagel along the way, too.
The next day, I had time for lunch before departing the metrop, so headed to Brawn. I was rewarded with some excellent dishes with their veal ragu tagliatelle particularly delicious.
I then headed for a couple of days of rest and recuperation in Oxford. Aside from excellent home cooking from my friend Kathryn, our main culinary adventure was to Pompette, a smart place in Summertown. This was after a lovely wine tasting at Grape Minds where we expanded our knowledge of the fine wines of Burgundy.
Pompette served us really pleasing stuff, although we all concluded that starters were better than mains. This brought down the curtain on an enjoyable few days in fine style.
When back in Edinburgh, I finally made it along to the Hip Hop Chicken Shop at the Edinburgh Food Studio. This was top quality stuff. With my Book Group, I then headed for wines at Spry, pizza at Origano, then bevvies at Kin. It probably wasn’t the smartest programme on what should have been a sleepy Sunday, but boy was it enjoyable.
The rest of the month was low-key as I tried to recharge after the over-indulgence of holidays. I drank a lot of coffee from Gooseneck, ate a lot of Greek Artisan Pastries, had a fair few hanky pankies from Hey Palu, and ate a decent amount of veggie goodness from Bowls.
In the last few days of the month, I popped in to 83 Hanover Street to hear some of the plans for the revamp of their sister venue, 99 Hanover Street. And I look forward to visiting newly arrived Uno Mas early in March and frequently throughout.