Friday, 8 September 2017

Giraffe World Kitchen (Aberdeen) - Review

When it comes to traveling, there's nothing I enjoy more than scoping out the best foodie havens and indulging in some great local dishes. Although it may not be as exotic as a restaurant on the marina of St Tropez, Giraffe World Kitchen in Aberdeen has now launched its brand spanking new-look with a food and drinks menu boasting dishes from across the globe.

With a fresh new brand, a revamped name, and a food and drink menu to suit all tastes, Giraffe World Kitchen is back with a bang and putting some serious life, (and spice) into national chain restaurants.

Stepping inside the restaurant takes you on a journey around the world, uncovering new, exciting places the further you venture in. With bright, bold patterns, lots of interesting wood work, intricate detailing and modern lighting, the new and improved look is definitely now on par with its diverse menu offering. Having always been a restaurant focused on the diverse food offering the world boasts, Giraffe has now re-branded to bring the look of the restaurant and the food available together so that they both compliment one another - and that they do.
The restaurant was busy, probably the busiest I've ever seen it and guests were having to be turned away due to it being completely full - A great problem for any business of any size to have.

Luckily for us we had booked a table and were greeted and seated promptly. Whilst browsing the food menu, we ordered a couple of drinks. A Mexican Sunset (£6.95) for me, and freshly made lemonade with mint (£2.25) for my sister. 

Having a new love for Mexico's favourite spirit, the tequila based drink was extremely refreshing. With Aperol, pineapple, lime, sweetened agave nectar and soda over ice, it was lovely and sweet and the perfect drink to start off my dining experience at the new-look restaurant.
Our server for the night talked us through some of the popular dishes, which made choosing a dish all that more challenging, but after much deliberation we eventually managed to order. To begin I decided to go for the steamed duck gua bao buns (£6.95) and Nicole chose the prawn saganaki (£6.95).

The two steamed duck gua bao buns were beautifully soft and fluffy, and were packed full of crispy shredded duck, cucumber, spring onion and topped with chopped red chillies. The peanuts in the buns provided a real crunch to the dish, and the rich hoisin sauce finished it off perfectly.

Saganaki is a cheesy Greek dish which is created in a small frying pan and was exactly what my sister needed after a long day at work. The Greek comfort food was served with juicy king prawns in a delicious garlic, chilli, white wine, red onion and tomato sauce. The prawn saganaki (£6.95) was covered in crumbled feta and was served with a toasted flatbread on the side - perfect for dipping into and scooping up the leftover sauce. She loved the dish and there was plenty prawns in it too which suited her fine.
Polishing off both starters, our my, attention drifted back to the cocktail menu. This time I decided to order a gin based cocktail, with the Bramble Garden (£6.95) catching my eye. Featuring a healthy serving of London Dry gin, cucumber, apple, blackberries and elderflower, topped with soda and served long over ice, the gin sour hit the spot.

Taking on the role as driver for the night, Nicole tried out the Sunshine Coast Iced Tea which was ridiculously fine. With ice cold chamomile and green tea, mango, limeade and fresh mint it boasted all the characteristics of the base of a good cocktail (£2.95).
Next up was our Japanese and Asian inspired main dishes. Bowls for the soul Katsu Chicken (£11.95) for me, and Thai Duck Stir Fry (£10.95) for Nicole.

The Katsu Chicken was divine and went great with the noodles. I'd usually have paired it with rice at home, but the noodles worked really well and the mild peanut and coconut sauce, the bok choy, tenderstem broccoli and crunchy wok-fried vegetables. The lightly breaded Katsu chicken was very tasty, and the freshly squeezed lime on top added a real citrus hit to it.

Nicole's Thai duck stir fry was served with shredded duck, noodles with chilli jam, bok choy, crispy onions and wok-fried vegetables all tossed in teriyaki sauce. Both dishes were demolished quite rapidly.
Taking our time, we eventually decided that dessert was a must. Drifting to the shores of Spain,  my heart was set on the Churros (£4.95). The Spanish doughnuts came coated in cinnamon sugar with a choice of chocolate orange dipping sauce or dulce de leche on the side - of course I went for both...

