Restaurant Review: Mac & Wild, London

Scotland is somewhere super-close to our heart. And I love burgers. So when we found out about a Scottish restaurant who made London’s best burger of 2015, there was no question about where we were spending our anniversary. We donned some fancy-ish clothes (me bringing out a dress I love, but is too dressy for every-weekend wear, too low-cut for work), I whacked on the date-night makeup (because wearing Mac Diva is great for eating a burger…) and we headed out for a much anticipated evening.

mac-wild photo Mac amp Wild Restaurant Review 1_zpsykqkcpjl.jpgAnd it didn’t disappoint.

I could just finish the review of Mac & Wild here, by telling you to go, to go book a table, eat plenty of meat, drink lots of whisky and feel very merry, very happy and very full. It would sum up exactly how I felt about the place. But obviously I’ll have to tell/show you exactly why you should make the effort to get to this Scottish gem in the heart of London.

It’s small, it’s cozy, it’s ‘trendy’ lighting didn’t make for great photos. Walls were adorned with stag’s heads and rather graphic photos. Staff were outstandingly welcoming and friendly, taking the time to talk us through the menu and ask about our days. And the food was damn good.

 photo Mac amp Wild Restaurant Review 2_zpshnhr7kff.jpgWe started by splitting a ‘lighter’ choice alongside a heavier one. The Bone Broth was deceptively heavy, in a good way. Rich, unctuous, this is the kind of thing you crave when ill. I’d happily bulk buy and store in the freezer. The Scotch Egg was a heavier choice. A perfectly cooked egg (no set yolk here), encased in wonderfully flavourful venison meat, covered in crisp breadcrumbs and served with a mustard so perfect I’m tempted to contact Mac & Wild and find their supplier. I was a little wary that the meat was rare, but it was piping hot, tender and worked well all together. Definitely a filling portion!

 photo Mac amp Wild Restaurant Review 3_zpsenykwgk9.jpgW went ‘date-night suitable’ for his main, choosing the Venison Steak with Bearnaise. The steak arrived pre-sliced, and cooked as it’s meant to be cooked (there was no choice given upon ordered, so be warned if you aren’t a fan of rarer meat!). It was gorgeous – extremely tender and beautifully rich in flavour rendering the silky and buttery Bearnaise unnecessary. I stoke a piece and almost, almost regretted not suggesting sharing a Chateaubriand.

The reason for not regretting? Well, London’s best burger of course…

 photo Mac amp Wild Restaurant Review 5_zpsgn6iiev0.jpg photo Mac amp Wild Restaurant Review 6_zpsz7at3wrc.jpgWhilst I’m not quite sure it deserves that title (more research needed, you see), it was a damn good burger. Both patties were cooked well – tender and moist, a slight hint of pink to the beef. They were well-season whilst remaining a good ‘meat’ flavour; you could tell which was which. The Bearnaise added moistness and richness, the cheese and mustard (more of that addictive mustard!) adding a salty kick. I usually pick the pickles out of a burger, but here they worked perfectly to add a much needed tang. I added the Candied Bacon, but honestly I’d say it’s not really necessary (shock horror!) – I found it got a little lost amongst all the flavours, and wasn’t quite crisp enough to add an extra texture. The bun held it all together, but the big issue with the burger? It was just too big. It was impossible to eat all elements at once and ultimately I felt it suffered. And date-night suitable? Definitely not. My lipstick was down my chin before I was halfway through the burger…

 photo Mac amp Wild Restaurant Review 7_zpspossdcak.jpg photo Mac amp Wild Restaurant Review 4_zps2xqiqurt.jpg photo Mac amp Wild Restaurant Review 8_zpseuo5yvwv.jpgWe both went for sides of Haggis Mac & Cheese. I’m a huge mac’n’cheese fan (if you hadn’t already guessed), and haggis is a major foodie love of mine. The two together was something I’d never considered (though I’m now anxiously awaiting Burn’s Night) – it’s a pretty good combo! The Mac was cheesy and rich, the haggis moist and peppery, and the crispy topping by far the best topping on a restaurant one I’ve tried. My only complaint? It was a little dry, though I saw ones at different tables that looked a lot looser and creamier. I was a bit jealous if I’m honest!

