Yet again, Broughton Street has produced a real Edinburgh gem that I can't believe I hadn't found before. Smoke Stack is a rustic restaurant with a laid back homely vibe, great for family, friends or that special someone. I liked it so much, I went twice in one week. My first visit was with the girls to try their dessert menu. After some deliberation we went for sticky toffee pudding, raspberry and white chocolate cheesecake and banoffee pie. Words cannot adequately describe how amazing they were. I had the sticky toffee pudding, but tried the others as well and each of them was perfect in their own way.
A few days later, I went back with my boyfriend to try their lunch menu. The restaurant was busy again which I took as a sign that many Edinburgh locals already know how great this place is. Again, there was much deliberation over the menu but we decided on a prawn and avocado salad, and a chicken burger. The tables next to us all ordered fish and chips, so I'm already planning a trip back to try it. In fact, there's quite a lot on the menu and specials board I'd like to try!
2014 isn't even over yet and already I'm planning my UK weekend breaks for next year. As an expat living in Scotland, I love a cheeky weekender to discover the many fascinating and beautiful places that the UK has to offer. I've been to a few different cities and towns in my 4 years here- some great, and some not so great. Here's my top 3 UK destinations I want to visit next year.
1. Eilean Donan Castle, SCOTLAND
I know this castle isn't technically a city or town, but it has been on my 'To Do' list for years. Due to its location in the middle of pretty much nowhere, I haven't made it there yet. I imagine it to be one of those mind-blowing stunning locations that you can't quite put into words. I also imagine it to be quite spooky at night (it has to be haunted right?). The castle sits on an island where 3 lochs meet and has been around is some form or another since the 6th Century. www.eileandonancastle.com
2. Bristol, ENGLAND
I have a postcard stuck to the wall in my room that is a picture of the Clifton Suspension Bridge in Bristol, with hot air balloons floating around it. I'm not sure why it appeals to me so much, but it is one of my favourite holiday mementos. I have been to Bristol before, for a little weekender with my boyfriend and for a few days with my family, but I've never made it to the Clifton Suspension Bridge or the International Bristol Balloon Fiesta which features in my postcard. In 2015 the fiesta is running from the 6th-9th of August and I would love to go along. The city itself is fantastic for all sorts of getaways, whether it be romantic, family or girly weekender. The mixture of bars, restaurants and shops makes it one of my favourite cities in the UK. www.visitbristol.co.uk
3. St Ives, ENGLAND
Can you believe I've never step foot on Cornish soil since I've been here? It seems almost negligent to have not visited what is one of Britain's most popular holiday destinations. In my defence, when you live in Scotland, Cornwall seems very far away. Obviously, I'd like to go in the summer and experience the sunshine and beaches that Cornwall is famous for. I remember St Ives featuring heavily in the tourist brochures that I used to drool over when I was back in Australia, so this little town would be my first stop on my Cornish adventure. Funnily enough, I also quite fancy learning to surf in Cornwall as shock horror I am an Australian who has never tried surfing (honestly, I'm breaking stereotypes here...). www.visitcornwall.com
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Where's your dream UK holiday destination for 2015?
Let me know by leaving a comment below!
"Every gift should provide a buzz and a happy face"- at least that's what Love from Indie Street's founder Rebecca Christensen thinks. With Christmas less than 5 weeks away, it's time to start thinking about presents and Love From Indie Street could be the best idea to come along in a while. Uninspired by the gift vouchers from big brands that she had received in the past, Rebecca got the idea to create a collective of local, independent businesses in Edinburgh that you could buy gift vouchers from online.
"Love from Indie Street meets the growing demand for people to be able to buy gifts online whilst encouraging people to go out on to the streets of Edinburgh to use the vouchers. We have such a brilliant range of independent businesses across Edinburgh and I hope that Love from Indie Street is able to showcase these, to everyone regardless of where they live, just because your family are in Sydney doesn't mean that they should only be able to get you gifts from the big brands." [Rebecca Christensen- founder of Love From Indie Street]
I recently took 5 minutes out of Rebecca's busy schedule to ask her about being an entrepreneur and more importantly, what she wants for Christmas this year....
