Artisan Gelato, Edinburgh 01-2019

On a freezing 2C day, there is nothing better than gelato. I was the only one who thought this way and ended up here after a quick search for places around my Airbnb.

They serve an exceptional gelato. The pistachio was a perfect colour and flavour. The dark chocolate with orange wasn't one I've seen elsewhere, but a favourite chocolate of mine usually. It could have used a touch more orange, but that's just being picky. 70% dark is also the right amount of dark.

It was texturally great with no ice crystals. And of course in the cold it didn't melt at all.

It isn't cheap by any means, but it's very good.

Merchant Chippie, Glasgow 01-2019

For some reason Scotland seems to like deep frying stuff. There's the usual fish and chips, but also Mars bars, pizza and all sorts of sausage and pudding. Additionally that Scottish favourite haggis gets the deepfried treatment, which is a different mode to the standard serving on this. 

For another reason I don't know, the chippies seem to be run by Italians. Go figure.

Merchant is one of the highly reputed one's in Glasgow and in fact was the only place in Glasgow to be in the top 50 for the UK and they even state they were awarded best in Scotland. Not a bad set of accolades.

It's a simple small cafe where everything is breaded and fried, whereas the chips are fresh cut potatoes sitting in a giant vat.

- Haddock in batter supper £5.8 - a nice fish with a mild flavour, where the predominance was the wispy crisp slightly thick salted batter. The chips (which are the "supper" part) were soft rather than crispy, but at least they are actual potatoes freshly cut;
- Lemon sole £6.5 - this was too thin and so the fish got lost amongst the friedness;
- Black pudding £2.9 - had an unusual flavour of cloves. Definitely not what I expected. Like good Scottish pudding there was mostly meat and not much chunks of fat;
- Haggis £2.9 - mild flavour overall.

It's a good fish and chip. I'd stick with the classic haddock, being the cheapest and the best part of the meal.

Clachaig Inn, Glencoe 01-2019

There's a few token stops between Glasgow and Fort William. Real Food Cafe and Green Welly both in Tyndrum are two, but it's too close to Glasgow to be worth stopping for lunch I think. Then comes Glencoe and the recommendation of Clachaig Inn. I'm still not sure how to pronounce it. And the girl serving us sounded Portuguese and so she wasn't sure either. I wanted to try their gin but obviously not with driving straight after. Oh well.

The main dish on the menu that excited me was the game pie. With that many different meats listed, I wonder if it's just a random variety of offcuts from somewhere. But then where are the original pieces going?

- Highland Game Pie (rabbit, venison, pheasant, mallard, partridge, pigeon, cooked with blackberries, tarragon, juniper berries & Clachaig gin) £13.95 - lots of different meats with varying textures, some soft, some chewy. Strong berry and pepper taste overall. The pastry was thin, crisp and not flavoured. It was the disappointing part. Potatoes were fine. The mash was some combination of carrots and pumpkin I think.

A good stop close to Fort William. I'd happily go back to try some of their other things. If there are better stops in Glencoe, I'd be keen to know them.

Pachamama East, London 01-2019

After using a Class Pass trial for an unusual "yellow" yoga experience, the closely located Pachamama East was perfect for lunch afterwards. It was a peaceful and quiet Friday afternoon for a short wander around Shoreditch. There seem to be two entrances. We entered the rear one straight onto the bar and a quiet area probably more for coffee than food.

The décor is very café rather than restaurant, with a lot of plants littered around including on the walls. The atmosphere was relaxed.

The menu is Asian-Peruvian (which I associate by habit with Nobu). However the Asian here did have more than just Japanese, with many Sichuan elements also.

It was lunchtime so I didn't feel so much like a cocktail, but the mocktail Chicha Morada (purple corn brewed with apples, cloves, cinnamon, pineapple skins) £7 sounded interesting and certainly the colour was striking. It did taste similar to a cloudy apple juice with spices. I didn't so much taste corn as I had hoped from the description.

- Padron peppers, chilli £5 – perfectly blistered with oil, salt and perhaps a little butter. Delicious. They weren’t very chilli hot, and didn’t see any additional chilli added;
- Yellowfin tuna, pickled potato, XO, cucumber £11 – a pretty dish topped with wispy white sticks. I couldn’t distinguish the XO sauce particularly nor the potato for that matter. It was savoury and ok overall;
- Seabass ceviche, soy tiger’s milk, nori, sesame £9 – this was an excellent dish with soft cubes of fish served in a delicious umami, tangy, and balanced sauce;
- Tuna, avocado jalapeño sauce, fried leeks, lime, radish £11 – nice combination of slivered tuna on an avocado bed with slices of chilli, radish, salty bits of leek creating an excellent combination of textures and flavours;
- Plantain, yacon syrup, feta, black olive £7 – plantains a little stiff and not ripe enough, very strong black olive crumb overpowered the rest, and chalky feta was very mild. The only dish I didn’t understand and didn’t like;
- Crispy lamb belly, green pepper, miso £11 – a little bit of crispness but mainly just pieces of lamb full of fried flavour. The green pepper sauce was contrasted by a bit of tart dark (vinegar maybe?) one and together combined well. Some lamb pieces were quite fatty whilst others were pure meat morsels great for chewing;
- Miso-cured carrot, black quinoa, Peruvian kimchi £7 – nicely roasted carrots with just a hint of something extra in it. Kimchi was thin strands of pickled vegetable;
- Octopus, black quinoa, onion, lime £15 – quinoa stewed and popped (or was it large couscous?) and presenting charred bits of octopus with excellent flavour. The octopus had texture rather than soft and fine, but far from chewy. Very good;
- Whole seabass, pickled chilli, mango, Asian BBQ sauce £23 – a nicely cooked soft fish served whole. It was nice although not particularly special.

