Monday, 22 January 2018

JUST JULIA TRIES: Byron - Calvin Haggis (Aberdeen)

Everyone that knows me, knows that the way to my heart is through food. And more importantly, a good burger.

There's something about burgers that fascinates me. How one item of food can be as expensive, or as inexpensive as you like, and can be as simplistic, or as elaborate as one wants baffles me a little. It's something you can find in fast food restaurants as well as some of the fanciest restaurants in town, and I love it for it.

Recently, I was invited down to Byron in Union Square to check out a new burger which they have just launched today, The Calvin Haggis. And yes, this is a burger named after the famous DJ Calvin Harris, just in case that wasn't obvious...

I'm not going to lie, I usually prefer to eat out locally, supporting local restaurants, however, knowing there was nothing quite like this burger advertised elsewhere, I had to go try it out.

Visiting last Thursday, I decided to bring my favourite person along for one last meal before he went offshore - or so we thought. Arriving around 6.30pm, we were greeted by the lovely team there and shown to our seats - a big comfy booth.

The manager came over to explain the burger and talk us through the menu. The Calvin Haggis is here for one week only (until Sunday 28th) and he explained that following its huge success last year, that the firm had decided it was time for it to make its comeback for Burns night again. 

We were both pretty hungry so decided it would be best to share a starter of the mac and cheese balls, so we could save ourselves for our main. 

The mac and cheese balls appeared pretty quickly and were nice and warm on arrival. The deep-fried bites were super gooey on the inside and tasted really good - I'm thinking it was some sort of American cheese sauce, but I could be wrong. Topped with buffalo glaze, spring onions, crispy bacon and more cheese sauce, they were the perfect appetiser - not too big, yet big enough to keep us entertained for our mains.
Our burgers arrived almost immediately after we'd finished our starter so there was not much breathing space - I was now very thankful we'd shared a small starter instead of ordering one each.

Obviously visiting to try out the Calvin Haggis, we decided to order one, plus a second burger and split them in half. Well, that was the plan...

The Calvin Haggis was a beast of a burger. A 6oz burger patty with haggis, a tattie scone, American cheese, bacon and onion relish, dry cured bacon, blanched white onions all packed into one burger with a dollop of Bryon's burger sauce and an egg on top to finish it off.

Braving it with his hands, Calum struggled to get the burger into his mouth. And it was so big he almost ended up wearing half of it. The egg ran down his fingers, but he looked happy and his comment "It tastes like freedom" told me everything.

The burger itself was great. It was well-cooked, and the haggis in it had a slight spice to it which Calum liked a lot. It also complimented the sweeter bacon brilliantly, and to our surprise, the cheese worked really well with the burger. It's somewhat of a hybrid of the perfect breakfast burger meets a naffa fine Scottish burger - one which I think would be a very popular hangover cure!
When I'm looking for something a little lighter, I tend to stick to chicken burgers so I decided to opt for the Clucky cooked in buffalo sauce. The burger was scrumptious and I loved the buffalo sauce which provided a real heat to the dish. Having already tucked into the deep-fried mac and cheese balls I figured start as you mean to go on, and ordered my chicken breasts to be fried, rather than grilled. The fried chicken breasts were smothered in guacamole, sriracha mayonnaise, picked red onions and shredded iceberg lettuce. The sriracha mayonnaise was very hot, so I was thankful I liked hot foods, as the buffalo sauce and the mayo partnered together could have been a disaster for someone who doesn't enjoy hot food. Luckily the guacamole was a great compliment to the hotter sauces so it cooled my mouth down quickly.

As well as the burgers, we ordered two portions of fries, one regular and one cheese fries, as well as a side of big, chunky onion rings. Calum loved his cheesy fries and was delighted to see the cheese was melted throughout the bowl of chips, rather than just on top. The onion rings were big and juicy, and were pretty crispy on the outside too.
I'd had more than enough with my burger and chips, but something in me was telling me I just had to have something sweet. Knowing there was no chance either of us could take on a dessert alone, we agreed to share a freakshake and call it a night.

The extra-thick oreo freakshake was enormous. Filled to the brim with all sorts of oreo treats, I was curious to see how we'd get on. A chocolate oreo milkshake with ice cream, oreo's on the side, a huge swirl of whipped cream, chocolate sauce poured all over and and a healthy helping of oreo cheesecake just for good measure - this was one serious milkshake.

I think I must have been after I'd taken a few sips of the think milkshake, polished off a oreo and made a fair dent in the oreo cheesecake that I finally gave up. I was defeated, and rightly so.
 The team at Byron went up and beyond for us, and the rest of the customers in the restaurant. They were very tentative and answered any questions we had. All of the servers were clued up on the menu, and all made different recommendations which was very nice - there's nothing worse than feeling like people are trying to sell you the same dishes, and that definitely wasn't the case at Byron.

With the Calvin Haggis only available for a limited time, there's not long for people to try it out. If you're up to the challenge and fancy some tasty grub, then it's definitely worth tackling. Although, a word of warning, you may want to take a change of t-shirt.

  For Now...

Just Julia


Sunday, 21 January 2018

Aberdeen Restaurant Week - Kirk View Cafe & Bistro: Review (Aberdeen)

You know those places you come across and instantly fall in love with? Well that's what happened to me and the Kirk View Cafe and Bistro. 

I''d heard about it opening a while back, but I hadn't had the chance to visit the cafe which is located on Union Terrace, and it wasn't until my mum mentioned it again recently, that I made the effort to pop in and see what she had been raving about.

