Tasty Treats has moved!


Continue Reading February 25, 2012 at 3:26 pm 2 comments

Eating around Edinburgh

The Bakehouse, Edinburgh
The window at The Bakehouse

A friend and I have just spent a glorious three days in Edinburgh, where the sun actually shone for the majority of the time – what a difference a bit of sunshine makes. We wandered up and down the city (preferring to spend our time in the more characterful Old Town than the commercial New Town), which was probably a good idea considering how much we managed to eat. We didn’t have one dud meal, even with my total lack of planning (luckily, there were some eating recommendations from Helen and EuWen). So rather than write yet another epic post, here’s a brief guide to the various places we stuffed our faces at, in chronological order.

Teacups at Eteaket, Edinburgh
Mismatched teacups at Eteaket


After trekking nearly 40 minutes to our hotel from Waverly station, it was definitely tea time. Bring on Eteaket, a brilliant little tearoom in New Town decked out in vibrant magenta and turquoise. The waitresses were incredibly upbeat and friendly, explaining the different cakes and pastries on offer. The tea list is pretty impressive, too, with over 40 types of (ethically sourced) loose-leaf teas; a little triple hourglass device is brought to the table to time how long your tea should be steeped. We opted for the cream tea, and two of the largest scones I’d ever seen arrived – and they were perfect, with a soft crumb and slight chewiness that I love. A perfect little place to while away an afternoon. We had no idea why Café Rouge next door seemed to be packed, when a place like this exists.

41 Frederick Street
0131 226 2982 / www.eteaket.co.uk

Fake flowers at Tony's Table, Edinburgh
Fake flowers at Tony’s Table – the only thing worth photographing

Tony’s Table

Tony Singh is one of Edinburgh’s better known restaurateurs, being the man behind Oloroso on Castle Street. Recently he opened his so-called ‘casual’ dining concept around the corner on North Castle Street, a family-style bistro. We came with expectations of a Canteen-esque eatery with rustic elements and good, solid comfort food and were pretty surprised by the strangely louche decor – all blood red, gold and chandeliers – and immediately felt out of place in our jeans and hoodies. Witty phrases were written across the arches, such as ‘I’m not a vegetarian because I love animals; I’m a vegetarian because I hate plants’. Check out a Twitpic of the restaurant here.

The set menu, at £20 for three courses, is a pretty good deal – but we could only fit in two after gorging on the overgrown scones just less than two hours ago. The dishes are pretty full-on, with lots of meat and pies and the like, which I just couldn’t stomach; luckily one of the specials of the day was a duck breast and ‘monk’s broth’ dish that carried a £2 supplement. The duck was perfectly cooked, all pink and juicy, while the broth was intensely flavoured and soothing – but in the end it was just a simple consommé with shredded vegetables (carrots, cabbage, and other such boring vegetables) and asking for a £2 supplement felt a bit cheeky. Soldiering on, a dessert of Scottish strawberries with creme fraiche was simple but gorgeous. Verdict? A slightly strange place to eat but there’s good grub to be had.

Tony’s Table
58a North Castle Street
0131 226 6743 / www.tonystable.com

Falko Konditormeister at Edinrbugh's Farmers' Market
Falko Konditormeister’s bread and cake stall

Edinburgh Farmers’ Market

The city’s farmers’ market is held every Saturday from early morning until about 2pm, and its held on the lovely Castle Terrace where the stalls have the added bonus of the magnificent Edinburgh castle as a backdrop. I didn’t make any notes about the producers who attended (not there to WORK, afterall!), but one did stand out – the award-winning Piperfield Pork and their absolutely amazing scotch eggs. Okay, so it wasn’t piping hot (it was a market stall, afterall), and the egg was completely cooked through (again, as the nature of the market dictates), but the meat was spot-on. Perfectly seasoned, even slightly juicy – not dry or crumbly or overly processed – and, before we knew it, gone like that. Truly one of the best scotch eggs I’ve had so far (yes, to rival even the Harwood Arms’ and the Bull & Last’s!).