The five churros were crisp on the outside and nice and fluffy inside and were extremely sweet. The chocolate orange and the dulce de leche sauces were very more-sih and creamy, a real sugar fix to round off the meal.

Nicole decided to embrace the Rocky Road (£5.95) dessert, which, if I had to pick somewhere, would have probably have hailed from the big ol' US of A - I could be completely wrong, but that was my interpretation. The tall sundae glass was filled with vanilla and salted caramel ice cream, layered with chocolate brownie chunks, chocolate sauce, mini marshmallows and lathered with whipped cream on top. She ate ever last morsel and even tried to pinch a few of my churros - not on my watch.
Bellies full it was time to call it a day on our foodie outing, and with the restaurant still very busy, we decided to promptly get our bill and free up our table so other customers could experience the new and improved version of Giraffe.

I must admit I was pleasantly surprised at just how much Giraffe World Kitchen impressed me. From the knowledgable staff, to the funky interiors, to the scrumptious and varied food on the menu and the diverse drinks offering, this was one chain restaurant which ticked all the boxes.

The restaurant is big on catering to families and offer free kids meal promotions quite regularly. With the opportunity to dine out in a comfortable restaurant which also encourages youngsters to try new foods from around the world, it's no surprise the restaurant was so busy. Hats off to Giraffe.

 For Now...

Just Julia

Friday, 25 August 2017

Boozy Gin Brownies - Recipe

Oh gin, you popular wee thing you. The boom in this particular drinks trend is far from over, and with more than 70% of all gin in the UK now produced in Scotland, it's no surprise half of us have gone gin mad. 

It just so happens that I've now decided to eat the stuff, never mind consume goblets of it at the weekend.

Not the most experienced of bakers, I wanted to incorporate one of my favourite spirits into a simple recipe which bakers of all levels would be able to tackle. And with a slight addiction to chocolate, I opted for my very own Boozy Gin Brownies.

There are of course numerous different ways you can make brownies, and if you've got your recipe nailed then that's totally cool. But for those who don't, I've pulled together a recipe for simple, slightly gooey brownies below.

And as well as gin, I've also added some white chocolate chips and mini marshmallows for those who really want to have fun with this recipe.

To make the boozy gin brownies you will need the following...

  • 200g dark chocolate (I used Bournville)
  • 100g unsalted butter
  • 250g caster sugar
  • 4 large eggs (or five medium)
  • 60g cocoa powder
  • 3 tsp vanilla essence
  • 60g plain flour
  • One handful of white chocolate chips
  • One handful of mini marshmallows
  • Any premium gin (I used Cocoa Gin from Hotel Chocolat)
You will also need one square/rectangular baking tin lined with grease proof paper to bake the brownies in.

Below is the step-by-step method you will need to follow - however I've left out the gin and tonic I'd poured myself to drink whilst baking.

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 180C and line your baking tin - set tray to the side.
  2. Break the dark chocolate into small pieces and place in a heatproof bowl. Melt the chocolate gently over simmering boiling water in a pan, or microwave the chocolate in bursts of 30 seconds. Set the chocolate aside to cool.
  3. Put both the butter and the caster sugar into a mixing bowl and beat until fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one after the other. Add in the vanilla essence and beat well.
  4. Slowly pour some of the melted chocolate into the mixture and mix it in. Do this until all of the melted chocolate has been added. If you would like, feel free to add white chocolate chips and marshmallows at this stage - or any other confectionary you would like.
  5. Sift in the cocoa powder and flour and gently stir into the mixture ensuring it has completely combined.
  6. Pour the mixture into the lined baking tin and put into the pre-heated oven for 20 minutes.
  7. Once cooked, place the brownies on a wire cooling rack. Leave the brownies to cool for about 8-10 minutes and then, depending on how strong you would like your brownies to be, pour/drizzle your favourite gin over the brownies. The mixture will soak up the gin. For this recipe I used Hotel Chocolat's Cocoa Gin which is infused with cocoa shells.
  8. Cut into pieces and serve.
To confuse things a little, I decided to make two batches when baking these brownies - both containing gin, however only one contained the mini marshmallows and white chocolate chips.