 photo Mac amp Wild Restaurant Review 10_zpsril5vxv3.jpg photo Mac amp Wild Restaurant Review 9_zpscejbwlag.jpgPuddings were also a success. The Cheeseboard came with a good selection, though we were a bit perplexed at the lack of biscuits considered one of them was a softer cheese. My desert, however, was the winner. The “I Shouldn’t But I Will’ was a dark chocolate Nemesis, salted caramel sauce, orange, almonds, & taffy crumble base. I was recommended a side of salted caramel ice-cream; I declined but rather wish I hadn’t as the portion did need something to break it up a little. That said, we both enjoyed it – I just preferred the savoury options and rather wished I’d tried the Haggis Pops instead!

We paired our food courses with whiskies, generally going with their suggestions (apart from my desert; I was recommended a smoky Islay whisky of which I’m not a fan, so went with my favourite tipple). All were deliciously drinkable and did complement the dishes perfectly. We left clutching our stomaches and swaying slightly…

Mac & Wild definitely impressed us, and it’s certainly left us wanting more. I know without a doubt I’ll be back to sample more. Their Sunday Roasts sound rather intriguing, they have a delicious sounding brunch menu, and their Dirty Buttery Mash sounds too good to miss.

Have you ever tried Haggis? What’s your favourite London restaurant?

Lifestyle: 48 Hours in Edinburgh

Last week I shared how Will proposed in Granary Square, King’s Cross, and how he planned a romantic getaway for the following days in Edinburgh. This is a city very close to our hearts; in fact I was convinced this was where he would end up proposing! We’ve spent a couple of holidays up there throughout our relationship, and I’ve had a whirlwind trip for a job interview too. I absolutely adore the place, so I’ve put together a guide for mini city-break.
 photo Edinburgh Infographic_zpsw3mnmmny.jpg This isn’t a definitive guide to Edinburgh as there’s so much more to do and see, but it really shows my favourite parts of the city, the best moments I’ve spent there, the things I’d really recommend.

 photo Proposal Story 2_zpsvxnetxcv.jpg photo 48 Hours in Edinburgh 6_zps4bwanivy.jpg photo 48 Hours in Edinburgh 5_zpsuqfdjviq.jpg photo 48 Hours in Edinburgh 2_zpshdbttpxc.jpg photo 48 Hours in Edinburgh 1_zpsouzlxym9.jpg

Where to Stay: Intimate Luxury @ The Rutland Hotel

Having always rented a serviced apartment for our trips before, it was a lovely change to spend our engagement weekend in a hotel. Will had picked out The Rutland which turned out to be a perfect choice; excellent service, just the right combination of modern and cosy, an amazing bathroom and the most comfortable (and huge!) bed imaginable.

I loved the fact that we could have breakfast delivered to our room from the bar downstairs – and my Eggs Benedict arrived perfectly cooked. I also sampled the Full Scottish the next morning whilst overlooking Edinburgh Castle; this became the first cooked breakfast I’ve failed to finish!

Where to Eat/Drink: Cocktails @ The Huxley Bar

Sat below our hotel, this bar was the place that cooked up our delicious breakfasts. Despite the slightly limited menu we also had a rather enjoyable dinner here; I highly recommend the Fried Chicken Burger (the spicy jalapeno slaw was addictive!), whilst W really enjoyed his Chilli Dog. A high point was definitely the excellent cocktails!
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Where to Eat: Cosy Soup @ Hula Juice Bar

One of our favourite places, Hula is somewhere we have to visit each trip. They serve a massive range of sandwiches/wraps/bagels, two fresh soups daily (their Haggis & Potato is my favourite!), fresh and tasty salads, and the most amazing cheese on toast. The drinks menu is just as good, loads of fresh juices and shakes. We highly recommend the Pink Lady or Nutty Professor. It goes without saying, but their baked goods are equally as delicious.