The Strawberry Store was also selling punnets of ripe Jubilee strawbs for £2.50 a pop, as well as wonderful Scottish raspberries, both of which we proceeded to devour while watching the marketgoers. One of the longest queues (in fact perhaps the only one) was for Falko Konditormeister‘s stall (pictured above), a German bakery and patisserie that’s situated on the other side of town. Gorgeous rye breads, strudels and various confections including a creamy blueberry cheesecake (which we bought and devoured on the train back on our last day) were all on display – next time I’m in Edinburgh, this will be the one of the first places I’ll go back to. Other thing at the market: Scottish heather honey, blueberry liqueur, a porridge bar, fudge, wild boar burgers, cheeses, and of course all manner of fruit and veg and meat stalls.

Edinburgh Farmer’s Market
Castle Terrace
Every Saturday 9am-2pm

Falko Konditormeister
185 Bruntsfield Place
EH10 4DG
0131 656 0763 / www.falko.co.uk

Flat white at Wellington Café, Edinburgh
Pretty good flattie, though fern virtually invisible thanks to camera skills (or lack thereof)

Wellington Coffee

It’s no secret that I like a blahdy good cup of coffee. We’re spoiled for choice these days in London, but it never even occurred to me to seek out some decent cups while in Edinburgh. How wrong was I – luckily we stumbled across Wellington Coffee on our way to seek out the National Portrait Gallery (er, we subsequently didn’t go, and got distracted by the Lakeland flagship, too). A little post-research reveals that this little joint is actually created by the same people behind the Kilimanjaro Coffee bar, and that the man behind it, Jonathan Sharp, is actually Scottish Barista 2009. Nice one, chap. The flat white wasn’t quite as good as the ones I’ve had recently at The Espresso Room, or at the ever reliable Lantana, Milk Bar and co, but pretty invigorating nonetheless. Plus points for the sleek Synesso espresso machine, and gorgeous noir cups (I’m a sucker for good mugs).

Tiny, but a great place to watch the people float by on George Street. Didn’t try any of the food offerings, as we were gearing ourselves up for a slap-up seafood meal at our dinner destination.

Wellington Coffee
33a George Street
0131 225 6857

Café Fish

… Which deserves its own post (also because, for silly aesthetic reasons, the pictures I took there are stylistically different to the ones in this one and I like consistency). Having opened just a few months ago, there doesn’t seem to be an awful lot of press about it, which is a shame. It was definitely one of the highlight meals this summer, and will be writing about it in more detail in due course. Ditto for…

The Grain Store

… Which was highly recommended by Helen and rightly so. It was our last meal before heading back on the train to the Big Smoke, and a nice one to round off with.

Oh Edinburgh. I loved you the first time and I still do, after this time. I’ll definitely be back again another day, if only to eat that scotch egg again…

August 27, 2009 at 10:47 pm 16 comments

You say tomahto, I say tomayto

Chilled Oyster Bay

It’s been a long time since I’ve had a truly relaxing weekend – and now that the sun is shining, a full day of no commitments (work, play or otherwise) meant I could finally schlep about doing whatever I wanted. And one thing that had been at the top of my list – apart from just soaking up the rays in the garden – was to put my new Imperia pasta-making machine to use! My lovely boyfriend had bought it for my birthday, complete with a recipe book, and we’ve been itching to make and eat some homemade pasta for weeks and weeks. Finally, today was the day.

And it wasn’t as disastrous as I’d imagined. Just a little bit of egg threatened to (and eventually did) escape the flour ‘volcano’ as I mixed the two together, but eventually a nice smooth dough was formed. And with the machine clamped and ready, it only took, er, three of us to effectively roll out some pasta – one to hold down the machine (as the clamp was, frankly, pretty useless), one to feed the dough in and catch the dough coming out, and one to turn the handle. It was pretty hilarious… can’t quite get my head around rolling out pasta all by my lonesome just yet!