These brownies are a great fine piece to take to any tea party and can be made with numerous other spirits including rum, reposado tequila and even a dark beer. I used Hotel Chocolat's Cocoa Gin due to it being infused with cocoa shells, but next time I'll definitely think of using a more floral gin or one with lots of botanicals from the sea, as I think they would work extremely well. I can imagine the Gin Bothy amaretto gin liqueur would also be a winning combination too.

Enjoy your boozy baking folks, but remember, please bake and drink responsibly.

  For Now...

Just Julia


Thursday, 17 August 2017

The Pier - Food Review

On a sunny day, Aberdeen's beach promenade is a busy place. With various eatery's having come and gone from the location, it's to no one's surprise that when the former Pier Bisto relaunched as The Pier that the public would swarm in.

The restaurant is big, and is dressed with a sea of intrinsic pictures lining its walls. It's bright and with the addition of the large windows - one of which doubles as an ice cream takeaway hidden behind the bar - its very spacious.

After a walk along the beach one night, my sisters and I, as well as my sister's boyfriend Jack, decided to head in for dinner.

A rum drinker, Jack opted for a Kraken and coke, whilst my youngest sister decided to try out the Kinder Bueno milkshake - nothing like pacing yourself for dinner...I on the other hand ordered a Fine Time Fanta - a gin based cocktail featuring Hendricks, Solerno (a blood orange liqueur), lemon and orange juice. And what a fine time it was.
Any opportunity to eat out, I encouraged the gang to order a compilation of tapas starters, of which four strong choices were decided on.

First to face the taste test was the smoked salmon empanadas. The Latin-American inspired filo pastry dish was packed with delicious Scottish smoked salmon, cream cheese and chives, and finished off with a homemade salsa served on the side. The pastry was crisp and inside was extremely cheesy and smooth, and even better, there was a real generous amount of salmon squeezed in there too.

Next to meet the wrath of our forks was the chorizo cooked in red wine. The spicy sausage went perfectly with the red wine, which, not being too fond of red wine, I was extremely surprised that I enjoyed it as much as I did. Served with some fresh salad leaves it was definitely a table favourite.

The patatas bravas went down a treat and was devoured pretty quickly. The spicy tomato sauce - which was more like a tomato salsa for this dish, went really well with the potato. The salsa/tomato chunks were very light in comparison to the bigger, creamier squares of crisp potato.

Leaving the best until last, I tackled the black pudding bon bons with sweet chilli jam. Beautifully cooked, the soft, rich black pudding centre melted in my mouth. Accompanied by the sweet chilli jam which boasted a wee punch of chilli, it was the perfect way to round off our sharing starters.
Eating out has to be one of my favourite things to do. I love the social aspect food and drink bring to a table, creating so much conversation just by being there. It amazes me what great conversations can be had just by enjoying others company with goof food and drink.

So there's one thing I try my best not to do when I eat out, not order the same dish as anyone else.

By ordering something completely different I feel I get to experience a restaurant more than I would if I order the same as my company. When I go out I want to order something different to everyone else so I can truly appreciate a menu and the different cooking skills and techniques which will have been used to create the dishes. That being said, I must admit I struggled to give up the one dish I was so eager to try.

Having previously eyed up the Sailor Jerry glazed steak burger earlier that day, to my dismay, my sister's boyfriend had also flagged the burger as a 'must have' for mains too. Desperate to get a look-in we waited patiently for our second course.

The food took a while to come, but I'd expected that seen as everything is more or less homemade and cooked to order. Our server was new so the service in general was a little slow, but having worked as a waitress before I completely understood and was delighted to be the first ever customers he had served on his own. Learning is a wonderful thing and it was great to see his confidence grow as the night progressed.

When the food arrived it was clear we'd all made pretty good choices.

On the table sat the Sailor Jerry burger, posh fish and chips, and two specials of the day - my hot dog with crispy onions and my sister's pork and black pudding burger.

The Sailor Jerry burger arrived with a treble clef imprinted on the top of the bun and a mug full of chips, however it was the Sailor Jerry sauce that was the talk of the dish. It tasted exactly how you could imagine it would, and personally, I think it would be cracking on a set of ribs - yum. My youngest sister's burger also came with chips and was cooked well. She demolished it in record time, indicating her approval with a big thumbs up.
The posh fish and chips also received good feedback and I managed to talk my sister into swapping some of her lightly battered monkfish and king prawns for a bit of my hot dog. The dish was served with chips and mushy peas, but I think a side of homemade tartar sauce would have finished this dish off perfectly. The fish was stunning and the prawns were perfect.

