Tuesday, 22 September 2009
Scottish indie gods The Pastels make an anticipated return to stage after a hiatus that has for a few years been spent planning and recording with their Japanese counterparts, Tenniscoats.
Hard to believe that the mere idea of new collaborative album, Two Sunsets, the Pastels’ first in, gosh, over a decade, was conceivable with the two bands based on separate continents but witnessing the finished efforts of this baby live and it’s obvious why they just had to make it work. What a worthwhile and sensible marriage. This is just one of several visits to Scotland from Tokyo that have made this unique and breezy blend so possible, the result is so very soft, wispy, classic Pastels.
With orchestral-esque additions of flute, clarinet and trumpet, Takashi Ueno’s harmonica cries and the oriental distinctions shining through with Saya Ueno’s sweet vocals, this set is a sheer charmer. Highlights include an ethereal Jesus and Mary Chain cover, ‘About You’, the righteous, whispering melodies of ‘Mou Mou Rainbow’ and the utterly rich simplicity of ‘Two Sunsets’. It’s a night where nothing can go wrong, and the Pastels prove they’ve still got game without seeming they have anything to prove at all.
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Seafood and skylines
NOT A LOT HAS CHANGED SINCE MY LAST VISIT TO HARVEY NICOLS' FORTH FLOOR BRASSERIE: THE RIGHT MENU ITEMS STILL EXIST, THE ONLY TABLES WORTH SITTING AT ARE THE ONES BY THE WINDOW AND THE VIEW OVER ST ANDREW SQUARE AND THEN EXTENDING PAST THE CASTLE AND TO THE HILLS REMAINS AWESOME. IT GETS BETTER AS THE NIGHT PROGRESSES, THE BAFFLING SCOTTISH SKIES CHANGING SHAPES AND COLOURS BEFORE MY EYES.
My friend and I marvel at the strangeness of empty post-festival streets below before focusing on the menu. In the spirit of trying something new, I resist my favourite from last time - a chicken terrine - and decide on the chicken liver parfait (£6), quite the indulgence of mouth-puckering rich mouse that I affix on brioche with a complementary spiced apple and walnut chutney. My friend's palmiers with chicory salad (£7) is a delightful dish of puff pastries imaginatively served with Parma ham instead of a cup of tea. She loves it.
The main dish is indeed the main attraction. We share the lobster seafood platter (£55), although there are several versions from which to choose. It is beautiful to look at with oysters, clams and mussels surrounding the mound of salmon, then whole langoustines and chunky, generously de-shelled lobster tails atop. All is remarkably fresh from the salt of the oysters to the mild sweetness of the lobster. In a country so well-known for warm comfort food and a predominately sun-less climate, it is nice to be reminded that, though not frequented in traditional attire, we really are so close to the sea and its delicious creatures that are best served cold, with a pretty sunset.
For dessert, it's too tempting to let the peach and blueberry crumble pass us by and it does not disappoint with the warm fruit and shortbread crumbles polished away with a perfectly mild caramel ice cream. And so yes, all seems right, and what could really go wrong from where we sit? By the time we depart, the Jennings sign and the castle are alight to remind us that even with skies of pure darkness, the city's sky-line still a sight of wonder.
30-34 St. Andrew Sq
Edinburgh, EH2 2AD
0131 524 8350
Monday to Friday:
Morning: 10:00am - 12noon
Lunch: 12 noon - 3:00pm
Afternoon: 3:00pm - 5:30pm
Morning: 10:00am - 12 noon
Lunch: 12 noon - 3.30pm
Afternoon: 3.30pm - 5:30pm
Sunday brunch 11am to 5pm
FOR MANY OF US WESTERNERS, OUR IDEA OF ITALIAN CUISINE IS SLIGHTLY SKEWED AS WE ARE GENERALLY OFFERED ANY NUMBER OF VARIATIONS ON PASTA, CHEESE, BREAD AND TOMATO SAUCE. THAT'S ALL GOOD STUFF, DON'T GET ME WRONG, BUT ITALY IS A BIG PLACE AND THESE FAMOUS BASICS AREN'T NECESSARILY INDIGENOUS THROUGHOUT THE COUNTRY. FOR INSTANCE, NEAPOLITAN FAYRE IS BASED LARGELY AROUND MEAT, FISH AND VEGETABLES AND GENEROUS DRIZZLES OF EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL, A FACT WE'RE LEARNING NOW THANKS TO BELLA MBRIANA. LOCATED AT THE BOTTOM OF BROUGHTON STREET, THE NEW, CONTEMPORARY DECORATED RESTAURANT IS THE VISION OF CHEF ROSARIO SARTORE WHO IS HERE TO SCHOOL EDINBURGH DINERS ON WHAT WE MAY NOT KNOW ABOUT SOUTHERN ITALIAN CUISINE. HE'S SO ADAMANT, IN FACT, ABOUT AUTHENTICITY THAT IT'S A REQUIREMENT FOR EVERY CHEF THERE TO BE ITALIAN.
