Mighty Mexicana at El Cartel…

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Depending on my mood Mexican is my absolute favourite food. The tacos, tortillas and tequila however, must be dished up right (no ol’ el paso here). Thank God then for El Cartel. One of the newest Mexicana eats-on-the-block in Edinburgh.

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For a start, it’s an authentic street-food offering. So, it’s going all out with its incredible tacos…and they’re soooooo super tasty .While the food is traditional, it’s sexy too and the dining space is styled to match. It’s hip yet casual, and its vibe is a chilled as its frozen margaritas.

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If you know me by now, you’ll know I properly love a margarita…or three. And El Cartel gets ten out of ten.

It was a sad day for me when Tex Mex closed its Thistle Street doors. I have many-a-margarita memory thanks to Fat Donny and his wee empire back then. While, it was good news that the Bon Vivant brigade were taking it over (with BIG plans for an all new Mexican place) it was sad too…end of an era and all that.

Sometimes you need a renaissance though. And, the time is definitely now!

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The current menu has nine starters and six tacos. The steak, duck and fish tacos are all piquant chic, making you just want more! While starter dishes like the salmon ceviche – served ‘Mexico city style in soy sauce, cucumber, red onion tomato and avocado’, and the chorizo Quesadillas will definitely make your day.

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It’s not a huge menu, which I prefer (being Libran, too much choice is never a good thing!). I did however, find myself contemplating whether I could chomp my way through the whole thing, there and then….hmmm probably, as long as I was sharing. Well, the food is that good.

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Don’t forget to sample the chilli-chocolate ice cream either – super tasty, and the perfect end with a bite to a perfect meal. The home-made hot sauce is spot on too.

Arriba Arriba!

Any more Margarita / Mexicana recommendations?

Fun at The Pantry…

If you’ve not been to The Pantry in Stockbridge for a while or indeed ever, you should check it out. Especially if you have a playdate to organise  – it’s only gone and got an incredible play space with toys-a-plenty.

Ah, the things that make you happy when you’re busy being mum.

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Little Miss M and I were catching up with a friend and her wee one. And, I’m not going to lie, we were all super-excited to find this new addition. It’s been well designed and thought out. The gated play area is located at the side of the main eating space. This means it gives those without babes the privacy and distance they need to enjoy their food / drinks. There’s also two tables with plenty of chairs right beside the area and enough space for two buggies.

We were coffee and caking. They have a fab selection of sweet treats at the counter so we opted for a sharey-selection of lovely macaroons and a (wow) salted caramel millionaire’s shortbread. Really flippin’ good.

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The kids had a ball in the play space and there are plenty of highchairs so, they were able to join us for post-fun refreshments.

It’s a farm shop too. And the daily menu is really appealing with things like the Breakfast Burrito and the Pulled Pork Sub. They also have ‘Toastie Tuesdays’, which basically means the kitchen has a day off and the staff serve up toasties all day.

I love toasties. And I’m lovin’ The Pantry…

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They actually run some classes too. Things like baking and pizza making classes for wee ones and cooking courses for adults. These appear to be at various locations though….

If you haven’t been lately then definitely go for food or, a coffee and cake stop. And don’t be put off by the new kid area, if you’re looking for some peace, as it’s hidden enough.

All in all, the best of both worlds.

Any more coffee catch-up / playdate recommendations?

A tasty breakfast stop…

Last week, we three had a breakfast stop at Craigie’s Farm in South Queensferry. We hadn’t actually planned to go there but the café at Cramond we rocked up to wasn’t open as yet. So, off to Craigie’s we ventured.

I’m so glad we did. It was really great.

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I had been to the farm a few times before for a bite to eat but it was a long time ago. Funnily enough my last visit-memory is of being really hung-over while the kid at the table next to me kept banging his rattle off it…super loudly. I was like, arrrrgggh, get me out of here.

How times have changed. Now it’s my little one making all the noise and I’m over the moon to be in such an accommodating venue.