Moving on to my hot dog, I was pretty pleased with the size of it. So often I go to restaurants or festivals looking for a really good hot dog, to receive, well everything but that. The crispy onions that topped it were crisp and tasty, and the fresh salad added vibrant colours to the dish. The chips were cooked well, but were just your standard restaurant chips - which I do rather enjoy.
Glasses empty, I decided on a frozen tropical daiquiri to accompany my meal - not the most obvious food pairing there but it worked. The daiquiri was ace and  full of flavour, and of course it was super refreshing too. Jack ordered another Kraken and coke, and the girls opted for a few softs.
Deliberating on dessert, we decided to call it a day. Although, in hindsight, I totally could have gone a sticky toffee pudding, just. The brownie with Mackie's ice cream was also a strong contender too, but alas, we were all beat.

Set up for the night, we headed back to the car enjoying a nice walk along the beach promenade on route. A great local, family friendly place, The Pier is a great food stop for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and at affordably priced, it's the perfect place to refuel whilst enjoying time at the beach. Since this visit I've been back for breakfast - the full Scottish, which was scrumptious - and a lot of ice cream too. I'll definitely be making a conscious effort to get my friends along to try out their dinner menu and with numerous collaboration events in the evening too, there's plenty of opportunity for my friends and I to go and enjoy a few drinks whilst catching up over good food.

 Job well done guys. 

   For Now...

Just Julia


Friday, 4 August 2017

Aberdeen Gin Club: Island Life event

As a kid, I was a member of various different clubs. You name it, I've probably been enrolled in it, but as an adult, I find myself not really belonging anywhere. Yes there's work and some of us have the odd hobby we're involved in, but that's no where near the joy and fulfillment belonging to a club would bring to me as a child. 

All that changed when one day I spied a Facebook post announcing that a new gin club was being launched in the city. A keen enthusiast of the spirit, I was thrilled to attend the first ever Aberdeen Gin Club event the club hosted - Island Life.

Having already tasted my fair share of gins, I was delighted to see a few gins on the list which I hadn't managed to try before. Organised by director, Peter Sim or Peaty Nose, the event took place at the recently revamped The Four Mile, Peter talked us through the different gins, taking us on a trip around the Isles of Scotland

Putting out tastebuds to the test, we sampled some of Scotland's finest Island gins, taking notes and scoring each one as we went.
The first stop on our trip was Colonsay, trying out Colonsay Gin (47%).

Taking inspiration from Celtic folklore and the Hebridean beauty of the Island, the gin is made in small batches of 160 bottles per run. The bottle design has been heavily themed on Alva, the red-haired maiden who lives at the home of Wild Thyme Spirits - the company behind Colonsay Gin.

A London Dry style, the premium artisan gin can only add more alcohol or water to it to bring the proof of the gin down.

Featuring angelica roots, liquorice, coriander (seed), orange and numerous other botanicals the gin boasted a prickly spice and has a stronger smell and taste due to its higher ABV.

Using calamus - a type of reed - the gin makers take the rhizome from it and use it in the gin, giving it that sharp smell.

Pairing well with a slice of green chilli or a twist of orange peel I was pleasantly surprised at how great this gin tasted. It was smooth, but had a real kick of flavour to it without being too punchy.

*tried with Bon Accord tonic and a slice of orange.

Brand ambassador for Colonsay Gin, Scott Rose, also paid a special visit and gave an real in-depth insight into the gin too on the evening.

Next stop, Orkney.
The first Orkney gin we tried was Orkney Gin company's Johnsmas (41.3%). Hand crafted in Orkney from seven times distilled grain spirit and the finest botanicals, it's a compunded gin rather than distilled and is similar in style to a bath tub gin.

The grain is distilled seven times ensuring there's no roughness to the gin. Johnsmas is Orkney Gin's summer gin which is very floral and light. Their Mikkelmas gin is their winter gin and is much more aromatic.

