Chic, sadly roadside, restaurant by the port in Leith just outside Edinburgh. Supposedly the best restaurant in the Edinburgh area. Major drawback: cars and buses buzzing by every few minutes reminiscent of dining near an airport. Not good…actually very bad. No double-glazing in Scotland? Very sad. Noise and rumble died down after 9pm, but still rears its ugly head now and again.
Somehow our lunch bookings on Friday and Saturday were switched. That, coupled with our early arrival to Dublin, saw us walking for nearly three hours around the City. During our long walk, we also discovered our dinner restaurants. A lot of walking over the next few days.
We were warmly welcomed despite being 30 minutes early. Irish hospitality! We needed air conditioning, a comfy chair and a drink. They stepped up like rockstars!
Chapter One is downstairs next door to a Irish writers’ center. We think basement restaurants are so cool, particularly given our occasional slumber in gutters over the years…downstairs restaurants provided more protection from the elements.
We slowly strolled 2.5 miles (4 km) from The Oakley Court Hotel to the little – I mean teeny, itsy bitzy – village of Bray where quite surprisingly several of the most highly rated UK restaurants call home. If you sneezed while driving down Windsor Road, you easily could miss the village. To use such terms as “adorable” or “quaint” would not be inappropriate when describing the village and The Hinds Head, which is the famed Chef Heston Blumenthal’s “gastro-pub”….our first after more than 30 years of “pub-grub” experiences around the world.
We followed the GPS to a dead-end street before doubling back to find this unassuming pub surrounded by fields of green and yellow. This is THE definition of a gastro-pub. The Hinds Head could learn a thing or EVERYTHING from this competing, Michelin One Star establishment.
The world of fine dining begins and ends at the Waterside…Inn. A fairly simple, countryside entrance to a non-descript building blossoms into the true meaning of an exceptional culinary – I dare say epic – event.
Diego, the maitre’d of maitre’d exceptionalism, swooshes around the dining room with an elegance of a conductor bleading his orchestra. The definition of service and only challenged by the likes of Restaurant Gordon Ramsay and L’Enclume.
This was far from the easiest restaurant to find in the old town of Naples, but it was worth our evening stroll through the dark, winding streets of this, from our perspective, under-rated city of Southern Italy. A beautiful restaurant with a cool atrium that opens up to the kitchen where all can see the magicians at work. Mega-Cool!!! At 8:30pm, we were the only diners on a Saturday night…when do people eat lunch that allows them to wait so long for dinner? We did not eat one bit of food all day as we were nursing our colds (Bless Big Pharma) and the pizza from the night before…so we were ready to rock!
It was great fun to watch the Chef finish off dishes before the waiters whisked them away. We always enjoy watching “artists” at work! We sent Chef a small glass of our red to say “grazie”. We loved seeing the Chef ringing an ole fashion “Call Jeeves the Butler” bell to summon wait staff to collect the dishes. Far more civilised than screaming.
We were greeted with a sparking rose wine to start. Very kind. To say it is not our fav sparkler would be a British understatement, but no worries. We were a little embarrassed as the reservation from The St Regis was not recorded in the Scrooge-style, 1800s ledger/book for diners. Fortunately, they found a table for two as the place was hopping by 9:30pm as two very large parties were celebrating something. We made a note to inform the concierge about the cock-up…someone almost ruined our night!!!
We walked more than 3km to and plan to walk the same distance back to the hotel after dinner.
We thought service was a bit fast….so only a three hour dinner. The joint started jamming at 10:15pm. We were almost ready to sleep….the beauty of different cultures!
It was absolutely entertaining to watch the interaction between wait staff, chefs, etc. Nothing seemed straightforward with every conversation looked like an animated debate. We sorta felt like the restaurant offered a micro-version of Italy, i.e. reasonably well-controlled, charming and mostly friendly chaos. We loved it…smiling big time….
