Posts filed under 'Out to lunch'
Woytek takes one look at me and tells me very nicely to sit down. “I make you a cup of coffee, please take a seat.” I am hot and a bit bothered but I do what he says. Sun pours through the window of Kleofas Cafe as I sit writing lists of all the things I have to remember before World Kitchen opens at Leith Festival tomorrow. Then the coffee arrives with a slice of warm apple cake and suddenly I am in another time and place.
Not for the first time I am struck by the thought that catering is much more a vocation than a job. The best hotels, restaurants and cafes always give you a feeling of being personally cared for and that may have nothing to do with the price you are paying.
A taste of childhood: Maryjanna’s sour apple cake.
Years ago I interviewed Peter Tyrie when he was raising the new Balmoral from the ghost of the North British railway hotel above Waverley Station. He strode through the wet, cold building site taking a boyish delight in the make-belief world of luxury bedrooms and bathrooms still to be constructed. But he also saw beneath the surface: “You have to make each guest feel uniquely important.”
Woytek and Daniel have none of Tyrie’s financial resources (and admittedly Balmoral International was brought down to earth by the recession in 1991 which briefly took Tyrie off the luxury hotel scene) but I think they show the same sense of vocation and imagination.
The two young men worked in the hotel trade when they arrived in Scotland four years ago but they spent so much of their spare time cooking for friends everyone said they should go into business. Kleofas Cafe was created over a year ago with the help of a £5,000 grant (£4,000 from PSYBT plus £1,000 Scottish Enterprise start-up funding) and long days and nights of gutting and restoring a derelict building. “Everything you see here we have done for ourselves,” says Woytek with great pride.
Including the excellent cakes. On the café board are some Kleofas specialities: Maryjanna’s Sour Apple Cake, Carrot Cake, Vienna Cheese Cake, hot with ice cream, (£3.50).
Which reminds me, I am here to collect the cakes Woytek and Daniel are donating to the World Kitchen stall for Leith Festival. I know, Gorgie Road is a long way from Leith but every week Kleofas provides food for the Polish community group, Swietlica which is based (more or less) in Leith. And they want to support World Kitchen aims of using food to bring together people from different cultures.
They choose carrot and cheese cakes, and, especially, the apple cake because it has a good story which Daniel tells in Polish while Woytek translates. The recipe comes from Daniel’s grandmother Maryjanna who lived in east Poland, near Warsaw. She grew most of her own food and the sour apples came from her garden (“Your Bramley apples here are perfect”). The secret of Polish baking is in the beating – apparently the cheesecake, flavoured with lemon and vanilla, takes 45 minutes of beating and Kleofas has only just invested in an electric cake mix. See what I mean about vocation!
I drive off, still hot but much less bothered, in a car smelling beautifully of vanilla and freshly baked sour apple cake. I intend to come back soon.
Kleofas Café, 342 Gorgie Road (just opposite Aldi but on a different planet from the nearby McDonalds) is open Tuesday to Sunday from 1pm to 10 pm.
email: firstname.lastname@example.org telephone 07595 022 666
June 17th, 2009
Lunch at Dionika – what else is Friday for?
Because it’s Friday we’re out to lunch. We’re just about to start on the fish when Eddie and Barry drop in, like us lured by the board outside offering three courses and a glass of wine for £7.50.
If that sounds too good to be true you better go to Dionika’s too. I don’t know how they can do it but if our lunch is anything to go by it is not just true but very good indeed.
We had mussel soup with beans, flavoured I think with paprika, rich and tasty: almost a meal in itself (Eddie says mixed veg is good too). Followed by plaice, chips and salad (I can probably produce as good myself but, though I say so myself, that’s really not bad), and flan, the Spanish version of creme caramel, (which is smoother and creamier than I have managed so far).
Perhaps best of all was the glass of white Rioja included in the deal. Altogether, fantastic value for money. I hope it puts Dionika right back on the food trail.
I like this quirky mix of restaurant, deli and bar. I remember when 3-6 Canonmills Bridge was a rather strange clothes shop selling kilts and posh frocks for the kind of evening out no sane person enjoys. Before that it was a boat’s chandlers with a window full of coiled rope.
The restuarant opened in 2005 adding to the international flavour which makes this such a good place to live, just down the road from long-established Cantonese Loon Fung, and across the street from French-Scottish Circle (see also the flourishing French newcomer L’Escargot Bleu up the hill in Broughton Street).
Dionika feels very Spanish as indeed it should since it is run by Juan Dionislo Blanco an Iberian extravert who enjoys moving between tables in breaks from the kitchen.
Grey-bearded, long-haired and welcoming in a slightly off the wall way, he reminds me of a scaled down Billy Connolly in a chef’s apron. He’s disarmingly generous in sharing his passion for cooking with customers at the end of their meal, often challenging them to spot the secret ingredient in the dish they have just eaten. Unusually he then gives away quite a few secrets in recipes on his website.
Juan didn’t appear during our lunch. Perhaps that’s asking too much for £7.50. One word of warning, don’t expect a bargain if you enquire about the wine at the end of the meal. We went home with a bottle of very fine Rioja which cost £14 – almost as much as our three course meal with glass of wine for two. But maybe that shows what a good deal it is.
March 15th, 2009
[see other Out to Lunch and Crumbs of Comfort stories]
It’s a day for new beginnings. While crowds gather to welcome Obama on the other side of the Atlantic, Ray and I celebrate change with a glass of wine over lunch on the opening day of yet another new restaurant in our neighbourhood. Broughton is now surely the cafe culture centre of Edinburgh. We’re the only diners in the place so far but L’Escargot Bleu deserves to thrive.
Looking out the window it is hard to believe this is the same district we came to more than 30 years ago. Old landmarks have changed beyond recognition: the ironmongers where we bought paint and picture frames now sells organic nappies and designer clothes for babies; the post office where I queued for family allowance sells cheap dvds; the launderette is a fantastic new Italian restaurant; Just Junk’s eclectic mix of, er, junk has given way to a blooming florists, and almost every other available premise between London Street and Picardy Place is now a deli, cafe, bar or restaurant. (Simply can’t remember what used to occupy the space now selling organic sex products for women!)
I feel a moment’s nostalgia for Ritchies’s the clock makers who set up shop in 56 Broughton Street 100 years ago (and mended the old pendulum clock in our hall). But they are now in Dundas Street and we are sitting at a table in their old shop eating a delicious warm salad of leeks and celeriac. At the bar they are talking in French. If you closed your eyes you could imagine you were somewhere in Montmartre.
It’s a brave time to be opening a new restaurant and there is plenty of competition in the street, not least Bella Mbriana in the old launderette. But if today’s lunch is anything to go by they could do well. (After salad we had a very tasty coq au vin: two starts, two mains, two glasses of wine and an excellent coffee for £30). So here’s to Barack Obama and L’escargot Bleu.
Blurry pic not the result of a glass of wine – something sharper taken from the street outside will take its place soon.
[Now try Dionika offeringa three course lunch for £7.50 including the glass of very good wine.]
January 21st, 2009