Where to Eat: Celebratory Meal @ The Kitchin

I’m not even entirely sure how he managed it, but W managed to secure a last minute table at the Michelin-starred restaurant tucked away in Leith. I’ve got no photos as it was an intimate restaurant and romantic date night – but it was completely worth the money. We chose the Tasting Menu, comprising of;

  • Bar Snacks – 4 flavours of crisp bread, with a cream cheese dip topped with toasted wheat.
  • Amuse Bouche – chilled carrot veloutee, with ginger and lime, topped with seasonal vegetables.
  • Pre-Starter – I had a leek terrine with beetroot, lemon ricotta and quails egg, whilst W had ‘Rockpool’ (a selection of seafood and seaweed in a consomme).
  • Starter – razor clam served in a creamy chorizo sauce.
  • Middle Course – ‘Pigs Head’ i.e. a pig cheek fritter, langoustine, and caramelised pig’s ear.
  • Main Course – a pulled lamb fritter, topped with a lamb chop, served with carrots many ways (pureed, roasted and a delicious carrot tarte tartin).
  • Pre-Dessert – Pear sorbet.
  • Dessert – Scottish sea-buckthorn panna cotta, served with marshmallow, meringue, textures of apple and a sea-buckthorn veloutee.
  • Petit Four – Coffee fancier, orange macaron, salted caramel.

An awful lot of food, the portions were surprisingly generous, and we had some delicious cocktails too. Service was attentive without being overbearing, it was a delight to meet Tom (W was more nervous at that point than the previous night’s proposal!) and the bathrooms were the most luxurious I’ve ever used.

Where to Eat: Burger Overload @ Just Burgers & Beer

This is the place that really sparked my love for a good burger – anywhere do thinks Mac’n’Cheese is an appropriate burger topping is a winner with me!
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What to Do: Festive Markets

We were in Edinburgh the weekend before Christmas and everything looked wonderfully festive. Admittedly the main one running in the gardens by Princes Street was a little tacky, but still quite charming.
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What to Do: Climb Arthur’s Seat (or Calton Hill for the faint-hearted!)

Not for the faint hearted this! We climbed up (using the not-so-easy route!) in the heatwave during June 2014 and it was tough going. The views however are utterly fantastic and I’m so glad we did it.

A much easier and quicker alternative is to talk a short stroll up Calton Hill. We only managed to do this in December for the first time but I really wish we’d done it sooner. A great view over towards the castle, and it was beautiful as the sun began to set.
 photo 48 Hours in Edinburgh 8_zpsluwm9yzu.jpg photo 48 Hours in Edinburgh 14_zpsnfrv6dpy.jpg photo 48 Hours in Edinburgh 9_zpsa2gyp8zl.jpg photo 48 Hours in Edinburgh 7_zpsp3wyalnc.jpg

What to Do: Picnic on the Beach @ North Berwick

A beautiful seaside town around 30 minutes from the city by train, this is where me and W stayed during our first trip to Edinburgh. The beach is utterly stunning; sandy, atmospheric rock pools and long enough for a proper walk. During our engagement weekend we packed up a picnic, snuggled up on the rocks and watched the sun go down before heading for a hot chocolate in a nearby cafe. Perhaps a little cold, but utterly perfect!

So, there’s a round-up of our best bits in Edinburgh, the places I really recommend people to visit and the bits I highly suggest you do.

Have you ever been to Edinburgh? Where do you recommend?

