The last three years have offered glorious sunshine on the Taste of Edinburgh Saturday. This year, the good weather came a week early. None daunted, me and three good friends set out with wind proofs and umbrellas, certain we could eat ourselves comfortable through any downpour.
Not the same as last year
We recognised some welcome Taste of Edinburgh classics: pints of Pimms and MalBurgers. But this year’s festival was very different from previous festivals. There were fewer restaurants, especially fewer posh restaurants. The cooking demonstrations could accommodate a larger audience and, interestingly, portions were larger. I didn’t eat as many dishes as I have in the past but was fuller than I remember being for years.
The feeling of repleteness may have something to do with the large amount of juice I drank when sitting comfortably sheltered and safe from the rain in the Tropicana breakfast club tent. Much to my surprise I really enjoyed their orange and watermelon juice but I think it would benefit from the addition of vodka.
Between the four of us we tried 16 dishes. Here are my highlights:
- Yo! Sushi: California handroll. This is how I started my day: a sheet of nori wrapped around sushi rice, crab sticks, a dab of mayo, avocado and flying-fish roe. In every way lovely and a perfect breakfast.
- The Rutland Hotel: Slowly cooked shoulder of Orkney Gold lamb with cumin, feta and lemon, Carrolls Heritage salad blue potatoes, cucumber and mint yogurt dressing. Not only did this look stunning thanks to the blue potatoes, but the robust flavours of cumin, lamb and yogurt were carefully balanced. I could have eaten a lot more of this.
- Centrotre: Bocconcini di bufala con caponata. The caponata was pretty thanks to the violet aubergine but the highlight of this dish was the fresh and creamy bocconcini. They don’t really need accompaniments.
- Ballimore oysters: Fresh oyster. A great way to clean your palate at the end of the day. Seriously.
An honourable mention should go to the Scottish Cafe & Restaurant’s hot Aberdeen buttery with asparagus, Crowdie and Lanark Blue with watercress and walnuts. A rather large and filling taster, it proved that there is such a thing as too much blue cheese. Lanark Blue has bite! Not that that stopped out brave tasters C & H from devouring every crumb.
What about next year?
I cannot help wondering what the ROI on Taste as a marketing activity is. Is it low? That would explain why there were fewer restaurants there. After all, although dishes aren’t exactly cheap, the restaurant has to take a team out of the home kitchen for a full day, with all the preparation and planning that that involves. Do they break even? And does a tasty dish entice people to come back? This is the crucial question.
I have never gone to any of the restaurants that I tasted food from in the year after the festival, not even when they’ve given me good incentives to do so. I continue to go to my favourite places, or a new and funky restaurant that catches my eye. If I want Taste to continue – and I do because I love my day of glorious gluttony – I should probably make this year the year I change that behaviour.
Thank you to Rebecca McFarlane for yummy burger and butty pictures!