Hello. It's been a while, hasn't it? (Incapable of typing that without Britney making a cameo in my head...yup, still as basic as ever). I have to admit I'm feeling a little shy - this has been my longest break from blogging since I set up this little space two and a half years ago. I have good excuses, I promise. As you may know, I've been studying for the all-consuming GDL and the last few months have been beset by legal exams and coursework. Oh - and my house got burgled. Luckily, the burglar only took two things. Unluckily, those two things were my laptop and beloved camera. It was almost as if destiny had called, and it didn't want me to blog any more. First world problem, soundtracked by a very tiny violin, I know.
Happily, I now have a new laptop and DSLR (as of today, I'm the proud owner of a Canon 70D, which I can't wait to play with!) so yeah. You're going to have to put up with me a little longer...
The most exciting event of the past fortnight? My sister graduated from Edinburgh with an incredibly well-deserved first! So ridiculously proud of you, B. What a bittersweet weekend, though - the journey to Scotland was hopelessly coloured by the results of the referendum. I sat on the train up, numbly scrolling through my Twitter feed, watching in horror as the pound crashed and reports of unadulterated racism came flooding in, unable to fully appreciate how concrete gave way to golden fields of rape, and finally the greys and blues of the Berwick coast. I couldn't help but grieve - and continue to grieve - over my country's incomprehensible actions. My one comfort? I was leaving London for pro-Remain Scotland.
And oh, Edinburgh. Beautiful Edinburgh. It managed to shock me out of my Brexit lassitude. Even on my third visit, it was exciting, romantic and new: I craned my neck as we pulled into the city to catch a glimpse of those Gothic, almost sooty-looking spires, sighing with delight as the castle perched up on high came into view. It's such a wonderful place to spend a long weekend: a blissful couple of days built around a theme of bagpipes and lilting accents and fuelled by the excellent food endemic to the area, which I'll introduce you to in just a moment. I was lucky enough to see it through the eyes of my sister, resident since 2012: she takes all the credit for the great places I've featured in this post, of course.
Well-heeled Stockbridge, to the north of the city, boasts a constellation of excellent vintage shops and charming eateries. Söderberg Peter's Yard on Deanhaugh Street serves up sublime Scandi treats, including some of the best kanelbullar I've got my teeth into - the cardamom and the raspberry and custard cinnamon rolls are particularly good, and made for a supremely delicious breakfast.
George Mewes on Dean Park Street is a gem among fromageries, and I've encountered a fair few. Restrained, we bought slices of sinfully gooey gorgonzola and pecorino shot through with black truffle with black charcoal crackers from the roguish cheesemonger. Upon arriving back at the hotel (the elegant and incredibly comfortable Chester Residence, which I would recommend to anyone), I managed to polish off 80% of the gorgonzola within an hour. Obviously.
The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. Upsettingly closed as we arrived at such a late hour (such a shame - I'd have loved to see the Surreal Encounters exhibition) but I still enjoyed strolling around the grounds, boasting remarkable sculptures like Henry Moore's Reclining Figure.
Of course Edinburgh does seafood very well. And the best I've had in the city is at Ondine, which serves up excellent, sustainable and unadulterated fish. My heart was immediately won over by this platter of succulent, salty oysters (my favourite being the plump, meaty Loch Fyne variety) - doused in lemon juice and Tabasco, they never to fail to put me in a celebratory mood.
Wild sea bream ceviche with an avocado mousse.
Tempura squid with a Vietnamese dipping sauce. Crispy, light and delicately flavoured - these were really top notch.
Lemon sole with brown shrimp, parsley and capers.
Monkfish sitting on top of masala rice and curry.
A gargantuan platter of roasted shellfish that has me staring at the screen, slack-jawed, savage in my hunger. It reads like a Top of the Pops setlist of Scotland's seafood offerings: Burnmouth lobster, rock oysters, Dunbar crab, sweet Barra cockles and clams, razor clams (so often rubbery, but cooked to perfection here), juicy Skye langoustines, Mull scallops and Shetland mussels.
Timberyard. A feast in every sense of the word. Flawless food and drink soundtracked by cool folksy music predominantly featuring Joni Mitchell in an airy converted warehouse made homely with taxidermied specimens, comfortable tartan throws and a wood-burning stove. Frankly, I wouldn't mind moving in.
Drinks paving the way for an evening of mild decadence: mead, gin making an appearance in a classic G&T and as the main player in a concoction of lavender and rhubarb, and a burnt birch bark Old Fashioned for me. All excellent, all stunningly strong: just what the doctor calls for post-graduation.
Timberyard features three set menus: options featuring 4, 6 or 8 courses. The edge taken off our appetites by graduation canapés and prosecco, we opted for the 4 course menu - a sensible choice which left us feeling sated yet light.
Cleansing and fresh cured trout with cucumber, lovage, aniseedy fennel, creme fraîche and rye.
Hen's egg with asparagus, truffle, onion, hazelnut, artichoke and seeds. Poached for 45 minutes, the egg was a wobbly, almost onsen egg-like thing of beauty. This was my favourite dish of the night - made indulgent with the runny yolk, salty hazelnuts and truffle, with thinly sliced asparagus and sweet spring onion cutting through the rich flavours.
Hake with octopus, clams, white asparagus, salsify. All three of my fellow Lims opted for this dish, which they said was their favourite.
I went for the venison option with beetroot several ways plus ramson, shallot, mushroom and kale. I particularly enjoyed the little cigar of beetroot, while the venison was plump and cooked exactly the way I like it - seared and salty, not overdone at all.
To finish: strawberry in several different guises, frozen and fresh, with oatmeal, a buttermilk mousse and meringue.
Brunch the next morning to cure heavy, aching heads at The Pantry back in Stockbridge. I basked in Sunshine over Stockbridge - avocado, chorizo, fried aubergine and a poached egg.
Waffles for Mama L, with a side of chorizo, because she can.
For the newly minted graduate and the proud father: fry-ups of epic proportions. Featuring black pudding and haggis, of course. It's Edinburgh.
I'll finish with three shots that sum the weekend up for me:
A moment of rare beauty but tragedy: packing up B's room, a fragile bird's nest was discovered under the bed, complete with feather and tiny egg. Unfortunately, it seemed that it had been there for months (a jigsaw fell into place in my sister's mind, as a pigeon had been coming to the windowsill regularly in the mornings to coo and attempt entry).
The unmistakable grey streets of Edinburgh tinged with gold at sunset: truly a sight to behold.
B's graduation flowers, which I clasped protectively to myself, proudly watching the newly minted graduates of the School of Economics huddle together for one last joyous group photograph.
A beautiful weekend with my treasured family. Thank you, wonderful Edinburgh, for providing a strong ray of sunlight on a weekend where it felt like the world was ending.