Other than the plantains, all the other dishes ranged from good to excellent. I didn't really try the Sichuan options such as fried chicken or cumin lamb stirfry (yum), but that could be for next time.

Farzi Cafe, London 01-2019

The modern Indian food scene heats up with this branch launching from India. It's an exciting time around Christmas and NY and perfect for a celebratory meal to welcome 2019. The location is an easy walk from Piccadilly circus and along the main road for some royal atmosphere too. They must be paying a lot for rent.

The cocktail list is quite unusual. There's 12 based upon ayuverdic principles. I'm not sure how evidenced that is, but with one using saffron gin and another mezcal and beetroot, there's some unusual combinations there.

For this 50% soft opening night, they didn't have the razor clams, oysters or sea bass available. Additionally they had run out of the goat shoulder and shawarma biryani, both the dishes I was looking most forward to. Oh well. Next time then.

- Pani poori (coriander water, buttermilk, tamarind) £5 - 4 crisp shells served with a mix of sauces. I liked the coriander water best, although added all 3 into my shell. It did mean that whatever was inside the shell lost its identity;
- Chicken wings (masala rub) £6 - delicious wings heavily spiced and cooked nicely. So good we ordered a second plate;
- Madras pepper prawns £8 - similarly heavily spiced marinade on crunchy prawn flesh and served with a yoghurt and some kind of dust I couldn't determine. So good we ordered seconds. The first serve had 3, the second serve had 4. A bit odd;
- Tuna ceviche (Bengal jhal moorie) £9 - tuna with lime juice, some small herbs and a crisp puffed rice salad. The only fresh dish we ordered and added some good contrast with its more refined flavour;
- Braised lamb chops (maple & kokum glaze) £14 - the maple in the name should have given away the flavour being unusually sweet. It was certainly nice. However the chops were cooked beyond medium and so the tenderness wasn't there;
- Grills of the day £40 - pork belly tikka (murraba glaze) that was slightly sweet but a bit too fatty, grainy mustard salmon tikka (kasundi mint cream) from a kebab was soft and lovely, wagyu seekh kebab (kachumber salad) with earthy spices and a grainy texture of the mince. Looking at the photos online, the serve of each is smaller than getting the dish alone. So you are paying for the variety really and not getting a discount for ordering 3;
- Veal 'osso bucco' Ishtu (dhaniya kulcha) £16 - soft medallions in a rice curry sauce;
- A small nan came out (I think part of the veal dish) and although tiny, it was supple, soft, seasoned and excellent. I should get more next time;
- Grilled baby back ribs (rogan josh) £18 - tender ribs with meat falling from the bone;
- Jhol chicken tangri biryani £16 - served dum style with a soft pastry shell belying a moist heavily spiced biryani and 2 chicken legs. It was delicious and one of the best I've had. Some on the table prefer a lighter drier form, but this was good for me.

4 of us were stuffed after this. But dessert time.

- Rasmalai 'marshmallow', tres leches £7;
- Laddoo, shell, coconut mousse, berries £7 - this bright white chocolate sphere surprised me as I don't like white chocolate. But the contrast of berries inside and around made it rich and tart and delicious;
- Chocolate forest £7.

With all the food, I got a bit food weary toward the end. Which is why the latter dishes (particularly the desserts) have much less memory.

But with the chicken wings, prawns and biryani, and my desire for the goat shoulder and shawarma biryani, there's a lot to entice me to come back.

The competition heats up between Dishoom, Hoppers, Kricket and Gunpowder. All the restaurants have great dishes. For the overall meal, I think Farzi has pipped them all. Let's see next how Indian Accent and Brigadiers is.

Added 01-2019

After the first wonderful experience, I requested to go back. Luckily they would have me and for a delicious (early) meal before walking to see Witness For The Prosecution, I found myself at a nice booth enjoying the food all over again.

The prawns numbered 3 this time (for 4 people). I don't know what to make of that, but so be it.

- Butter chicken bao (green chilli mayo) £7 – sliders rather than baos although made with soft bread and a mild butter chicken. Nice but not particularly worth getting;
- Tandoori goat shoulder (khamiri kulcha) £19 – excellent meat that surprised me in that it looked darkened and charred but didn’t have any of that texture, All the meat was soft and beautifully flavoured. The sauce underneath was strongly flavoured goat stock and yoghurt, and tasted exactly that way. Really good. It was served with a strong garlic dipping sauce;
- Venison irrachi pepper fry (Malabari parantha) £16 – heavily flavoured and seasoned like a meat curry and served with wispy roti. The meat didn’t have much game flavour, but could be detected under the heavy sauce;
- Shawarma biryani £17 – I expected a dum pie crust similar to the chicken one, but ended up with a skewer of nice mutton on top of a circle disk of biryani (less because the bass of the skewer is hidden in there). It was nice overall, but I do think the chicken is better, and comes with much more biryani, without an inferior meat component.
- Srikhand 'air' cheesecake (mango coulis) £7 – very light and smooth, and perfect cheesecake flavour.

This reinforced my high regard for Farzi and also which dishes I should select when paying full price.