For me, when I tasted it the gin tasted quite similar to Turkish delight. I don't mean it tasted like chocolate, but it boasted the same sweet floral tastes, with a rose flavour coming through quite predominantly.

It was a beautiful gin and was one of my favourite's of the whole evening. I love sweet, floral notes within my gin and it really did stand out for me. In comparison to the taste, the branding was something that didn't capture my attention as much as the others, which just goes to show that you should never judge a gin by its bottle. With a slight hint of spice just to round the drink off a the end, it was a real delicious gin.

*tried with Fever Tree elderflower tonic and a wedge of lime
The second Orkney gin I tried was Kirkjuvar (43%).
This premium gin, pronounced kirk-u-var has a sweet smell of pine with top notes of lemon and was also a well scored gin. The gin was inspired by the Island's spirit which also come across strongly in the company's branding.

The gin was a good, well rounded gin, however, personally I didn't feel it boasted as strong a profile as I was hoping. Being an individual with a sweeter palette, I'm unsure if it was this, or the fact I'd started to have too much gin, but it just wasn't jumping out at me. I got a slight taste of rose, which isn't surprising as they use two types of roses as botanicals, but it just wasn't as pungent as the first Orkney gin.

*tried with Bon Accord tonic and a wedge of lime
Next up we returned to Colonsay to put Wild Island Gin (43.7%) to the test.

With 16 botanicals there was a lot going on in this gin. So much so my palette seemed a little confused as to what to pick out first. A lover of this brand's bottle, this was the first time I'd managed to try this gin. Following the hype of it, I was really excited about getting the chance to try it out.

The gin itself has a sweet yet sour flavour to it, reminding me slightly of sherbet lemons - which I think is due to the lemon peel and balm used in the recipe. It started quite warm with a hint of spice, soon followed by a floral, smooth and long finish. The perfect serve is said to be with an orange peel to accentuate its citrus notes.

*tried with Bon Accord tonic and a slice of orange
Last but not least was a jolly over to the Isle of Harris to enjoy Isle of Harris gin (45%).

A brand I am very familiar with, it's one of my favourite looking bottles. With its stunning design and beautiful branding, the bottle stands out from the crowd in the sea of gins now available on the market.

The gin boasts nine botanicals, including its popular, most talked about botanical, local hand-harvested sugar kelp. Although this gin's main botanicals are very much focused around the connections the gin has to the Island, the gin thankfully does not taste like sea water. In fact, it has quite a fruity and sweet floral, slightly herbal taste to it with flavours of mango, grapefruit, orange and crushed green herbs coming through.

We were also given the chance to try out the newly launched (at the time) Isle of Harris sugar kelp aromatic water. A drop or two of this is said to enhance the flavours of the gin - I tried it on my hand and it was surprisingly good.

The recommended serve for Isle of Harris is a piece of pink or red grapefruit or a wedge of lime.

*tried with Bon Accord tonic and a wedge of lime.
After the gin tasting was over and scorecards were collected, we were then treated to two gin cocktails which Peter had created, utilising two of the gins from the tasting. Both The Bee's Knees and The Rubus tasted excellent, but it was The Rubus which won it for me. Peter kindly shared the cocktail recipes with us so I've decided to share his recipe with you all too - it would be rude to keep these gin cocktails hidden from other gin lovers.

The Bee's Knees
50ml Wild Island Botanic Gin
2 teaspoons honey
20ml fresh lemon juice
20ml fresh orange juice

Add the gin and honey into the shaker and stir until honey dissolves. Add lemon and orange juice and top with ice. Shake well and strain into glass. Garnish with an orange zest twist.

The Rubus
50ml Orkney Gin company's Johnsmas
20ml fresh lemon juice
20ml sugar syrup
25ml Edinburgh gin raspberry

Add the gin, lemon and sugar syrup into a shaker filled with ice. Shake well and strain into a glass with ice and garnish with raspberries.
So if you love your gin and you're looking for a local gin club to join, then check out Aberdeen Gin Club's website for all the event dates and further information. The club also organises events in Inverurie, Banchory and many other towns too.  

For Now...