It’s not just me that’s changed. Craigie’s has evolved into an incredible family-friendly haven. It also looks super-slick inside now and there’s just so much going on. It’s a farm shop, butchery, bakery, deli, café and a working farm (of course) all rolled into one.  You can also say hello to the pigs and chickens or even Pick Your Own. Kids are in their element too with its huge outdoor space and play area complete with swings, a climbing frame and slide. The views are also incredible, which the grown-ups will really appreciate.

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We arrived not long after 10am and the place was already buzzing but, it was the Easter holidays. That said, it’s a hugely popular place in general, especially when the weather is fair.

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We were totally hungry so didn’t mess around – it was straight to the hot breakfast bar for us. Everything looked YUM and it’s (posh) canteen style so you can pick from a mix of items. I went for the sausage, mushrooms, fried egg and tattie scone. Mr T had the same but with black pudding instead of the mushies.  It definitely hit the spot. We were also both well impressed with the size of the sausages (huge) and those eggs had most definitely been laid that morning (super fresh).

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We were heading to check out The Kelpies so didn’t stay too long. But we’ll definitely go back soon to spend more time there and make the most of all that’s on offer.  I can’t wait to introduce M to the animals. We might even try Pick Your Own too…

Did I actually just say that? Times really have changed!

Someone better pass me a margarita. Like, now.

Nadine x

Any favourite breakfast spots to recommend?

 

 

A taste of Café Tartine…

Last Friday we (me and two of my girlfriends) ended up in one of Leith’s newest eateries, Café Tartine. It was a lovely (and very), civilised evening (mainly due to the lack of margaritas) of tasty food, wine and chat.

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Now, as this is a French café and wine bar you can pop in at anytime for food. I’ve already been for a couple of luncheons but this was my first evening date here.  It was a very different atmosphere on the Friday night that we were in – much quieter and more chilled. But, considering our mood (it was the end of January) and our need for a good catch up, it was the perfect setting and we had a fab time.

It’s a gorgeous, vast space and I LOVE the décor, which I’d describe as rustic chic. There’s room for lots of diners too, across a mix of table, chairs and some sofas.

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The café bar has a 1am license and the menu is the same throughout the day. On one level this works really well due to the huge range of choices on the menu. If you just fancy a sandwich, soup or coffee, for example, then you’re sorted. But, if you’re looking for a more hearty meal then there’s a tasty range of hot dishes to choose from too   – everything from burgers and chips to more a la carte offerings. On another level however, there’s almost too much to choose from and it feels a bit strange in the evening measuring up whether to go for the Croque Monsieur or the Beef Bourguigon.

Hmmmmm….

We mixed things up but, I’d say that all of our dishes were acceptable evening fare. I went for the Salad Nicoise of Grilled Peppered Tuna and, the girls went for the Braised Pork Belly and Pan Seared Cornfed Chicken Supreme.

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We also had its Homemade Chips with Truffle Oil Mayo and Parmesan on the side – two portions, of course, in case one wasn’t enough (it wasn’t…three would actually have been better). These are AMAZING chips and dips!!

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My salad was totally delicious – just bursting with flavours and, the tuna steak was perfectly cooked. The girls were very happy with their dishes too.

We normally can’t get enough of a New Zealand sauvignon blanc. But we all agreed that you can never really go wrong with a good French wine so, we opted on this occasion for the house white, which was lovely. And so was the January price (£16.95 compared to the NZ £29.99).

One of the really exciting food offerings here though, has to be its huge range of savoury and sweet Crepes. They also crepe them up right in front of you!

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We shared one between the three of us (anymore would have just been greed after those chips). And after humming and hawing over whether to go Nutella or banoffee or…..we kept it simple with just lemon and sugar. It was YUM.

I’m definitely a huge fan of this place – I’m actually heading back for lunch again next week. So, I’d definitely recommend it. But, based on my evening date I probably prefer it as a lunch venue so far. It does feel like there’s a huge opportunity though, to make more of the evenings – especially Fridays to appeal to the huge business community in the area (of which, I’m part of).

