I like gin as much as the next person but must admit that my first reaction to the phrase “gin-inspired menu” was ambivalence. On the one hand, how exciting! All those botanicals – all those flavours – can only mean interesting cooking. On the other hand, it could end up being just a little juniper-focused. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I went to Gin71’s bloggers dinner a couple of weeks ago.
I was late, running from a Christmas preview at Belted Burgers. I sat down at one of the two long tables in the Georgian dining room and enjoyed the surroundings, intimate in the twighlight. As soon as the welcome talk was over, we were treated to a Pickerings 1946 gin (served with a cinnamon stick – works brilliantly) and Fevertree tonic. To snack on, we had a number of gin-inspired rolls and an amuse bouche.
I loved the rose-water and beetroot roll, a pale pink knot with a delicate scent of roses. All the breads were good but that one was my favourite. I also enjoyed the salsify foam served with a spoon-shaped almond tuille. The spoon crumbled in my hand but was delicious with the foam.
From bread we moved on to the venison tartare. If you read this blog regularly, you’ll know that I am a fan of all things raw, tartare in particular. It is important that the flavour of the meat is allowed to shine through and venison has enough omph to hold its own against harissa, gin oil, capers and pickled chanterelles. Balanced on top of the venison quennell was a confit egg yolk. This was a new experience. I expected it to be warm and seriously runny, instead if was room temperature and syrupy. It worked very well with the meat.
Starter number two was a fillet of gin cured salmon. It was served with shaved fennel, dried red onion and a shard of treacle and lime croute. It was a very pretty – and tasty – dish. I gin-cured salmon at home recently so didn’t expect the fish to take too much of the gin flavour. It didn’t. If there was a hint, it was no stronger than the Pickering’s lingering on my palate. I’m not complaining: the salmon was delicious.
Getting stuck in
The main, Well to Old School, was a deconstructed beef Wellington. All the ingredients you’d expect were on the plate: there were chanterelles, paté – lightly fried and melt-in-the-mouth, even a crêpe. The beef was flavoursome, the caramelised shallot lovely. I don’t think it beat the traditional Wellington but it was a fun dish to eat with layers of flavour and ingredients to discover.
Desert was similarly fun: marmalade & toast. A coffee pairfait took pride of place, while toast foam and orange gel brought the two breakfast stalwarths to mind. “Oh,” someone further down the table said, voice high with surprise, ‘it tastes of toast!” I think that would have pleased the chef who told us that though the flavours were there, the desert didn’t present like he’d like it to.
Each course came matched with a wine that complimented an aspect of the dish. I had to run after dinner and could stay to try some of the 71 gins in the bar, or judge the bartender on the quality of his negroni. I’m sure the other bloggers kept him busy!
Blogger outings are always fun. I sat with ScotlandEatsOut and we talked about posting frequency, favourite restaurants, the quality of our camera phones and all those bloggy foody things.
I whipped out my magic light – the brightest LED flashlight £8 can buy – to light up half the table for shots of the starter. It’s really bright so not good to use in non-blogger company. On the other side of the room, I saw two guys angle menus to reflect candle light onto a dish. Photography is a difficult art and one we all worry about endlessly. A picture, after all, says more than all the pretty words we put on the page.
It’s not all about the gin
During the day, Gin71 is called Cup and offers afternoon tea, cocktails and coffees. It’s a smart way of getting full use it off a space: two specialist operations effectively doing a time share.
Gin71 has an upstairs that will eventually become the main dining room. For now, diners sit downstairs, in the front room, as it were. The upstairs can be used for events and has its own bar. It’s a nice-looking space. I look forward to returning to dip into their gin menu, try some of their several tonics and have the negroni flight. The menu is a keeper: take one, tick off what you’ve had and make notes on what you thought.
9 South Charlotte Street
Edinburgh, EH2 4AS
Caroline dined at the invitation of Gin71.