The cafe and bistro does everything from breakfast to dinner, focusing on showcasing their carefully sourced, seasonal dishes. There's a rustic feel about it, and there's something about the atmosphere that almost makes you feel right at home. A family run business, it was really the kind, friendly staff who truly made our visit memorable, not to mention the incredible homemade food we had.

Kirk View is much bigger than I'd originally anticipated, and the fact it serves a range of cocktails too - which actually took me by surprise initially - is a massive bonus for any eatery serving dinner and afternoon tea.

But it was their lunch menu Calum and I were most interested in last Friday afternoon when on the hunt for something to put our hunger pangs at bay.

It wasn't overly busy, but then again, it's January. And we popped in a little after the lunchtime rush to ensure we could get some quiet time and enjoy catching up with each other.

We were greeted with a smile the second we walked through the door, and as far as customer service goes, I couldn't fault it one bit.

Established by Rob Milne and Samuel Dagostim - the entrepreneurial duo behind the cafe and bistro - Kirk View has now been running for almost a year, and is another restaurant that has pledged its support to Aberdeen Restaurant Week which kicks off on the 1st of February.

As I always do in most restaurants, I asked our server - who turned out to be one of the owners, Rob - for his suggested recommendations. The haggis and black pudding bon bons and the pork belly and pickle burger seemed to be the star acts, and just like that, I placed my starter order.
Hoping we were going to share our starters, I turned to Calum and suggested he picked the soup of the day to warm us up.

The soup that day turned out to be carrot, paprika and chilli which sounded ideal for getting our heat up. The cafe was cosy, but there's nothing like a good old hearty bowl of soup to warm you up on a cold winter's day.

Served with a warm bread roll, Calum dived right in. Luckily I managed to get a spoonful of the scrumptious soup when Calum was dunking in his bread, otherwise I don't think I would have had a look in.

Calum loved the soup, and he really enjoyed the kick the fresh chillies provided. It wasn't lumpy with vegetables or anything, but it was nice and thick, and any leftover dregs were quickly scooped up with the bread.
My haggis and black pudding bon bons were very appetising. Cutting into them, there was a clear definition between the haggis and black pudding, which visually, I liked a lot. The black pudding was very rich, and the haggis was a little spicy making the dish a great partnership of sweet and savoury combined into one.

The addition of the gorgeous, creamy whisky sauce which the two bon bons sat upon was fantastic. Not to mention the different textures and flavours the side salad of mixed lettuce leaves, tomato, cucumber and finely chopped radish provided.
For our mains, I wanted something light, but I wasn't in the mood for a salad so I decided to try out the sweet tomato chicken and chilli Kirk View bruschetta which came with a side salad and chips - also recommended by Rob.

I have to admit, I was a little unsure how good this would taste, and it was a bit of a last-minute decision from me, but I can assure you, this was one decision I did not regret.

The pieces of chicken were cooked extremely well and boasted a beautiful coating of sweet tomato glaze. With a balsamic glaze drizzled all over the plate adding to the sweetness of the dish, the freshly chopped red and green chillies provided a real heat to it, without completely overpowering it. The bruschetta was nice and crunchy, with a softer centre to it and it all came together really well with the tender, sweet chicken and fiery chillies.

The small stack of chips tasted great, as did the side salad, and the sweetness of the yellow peppers from the salad also complimented the dish by bringing another sweet, refreshing taste to it.
Calum was looking for something a little more substantial, but at the same time, he didn't want anything too heavy. A man mad about sandwiches, he decided on the chicken club sandwich which  was also served with fries and a side salad.

Like any club sandwich, it boasted bacon, tomatoes, lettuce and mayonnaise, however it was served in a ciabatta which Calum really enjoyed instead of big chunks of bread that end up going to waste. By having it in a ciabatta, this allowed him to be able to pick up his sandwich and fully enjoy it without having to worry about it falling apart in his hands.

The chicken and bacon were cooked really well, and there was just enough mayonnaise in the sandwich without it becoming saturated. It was really filling and did the job.
We wouldn't normally do this, but as we were eating out main meal, the chef - who turned out to be the other owner  Samuel - came out of the kitchen and placed which has to be one of the most delicious cakes I've seen at the front window of the cafe. Passing our table he asked how our food was and mentioned that he'd just baked the cake from scratch.

I have a real weakness for anything chocolate, especially when it looks divine, but the fact this had coconut incorporated into it, there was no way I was leaving without trying it.

Eyeing it up, we ordered a slice of the homemade chocolate and coconut cake to share, and Calum ordered a americano to accompany. The only tough decision to be made now, was who was going to nab the strawberry on top first.

I got it...just.
We both tucked into the slab of cake which was more than enough for the two of us. The chocolate ganache glaze on the cake made it look almost too good to eat...but it was the coconut buttercream filling in the middle which made the cake that all more indulgent. The sponge of the cake was beautifully bouncy, and super light but was also extremely chocolatey all at the same time. I wanted to ask for the recipe, but there's no chance I'd be able to create anything close to this beauty.
With a passion for fresh food based on their love for simple, local produce, the team behind Kirk View Cafe have pulled out all the stops to create a foodie haven for everyone.

Not only is the food sublime and the staff extremely welcoming, the views are fabulous and its a great wee spot for watching the world go by. Definitely worth popping in, whether that's for a piece of cake, breakfast, lunch, or dinner, I'll leave that up to you...

 For Now...

Just Julia

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