I’ve seen on its twitter page that there has been live music recently – LOVE this. Maybe a DJ could work in the conservatory space at the back too (all at a reasonable café bar tempo…bien sur). And maybe some tasty BITE offers would go down well like, a bottle of Champers and those truffle chips. Or, the tasting boards (which look fab) with a bottle of wine. I guess it would be striking the right balance of bringing in more evening drinkers without spoiling its raison d’etre.

Just some food for thought…

Check it out.

#LOVELEITH

Christmas at the Bon Vivant

Have you been for many Christmas lunches? I haven’t enjoyed as many as usual this year (they’ve been replaced with Christmas kiddy parties) but I’ve still managed to squeeze in a few.

Most memorable has been the Bon Vivant . I had a Christmas get together with a group of old work friends the other week and, after much debate over our meeting destination, we decided to go to Bon V…again (we always end up there).

Now, this (the Thistle Street location) is actually my favourite place to hang out with friends in Edinburgh. It’s such a cool wee place with great drinks on offer and pretty amazing food. There’s just such a lovely ambience too. If you haven’t been yet or are planning a trip to the city, I highly recommend it for drinks…or food…or both!

It was a treat to sample its Christmas menu – you got three courses for £17 and each dish was a WOW. Bon V is famous for offering its starters and sweets as ‘bite’ servings, as well as normal size – ‘allowing you to pick and choose tapas style’. It’s so you can try out all of its menu if you wish. I LOVE this foody concept and Friday night’s with the girls here always involves loads of these tasty bites washed down with a perfect white and, great chat (of course).

So, it was very exciting to be served up a ‘bite’ platter for our starter – check this out. They were all sooo good but if I had to pick the pork belly was my fave.

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I had the cod for my main along with a couple of the girls and, two had the pheasant. I’d love to be able to share these dishes too but, erm…they were so good, we got carried away and forgot to capture the moment. Apols. Here are two of the amazing desserts though.

IMAG1538Chocolate Tarte with Yummy Honeycomb Stuff

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It certainly beat turkey and all the trimmings! The Picpoult de Pinet was the ideal wine match and, the catch up was lovely too. We even agreed it would become a time honored tradition – same time, same place, every year. So that’s nice isn’t it?!

Thanks to Susie for organising. And, we missed your wee face VMB!

Do you have any Christmas traditions with friends? Do you keep in touch with old work pals?

Cawfeee & cake stop

Patisserie Madeleine in Edinburgh’s Stockbridge is pretty special. Not only are all of their AMAZING cakes, tarts and macaroons made on site by their fabulous French chef but it’s the loveliest, wee place to rendezvous, drink freshly roasted coffee and importantly EAT CAKE. The website also says that it’s a place to ‘discover a small piece of Paris’. J’adore!

The size of the place certainly puts you in mind of Paris. It’s petite but charming, and my friend Sarah and I managed to get our prams and bubbas in too so, all was good.

J’adore le picture gallery – plan to recreate at home.

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You can help yourself to as much tap water as you like. Superb!

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Tres chic wall art.

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And, what about these cakes?!

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C’est delicieux!

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They are ALL literally to die for and quite simply, a work of art. You get in a bit of a tiz because you don’t know which one to choose and, of course, you want them all. I don’t even have much of a sweet tooth. In fact, I’m more of a savoury girl. Although, I have to admit that pregnancy definitely made me appreciate just how special some sweet treats can be….

We shared two of their finest cakes and washed them down with iced coffees, as it was rather hot that day. I’ve been all over iced coffees this year. My friend offered me one at her place in the summertime and I kind of, reluctantly agreed as I’ve never been too sure about the cold mix. Of course, it ended up being like one of the best things I’d ever tasted and now, I can’t get enough of them. They rock!

The cakes were about as special as it gets and, as for the macaroons – one in every colour please! I can’t wait to go back and introduce more of my friends to Patisserie Madeleine.

Go and see for yourself. It’s tres bon mes amis.

Have you got a favourite coffee and cake stop? I’d love to hear about it.