Just Julia


Thursday, 29 June 2017

The Adamson Laurent-Perrier Champagne brunch

Nothing screams luxury more than high quality champagne with a delicious brunch in a fashionable, sophisticated bar. Looking for the ultimate stylish Sunday brunch experience, I headed along to The Adamson Restaurant and Bar at the weekend to try out their first sold-out Laurent-Perrier Champagne Brunch.

Stepping into one of St Andrew's hot spots guests were transported to what I can only imagine a contemporary bar in Marbella would resemble. With giant Laurent-Perrier balloons dotted across the room, buckets full of champagne on ice and a live DJ playing chilled out house music, this was a Sunday event worth getting out of bed early for.

Sampling both the Cuvée Brut and Rosé there was also the option for guests to order numerous champagne based cocktails at the event including the Parisian - Laurent-Perrier champagne, with vanilla vodka and lemon, Kir Royale - Laurent-Perrier champagne with crème de cassis and others.

As bottles popped and friends toasted to one another, the champagne brunch was off to a fantastic start. Tuning my attention to the menu, myself and Kate from Citylicious - who I was hanging out with for the day - fretted over what to order.
To begin, we were treated to an array of canapés which I very much enjoyed and polished off within minutes.

The trio included; a Thai spiced fish cake, a parma ham arancini, and a goats cheese and red onion marmalade tart. The parma ham arancini was crisp and quite creamy, and the goats cheese tart was scrumptious - its red onion marmalade placed on top was divine and it provided just the right amount of sweetness to the taster.

The showstopper for me had to be the Thai spiced fish cake. It was slightly zesty and was full of exotic flavours. Partnered with the creamer dollop of sauce it sat on, it was delicious.
For mains, it was a tough choice between the sweet option, scrumptious pancakes with bacon, maple syrup and cherries, and two mouth-watering savoury dishes. Having decided against the sweet (due to having a peak of the dessert options) it was a toss up between the eggs benedict with crisp, juicy bacon, and the fresh avocado with poached eggs and toasted sourdough options. Avocado it was.

Bursting with flavour the poached eggs were perfectly cooked, and as my knife pierced it, the yolk oozed around my plate. The avocado was on the softer side, meaning it was ripe and ready to be demolished, and the sourdough was well toasted and provided a real crunch and texture to the dish. It was exquisite.

Kate had opted for the eggs benedict, a firm choice also. Smothered in a creamy sauce and topped with two large bits of bacon it was the silence as we both tucked into our dishes that confirmed we were both very much satisfied with our choices.
Turning to dessert, there were two choices; a Laurent-Perrier champagne sorbet with fresh raspberries or eton mess with strawberries, Laurent-Perrier jelly, meringue and champagne sorbet.

The champagne sorbet had been specially made for this event by individuals who supply The Adamson's ice cream, something I was very pleased to hear. And with this in mind, I decided to go for the lighter option as surprisingly, I was feeling rather full.

When the generous serving of sorbet arrived it was the beautiful bright raspberries which caught my eye instantly. Tucking in, the sorbet melted in my mouth and I got an immediate hit of the smooth Laurent-Perrier. The sorbet was extremely refreshing and light, and it was the perfect balance of sweet with a little hit of sour from the fresh raspberries.

Kate opted for the eton mess and thoroughly enjoyed her creamier dish which boasted a serving of the sorbet and a beautiful Laurent-Perrier jelly.
To end our delicious lunch, we were treated to a few white and milk chocolates each which were very rich and extremely delicious. It was a great way to round everything off and left a real sweet taste in my mouth.
Making these Laurent-Perrier champagne brunches a monthly event is something I am very much on board with and would love to see more of these types of events pop up. The Adamson Restaurant and Bar is somewhere I've visited every time I've visited St Andrews and I've always had a fabulous experience. The event is extremely exclusive and this particular one sold-out very quickly. 

The next event is scheduled to be on Sunday 27 August from 12.30pm to 3.30pm, and its expected tickets for this event will also be scooped up in a short space of time too. 

So whether you're looking to catch up with your girlfriends, treat your mum, toast a special occasion, or even arrange a nice afternoon out with your husband or partner, the Laurent-Perrier Champagne brunch is a must.

  For Now...

Just Julia

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