A simple bolognese sauce had been simmering away very nicely all afternoon – made with huge punnets of intensely sweet vine tomatoes (for once, Sainsbo’s has proven useful with their vittoria vine toms reduced to 99p each – and each packet had 10% extra!). A quick blanch in boiling salted water later, the pasta (tagliatelle) was ready and tossed with the bolognese. Gorgeous. All it needed was a grating of parmesan.

Simple salad

A simple side salad with veg box ingredients – mixed leaves, cucumber and yet more tomatoes – provided the obligatory fresh veg quota, gently dressed with good extra virgin olive oil and some blueberry vinegar I’d obtained from Vienna’s Naschmarkt a few months back. The tartness of the vinegar is absolutely marvellous (and a very pretty deep magenta colour).


And to use up the remaining tomatoes, a very garlicky (ie just the way I like it) bruschetta. One of my favourite things in the world.

Monopoly City

Dessert was little espresso cups of cranachan, which I forgot to take pictures of. After the sun went down, we retreated back indoors to continue our game of Monopoly City. Despite having a modest portfolio, managed to sweep the competition off its feet (at 4-8 million at a time) to end up with a fat wad of cash. What a way to end the day!

Here’s to more blogging throughout the summer.

July 4, 2009 at 11:57 pm 7 comments

East side love

brick lane
Brick Lane

Piccadilly Circus, Oxford Street and Leicester Square, predictably, were the first few places I saw when I first came to London. They’re the ultimate tourist destinations, crawling with parka-wearing, flag-waving, camera toting groups from all over the globe. To them, this is London. Not mine.

new cross road
New Cross road in the summer

It might be a huge cliché these days, but I love the East End. Living in the south east London area (the eternally ‘up and coming’ New Cross) during my uni years (and experiencing my fair share of souf-eaz lundun culture… god I miss Goldsmiths) was a big part of that love forming.

beigel bake
People of all ages love Brick Lane’s Beigel Bake

I remember how easy it was to hop on the East London line before it closed, and being able to shuttle to Shoreditch and therefore Brick Lane (for bagels from the Beigel Bake every time, natch) in a jiffy. These days, it’s a huge trek that usually involves at least one train ride, followed by a bus ride.

truman brewery
The iconic Truman Brewery

It’s a place I take every friend or family member to when they visit London. There’s always something new to see, something new to eat, there are always new sounds, new colours.

cherry blossoms
Japanese cherry blossoms from Columbia Road Flower Market

One of my favourite bits is Columbia Road Flower Market in the spring. I adore the little shops and galleries along the edges of the market, the characterful stallholders…look out for the brilliantly camp Cockney guy near the end of the market in colourful rasta colours bemoaning having to sell chichi travellers pink Japanese cherry blossoms! Naturally, I had to have some. He was well pleased when I obliged him and asked for the ‘light red’ flowers instead of embarrassing him by using the term ‘pink’… ;-)

Fried calamari

There’s also ‘that’ fried seafood storefront, selling cups of prawns or calamari for £3/£1.50 respectively. It’s not the greatest fry, but perfect for when you want something to graze on while perusing the market…

Perfect coffee next to the StArt gallery
And next to the StArt gallery is this amazing little coffee stand. Such a cheerful fella, the guy who mans it. They use Arabica beans for the brew… ’twas an excellent cup, with a perfect cashmere-soft foam for my cappuccino. Yum!

outside campania gastronomica
Flowers outside the new Italian café/deli, Campania Gastronomica (didn’t get a chance to try it – too crowded)

All in all, a day spent here is just my cup of tea. Or, should it be, a perfectly brewed cup of coffee?

