It’s Monday night and a piper in full regalia is making a sweet racket. I smile as I pass him to enter the restaurant he is guarding. It’s Burns night and I’m going to The Printing Press Bar & Kitchen for Burns supper. Waiting to warm me from the cold walk from the bus stop is my new favourite cocktail: the Burns, a warming combination of whisky, sweet vermouth, marachino liqueur and bitters. Served in a champagne coupe with a cherry, it looks elegant and packs a sweet boozy punch, welcome after a hard day’s work.
It was a very good start to my evening, and it got better.
I was looking forward to a full Burns with trimmings and poetry. Then I sat down and found out that I could chose anything on the menu. I love haggis and had it recently so I decided to flex the menu and see what it could do for me.
Clapping my hands in glee
Some dishes catch the eye. for me, steak tartare is one of those dishes. The scallops with ink barley sounded great, as did the Thermidore langoustine tart, and the smoked salmon. But steak tartare always wins for me so that’s what I ordered. What arrived was luscious and looked somewhat like a rabbit with a huge yolk eye and perky sourdough toast ears. The tartare mixture was tasty and respectful to the meat. I loved it.
The Printing Press Bar & Kitchen is an interesting space. The bones of the building – its tall ceilings and elegant proportions – are emphasised by simple lines and muted colours. It’s a great place to have a cocktail, share a bottle of wine or have dinner. As we enjoyed our starters, we watched more guests be guided in by the piper. The space filled up and got buzzy.
Not a neep in sight
For mains, I ordered the cod on lentils. We eat a lot of lentils at home and I’ve been trying them in restaurants recently to see what I can learn. A lot, it turns out. These little green lentils were firm, but not dry, and creamy. I loved the chunks of celeriac in the mix. Celeriac and lentils are earthy flavours, the celeriac’s celery tang lifts the lentils a notch, and both complement cod. There was a lot of cod, perfectly cooked, creamy white with a nice golden roast crust. I enjoyed it immensely. Because I had tartare to start, I drank red wine throughout. The cod stood up to the fruit and crushed grass-stem flavours of the wine.
I also enjoyed the side of tartiflette that I ordered in the name of research and greed. It was creamy, cheesy, rich with potato.
Quite a few of my fellow diners had haggis and it looked good. Someone had the fish finger sandwich. That is a dish I’ve got strong opinions on, having made and eaten several as a student. I’m not sure that good bread is the best vehicle for fish fingers but the diner looked happy enough. Other options for mains are shrimp or steak burgers, a variety of steaks – including a guest steak – mince and tatties with bone marrow gravy, and mushroom barley risotto. We all chomped joyfully and enjoyed the spectacle of a doughty be-kilted young man ceremoniously hailing and slaughtering a puddin’.*
Cream and chocolate
Dessert was a tricky proposition: a) I was full, b) there several interesting options. I love cheese, but you need room for cheese. Lemon tart is also one of my favourites. I decided to go for the smallest-sounding dish. Which just happened to contain caramel. A word of warning: The Printing Press’ chocolate and salted caramel pot is absolutely delicious but it’s a large portion. I couldn’t finish it. The layers of caramel sauce, chocolate mousse, caramel crunch and cream were rich and rather fabulous. An espresso martini made it even more so.
The piper had gone home when I went out into the cold again. In my hand, I held a goodie-bag with Catherine Carswell’s’s The Life of Robert Burns as well as a bag of colourful traditional boiled sweets and a taster bottle of Haig Club to get me into the mood to read. I had a great Burns night. In fact, I had a great night, with lovely food and good company.
* If you’ve never had a Burns supper, let me explain. The traditional meal is one of haggis – oats, innards and blood mixed together with spices and boiled in a sheep’s stomach (much tastier than it sounds) – with potatoes and mashed turnips. Burns wrote an ode to the haggis, calling it ‘the chieftan of the puddin’ race’, and it’s custom for someone to address the poem to the haggis and then slice the pudding open, ready for serving. It’s a delightful mixture of poetry and foodie love.
The Printing Press Bar and Kitchen
Caroline dined at the invitation of The Printing Press Bar & Kitchen.