Tuesday, 27 January 2015

The Magnum & why home really is where the heart is

I have not always been a city girl. I actually grew up in a small town of about 2000 located somewhere between Edinburgh & Glasgow. A town that had a Spar, a few pubs and not a lot to do. The kind of place where you couldn't nip to the shop on a Sunday morning without bumping into at least 10 different people you knew and where you could walk into your local on a Friday night and know at least 50% of the people in there. I didn't mind it to be honest. But I don't miss it either. In fact I haven't been back now in 4 years. And although I sometimes miss a few of the people, I am well and truly a city girl these days.

When I left my home town I moved to Edinburgh and lived and studied there for around 5 years. I fell in love with the place. The buzz and bright lights of the city. The fact that buses arrived within 5 minutes of each other and the pubs and clubs stayed open past midnight. Although it was probably the fact I could get a Pizza Hut delivered right to my door that really sealed it for me. I think deep down I knew then that that was it for me. I was a city girl now. And truthfully, there was no way I could have ever went back permanently.

Now I am a Glasgow girl through and through - although it took me a while to get to this stage. And a good year of moaning to anyone who would listen about how much I missed Edinburgh. But I have finally taken this fine city into my heart. It feels so much like home now that I can't imagine ever moving away. And although I imagine myself in a nice little house somewhere far enough away from the serious noise of the city centre - it won't be that far. About five train stops is as far as I will ever venture from the centre of this little city of mine. 

But I do love going back to Edinburgh and I always jump when the opportunity arises. And so last Friday the bloke and I jumped on a train and (armed with an M&S picnic of nuts and mini bottles of fizz), we made ourselves over to the capital to try some of the food at The Magnum Bar & Restaurant on Albany Street. Let me tell you two things that I learned from this little outing. Firstly that I am forever going to be the girl who spends lots of money of nice black leather gloves only to lose them or leave them at home (my fingers were numb with the cold by the time we made it to the restaurant) and secondly that I should never listen to my boyfriend's directions when it comes to Edinburgh. When it comes to the East of Scotland I am most definitely a little more location savvy than that man ;)

But we came in from the cold, ordered some drinks (Guinness for him and a nice Sauv Blanc for moi) and perused the menu. Despite being full of wasabi peas and prosecco it didn't take long to decide what we wanted and our food was brought out promptly by the really lovely waitress who's name I have forgotten already. Despite making a point of asking for it on the way out. I do this regularly. Let's blame the Sauv Blanc.

My Arbroath Smokie pate tasted pretty decent and although I could have done with it being a teensy bit more seasoned, thought it to be pretty nice and most definitely home-made. His haggis, neeps and tatties starter ended up getting me all kinds of jealous though.  They say the sign of a really good chef is his sauces. If you can do a good sauce then you have cracked it. And whoever was in the kitchen that day has seriously cracked it. I would literally have used the rest of my bread just soaking up that whisky and thyme cream if he had let me. Or I had been quicker. If I am splitting hairs then I would say that the dish should have been served hotter. It wasn't particularly warm when it was brought out and thus was pretty cold by the time he got to the end.

But I kinda feel like that sauce made up for it so I'm not going to bang on...

I opted for the venison because I like to do my research and according to the internet absolutely everyone goes for the venison in here. He went for Crombie's sausages served with creamed potatoes, green beans wrapped in proscuitto and red onion gravy. I only had a little taste of this dish given that my boyfriend has the appetite of about 20 cage fighters but what I tasted was very good. Smooth and creamy potatoes and a really nice and delicately balanced gravy. The black pudding sausages itself were heavy and had I ordered it I would have probably struggled to finish it purely down to how rich they were. However any sausages that contain black pudding are going to be rich and the jus was just light enough to make it work.

My seared venison haunch was served with a broccoli and blue cheese puree, chestnut mushrooms, a parsnip dauphinoise and a redcurrant jus. And it rocked my frickin world. This is the nicest venison dish I have eaten to date. Venison and redcurrant go together like Ant & Dec so we knew that was going to work. But the meat was practically perfect in it's pinkness, the parsnip dauphinoise might actually have been nicer than the original potato version I love so much and and puree had just the slightest hint of blue cheese making it not too over-powering and the perfect compliment to the rest of this dish. I would order this dish again without hesitation and would struggle to be swayed by any other main course offering if I went back.

Obviously we protested that we had eaten too much and couldn't manage dessert when they took away our plates. Naturally we had changed that to 'we will just share one' as they brought the dessert menu over. And unsurprisingly by the time they took our order I had ordered the cheeseboard and he'd went for the cranachan cheesecake.

Let me tell you a few facts about me. There are many things that do it for this girl. A good, strong set of hands. A well cut suit. Or a really good cheese. And there is nothing that winds me up more than paying £8 for a cheeseboard only to be given a couple of different types of cheese. Oh no. This greedy girl wants a decent selection on her cheeseboard and a decent selection is what I got. Although I know there isn't a great amount of culinary skill involved in creating a cheeseboard, you have to pick some good cheeses and that is exactly what The Magnum did. Which included a really good (room temperature) oozy, sticky brie, a sharp and tangy goats' cheese and some great quality manchego. All complimented with some rustic style crackers, a tart and tasty home-made chutney and a good dollop of quince jelly.

Utter heaven.

I didn't taste the cheesecake but I'm told it was delicious and I love the idea. Sharp raspberry to offset the sweetness, some rolled oats through the cream cheese for texture and a nice biscuit base. I am most definitely going to give that a crack at my next dinner party.

This was a really nice meal. And one in which there was very little fault. 
The best way I can describe this place is posh pub grub. The kind of place you could visit off the hoof where you can be dressed for the pub yet still receive restaurant quality food. But likewise you could stick on a nice top and a pair of heels and have a date night at the weekend and still feel like you are being a bit more upmarket. It kind of contradicts itself by being pubby yet fancy at the same time. Which is hard to do. But it pulls it off. And I like it.

Our meal was received complimentary in exchange for a review. You can read more about my disclosure policy here.

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