Sartore's interpretation of the region is a hit with the fior de zucchine (£6.95): battered courgette flowers with oven-baked cherry tomatoes and a dip of pureed butternut squash plus ricotta cheese infused with creamed anchovies - both dips of which I would happily pair with almost anything but fried courgettes are indeed a delicious choice. My friend is astonished to have essentially ordered a large ball of cheese! Served inside a small bowl of cherry tomato juices, olive oil, garlic and oregano, the provola dei poveri (5.95)is soft like fresh mozzarella but with a lovely, mild smokey flavour. As the menu suggests, it's a 'wonderful way to eat this cheese!'
For mains, I go for the melanzane a scarpone (£10.95): an oven-baked aubergine shoe filled with an onion, cherry tomato and basil sauce and accompanied with marinated chopped lamb and salted cheese. It's simple but lovely, and much lighter than the typical heavy dish of pasta that can at times push your appetite over the edge! My friend's petto d' anatra (£12.95) is a heavenly dish of duck breast cooked with olive oil, mixed grapes, Gran Marnier and caramelised leeks, the sweeter components balancing smartly with the savory duck.
Bella Mbriana is very imaginative, and just as welcoming too, and it is apparent that they are as passionate about the land from which they came as they are about its food.
7-11 East London Street
0131 558 9581
SKIN PROBLEMS LIKE ACNE, FINE LINES AND SUN DAMAGE HAVE CAUSED MANY SUPPOSED SOLUTIONS TO EVOLVE OVER TIME. MANY INSTILL HOPE, ONLY TO BE DISSOLVED WHEN NOTHING BUT YOUR MONEY SEEMS TO DISAPPEAR, BUT SOMETIMES A SMALL MIRACLE COMES ALONG TO RENEW YOUR FAITH AS WELL AS YOUR EPIDERMIS. TECHNOLOGY CAN BE A WONDERFUL THING, AND IN THIS CASE IT IS ALSO FINANCIALLY FEASIBLE, ESPECIALLY CONSIDERING THE REWARDS OF MICRODERMABRASION.
Although there was no promise of the normal luxurious indulgence of facials, I still feel very relaxed inside the complementary health centre at Mulberry House, as if I'm in store for something great. My treatment specialist, Sally, is calming and informative as she explains the process of this high-tech procedure.
What is about to happen? In just a few minutes, my dead skin is totally lifted away with a small vacuum that uses medicated crystals to gently break away the useless, outermost layer of skin while also exfoliating and revealing the new, living skin, its smooth and soft surface now receptive to nutrients. Sally uses a soft speed on the first sweep of my face and neck, then increasing the suction in the finishing stages of the procedure. It takes a total of 30 minutes, accounting also for the skin's preparation and therapeutic final moisturising treatments, and is far simpler than bizarre daily cleansing regimes and completely noninvasive. There's nothing painful to it at all and the recovery time, even for my sensitive skin, is zilch.
It is said that on just one treatment, a very noticeable disappearance of blackheads is present and after eight treatments, active acne is virtually gone. Sally explains that people enjoy the one-off refresher as much as a proper multiple procedure, the latter of which can apparently have remarkable, long-lasting results. She is not only helpful in recommending microdermabrasion as a solution to fine lines, sun damage, age spots and oily skin, but also offers sensible advice on daily cleansing and the right kind of moisturiser for my skin.
Overall, a genuinely great experience that left me beautifully refreshed, better-informed about my own skin and confident that it isn't too late to easily mend a few insecurities.
For price packages and to read more about services offered, sneak over to www.mulberryhouse.co.uk.
39 Manor Place
0131 225 2012