We decided to choose wine from the Campania region tonight. This decision really, really helped the budget as the most expensive wine was, well, inexpensive! When we ordered a white and red, the waiter said “you want two bottles?” We countered with “only if it is fine with you.” He did a double take, smiled and chuckled “of course, fine with me.”
* 2010 Fiordiva Costa d’Amalfi – Marisa Cuomo. Blend of Femile, Ginestra and Ripoli. The waiter proclaimed “this is the best white wine in the Campania region.” Rock it, baby!!! An odd, powerful aroma of strong flowers, a bit rough on the palate with a very unique character, almost impossible to describe other than in your face and a short finish. We could not say we loved it, but we could not say we hated it. Just drink, idiot!!! We held back a glass to see how it tasted after 2+ hours and warm….no difference!
* 2008 Vigna Piancastellli – Terre Del Principe. Blend of Casavecchia and Pullagrello. We dunno anything about these grapes. We could not place the aromas. Very rough tannins and heavy, sweet dark fruits – black currants – on the palate. Hmmm…
Lady menus without prices…we always like a bit of chauvinistic, old world charm.
The bread sticks, which we usually find to be eh, were very, very good!!! Happy start!!!
The bread was very good, particularly the roll baked with some cheese and ham and the rolled baked with spinach. OMYG!!! We ate way too much bread given the Yank-super-size portions. No more bread!!!
A small slice of smoked trout on a very thin slice of parma ham with a fine mustard sauce. OMYG. We immediately thought if the balance of the meal was half as good, then we were in for a treat…good guess as it turned out!
Millefeuilles of Campania’s mozzarella cheese with raw prawns and sauce of zucchini flowers. Wow, an excellent dish despite the prawns still being alive! We would have preferred them cooked – boiled – slightly, but Italians seem to like their version of sushi. The mozz was fantabulous!!! Oooweebaby!
Fantasy of raw fish. The still living fish was “excellent”, “very fresh” and “perfect without any seasoning.” We ate everything including the green veggie on the plate, which was some excellent sort of spinach!!! Although we liked, the raw fish “crudo” was better at Quinz & Gabrielli in Rome. No complaint…just an observation!
Stand up paccheri with ricotta cheese and Neopolitan ragout and mature ricotta cheese. We had munched on this dish in the past but only when it was sitting down. Fairly typical, sitting down, of Naples cuisine for Sundays. We loved it!!! Too funny standing up. Perhaps the Chef has a certain complex? The ragout was incredible as it was huge on the palate, but fine almost like sun-dried tomatoes. OMYG!!!
Gragnano’s Spaghettoni with broccoli sauce, lobster and provolone cheese fondue. The pasta was special as slightly thicker than spaghetti and very, very fine. The broccoli sauce was very light and nice. Never unhappy to have some provolone cheese mixed into anything! Too, too much food!!! Why, oh why did we order a second course!!!??? Another Chef will be be unhappy when we do not finish more than half of an excellent dish! We did mention quite excitedly that we loved it!
NEARLY UNCOMFORTABLE EVEN BEFORE THE SECOND COURSE!!! Something is wrong either with Europe or us….we simply could not keep up!!!
Seared red mullet with chives and cheese provola, salad, yogurt and potatoes with extra virgin. We guessed the Chef meant “extra virgin olive oil” because, sadly, no virgin or other similar creature was served. Too, too pretty! Slightly breaded, baked and the cheese was only barely, but happily, noticeable. Light, nice. We almost finished…stunning!
Rabbit with leek sauce with rosemary, tomatoes pappa, chickpeas chips and chard. We helped to reduce the bunny population with this dish. Ooops….yikes we forgot to be more PG….Politically Goofy. OMG‘ing the tomatoes pappa. We thought the rabbit was good, but nothing special, albeit very well-cooked.
We thought about ordering the local cheese plate, but we opined that we could not eat another bite of anything even if it came from “the divine bum”. Ooops, we do have our moments when we say exactly what we feel before we think about how inappropriate….old age? At least we are cute…or at least our mothers says so.