Recipe: Haggis Carbonara

As you may know I’ve holidayed in Edinburgh for the past two years; I adore the city, and I really love what I’ve seen of Scotland. One of my dream holidays in the next few years is to finish a stay in Edinburgh with some form of road trip around the country.  photo e190fe4e-8204-4b32-8fc2-b3c1d33ec858_zps411437dc.jpgOne of the things I love about Scotland is the food. Nothing too fancy, but everything is tasty, hearty and well seasoned – too many people are shy with the salt and pepper! When Sykes Cottages asked me to come up with an interesting Haggis recipe I was embarrassingly excited; I love haggis but have never cooked it myself. I was actually quite shocked at their statistics; nearly two-thirds of people wouldn’t order haggis if they saw it on the menu. I’ve got to say there are things I’d place ahead of haggis, but its definitely not a no-go area for me!  photo 2014-06-19123753_zps47344773.jpgThinking about my recipe, I wanted something quick and easy, but still comforting. Haggis isn’t meant to be light and healthy really! I’ve actually never had it ‘as it comes’, I’ve eaten it stuffed inside a chicken breast (pretty good) and in a fritter. A word about the Fritter – I highly recommend you visit Maison Bleue if you find yourself in Edinburgh. Pretty damn good set menu at roughly £30, but £15 if you’re a student and its a Tuesday. One of the most interesting (in a good way!) meals I’ve had, and they definitely don’t skimp on portions. But yes, I highly recommend their Haggis Fritters. Anyway, all the times I’ve enjoyed Haggis it’s been in quite a complex form. I didn’t want that, so I thought about the flavours – peppery and meaty. Then I realised it would be pretty nice in a carbonara. I was right, it was fantastic. I used a pattie of haggis as it was the easiest option for one. So cheap too!  photo 2014-08-15185358_zpseaec30eb.jpgJust to let you know, my regular carbonara comes very highly praised by my boyfriend. I’ve never planned to publish it on here and its not a dish that takes kindly to sitting around being photographed, but here it is. Aren’t you lucky?! To make it haggis-less, just fry chopped bacon until crisp, and add a good amount of pepper to the cheese mix. Ingredients

  • Decent knob of butter
  • 1 round of haggis
  • 1 egg
  • Cheese – I went for parmesan and a good grating of a Scottish cheddar
  • Pasta – spaghetti is best really

 photo 6140c989-1c95-4cd0-beeb-9556e103bb9c_zps9cb39dfd.jpgFirst of all put your pasta on to boil. I find 10 minutes is about right for most pastas. Meanwhile fry your haggis in butter – I crumbled mine up completely, but you could leave it in bigger chunks. I’d say crumbled is easier if you’re just starting out with haggis though!  photo 9165dc89-d6c5-4481-a929-a8ecd30145f3_zpsd692627e.jpg photo 1247502f-ff31-422b-94aa-18f4eafdfef6_zpsed6ad2e6.jpg photo 2e9a0b09-1f59-4853-9e22-a024294de140_zps221ca805.jpgAnd while that’s frying, crack and egg into a bowl, beat and add your grated cheeses.  photo 0e45a5cb-9383-47ae-bb5a-f6b69b99c878_zpsffde082f.jpgNow my secret for carbonara – take a tablespoon of the boiling pasta water (while the pasta is still cooking) and dribble it into the egg-cheese while beating with a fork. Do the same with another teaspoon. The water should just melt the cheese, make a smooth mixture, and lighten the end sauce.  photo 1c6b3cc2-9b19-4cbf-8222-4b910668aaaa_zps19571434.jpgOnce the pasta has boiled, drain, and tip straight in with the haggis. Toss together.  photo e190fe4e-8204-4b32-8fc2-b3c1d33ec858_zps411437dc.jpgTurn the heat off, and wait a few minutes. Tip the egg mixture gradually (tossing well between additions) into the pasta. If it starts to scramble don’t add any more; wait another minute. Once all the egg is in, if its not quite cooked enough to your liking (I’m not fussy about really runny egg!) put the pan back on a very low heat. Then serve, and eat as quickly as possible. Trust me, cold carbonara isn’t a good thing!  photo 84e5815d-9720-4a82-95fb-07b7137274ee_zps2b3c0a3e.jpg

Disclaimer: I was sent the personalised apron and £15 to cover ingredients costs (treated myself to posh parmesan!) by Sykes Cottages, but all opinions are my own. I genuinely love haggis!

Whats your opinion of haggis?