February 22, 2009 at 8:51 pm 21 comments

Marking the end of Chinese New Year

flower market
Taken at the flower market in Hong Kong last year

Western new year is over in a flash (or in some cases, prolonged only by an enduring post-party hangover), but Chinese New Year is celebrated over two weeks. I hadn’t really observed tradition this year (no relatives in London means there’s no bai neen for me – visiting houses to wish relatives good fortune and such) apart from making radish cake and giving my parents the requisite phone call on New Year’s day… ;-)

The last day of the Chinese New Year (the 15th day) is called yuen siu, also known as the lantern festival. In Hong Kong, Victoria Park would have no doubt been alight with massive lit floats and structures (though, I don’t think they did it last year…hmm!) and with children running rampant with (health and safety approved) plastic lanterns depicting the cartoon character du jour, though more traditionally one would carry paper lanterns lit with a single candle; another popular lantern is the ubiquitous bunny-shaped one, which is my personal favourite (though, I remember my childhood days when it was the epitome of cool to have a plastic Sailor Moon lantern.)

Families will also indulge in the making of and eating of tong yuen (湯圓), sweet glutinous dumplings. More of the latter, as modern times means most people would rather buy ready-made varieties from the supermarket chiller… but as someone who had never made tong yuen before, I can vouch for how easy it is to prepare in your own home! My black sesame filling is a tad rudimentary and not molten and silky like I prefer, but it definitely sated the craving for tong yuen on a chilly London night!

Sesame-filled tong yuen

Black sesame tong yuen
Based on a recipe from Flavour and Fortune
For the black sesame filling
1 1/2 cups black sesame seeds
1 1/2 cups icing sugar
1/2 cup solid shortening (I substituted some unsalted butter, which probably contributes to a much richer taste).
For the dumplings
2 cups glutinous rice flour
3/4 cup hot water (approximately)

1. For the filling: place the sesame seeds into a dry pan and toast over a medium low heat until fragrant. Tip into a mini food processor and pulse until powder-like.

2. Mix in the icing sugar and knead in the shortening/butter until you get a well-mixed paste. (In reality I didn’t read the instructions thoroughly and bunged everything into the food processor. It worked okay but kneading by hand will probably make a smoother paste. My food processor isn’t very good either at ‘powderising’ the black sesame seeds, so my mixture was rather coarse.) Refrigerate until firm (again I didn’t do this as I didn’t have time – but this will make filling your tong yuen much easier as you can shape the filling into small balls and work the tong yuen dough around it).

4. For the dumplings: Sift the glutinous rice flour into a bowl and slowly add the water, stirring with long chopsticks until the mixture comes together to form a dough. Knead with your hands until smooth and elastic (you may not need all of the water – and this recipe is so simple, you can just add more rice flour or water as you need to get the right consistency).

5. Break off a small piece about the size of a 50p coin (smaller or bigger depending on how large you like your tong yuen to be – it’s easier to fill a bigger one though!). Roll between your palms to create a ball.

step by step
6. Now make an indentation in the middle of the ball and work, using your fingers, to make the hole deeper – forming a ‘cup’ if you will – large enough for a nice wodge of filling. If you’ve refrigerated your filling you can roll little bits into small balls and fit it inside the hole before drawing the edges together and rolling again into a smooth ball. With my slightly liquidy filling this proved more difficult, so I didn’t put as much into each ball as I would have liked! (And sometimes the filling leaked out… as you can see from some of the tong yuens in the background in the picture below!) I find it easier to pinch the open ends together and then draw the two corners together again before rolling. Roll between your palms until completely smooth.

7. Put a pan of water onto a rolling boil (gee, lots of rolling in this recipe…) and carefully drop the tong yuens in. They’re ready when they float to the surface. Remove with a slotted spoon and place into a serving bowl.

Tong yuen
8. In a separate pan, bring more water to the boil and drop in one piece of rock sugar or peen tong (a brown slab of sugar, readily available in Chinese supermarkets) and a knob of ginger. Bring to the boil and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Taste. It should be lightly sweet and gingery but not syrupy. Ladle over the tong yuen and serve.

February 12, 2009 at 1:21 am 11 comments

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A freelance journalist and full-time gourmand, eating her way mostly through London and Hong Kong.

Current location: London


Charmaine currently digs: the smell of coffee; adding ponzu to everything; bill granger; still eating natto with every meal; caressing her Nikon FM2n.



October 2022

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