How long did it take to get the idea for Love From Indie Street from initial concept to launched product?
14 months, I spent a long time thinking through the proposition and developing the brand. Things really picked up pace in August once I started to speak to the independent businesses. We launched on 1 November.
Do you have any advice for other budding entrepreneurs?
1) Listen to yourself. If you feel it deep in the pit of your stomach then go for it and hang on to it.
2) Practice your pitch on as many people that you trust as possible - their feedback will be invaluable and might just throw up a new angle or a potential problem for you to work through. My husband did this many times!
3) Don't let people's negativity put you off - if it is a new idea or concept then you will always have people who just do not 'get' your idea, so long as it isn't everyone telling you it's an unworkable idea then just ignore the negativity and learn from it - maybe you need to refine how you are positioning it.
4) Surround yourself with as many people as you can for hours on end working through your idea - it can be lonely setting up on your own - I have been blown away by the amount of help friends, old colleagues and family have given me.
What do you love most about shopping in Edinburgh?
That you can get lost in amongst all of the amazing little streets that make up our urban villages and pick out something completely different. My favourite thing to do though is stopping for coffee in one of our independent coffee shops - there has been a flurry of activity in recent years in this space and I just adore the individual character that they all bring to the table.
Do you have any favourite stores or areas in Edinburgh that you like to shop in?
I have always loved Bruntsfield, Stockbridge and Broughton. Although, having said that I love a walk down Leith Walk too. I think we are so lucky in Edinburgh that you can walk everywhere and just soak up the atmosphere.
What do you want for Christmas this year?
A facial - the late nights and early starts are taking their toll!! And of course for everyone to shop independently wherever they can!
Love from Indie Street features a variety of Edinburgh businesses in its online directory. You can see a full list of vouchers avaialble online by visiting www.lovefromindiestreet.com
Ask anyone who knows me well and they will tell you that my favourite author of all time is Agatha Christie. I have a weird obsession where I have to collect all things related to her, and own multiple copies of some of her books just because they have a different cover design.
So, Agatha Christie fanatic that I am, you can image my reaction when earlier this year I heard that Agatha Christie's family had commissioned bestselling crime author Sophie Hannah to write a Hercule Poirot novel. Well, I nearly spat out my cornflakes in surprise. How could anyone take on such a momentous task and succeed? I wasn't sure whether I was excited by the news of a new Poirot novel or outraged that someone was going to be allowed to write Poirot that wasn't Agatha Christie herself!
I bought the book within days of it being released, but I didn't read it until after I'd heard Sophie Hannah talk about the book at Bloody Scotland- Stirling's Crime Writing Festival. To my surprise she not only is a massive Poirot fan herself, but she also went into the task fully aware that some people were going to hate it (talk about tough crowd!). Agatha's family gave her their blessing, so if it's good enough for them, it's good enough for me.
So, I'm guessing you want to know what The Monogram Murders is all about?
Set in 1920s London, the story begins with Poirot on a holiday at a B&B just across the road from his apartment. He's looking for a bit of peace and quiet and thinks that no one will bother him if he simply moved across the road for a few weeks. While taking coffee at Pleasant's Tea House one evening, he is drawn to a particularly frantic young woman called Jennie who seems to insist that she is going to be murdered and that she deserves it. She disappears before Poirot can make any sense of what she is saying, but then three bodies turn up at The Bloxham Hotel and Poirot is convinced that Jennie is involved.
Poirot is dragged in to the mystery of the bodies at the Bloxham by a seemingly dim-witted policeman called Catchpool who just can't get his 'little grey cells' up to the standard of Poirot's. The bodies at The Bloxham Hotel are all laid out carefully and all have a monographed cuff link in their mouths.
I enjoyed the story, but found the ending a little confusing due to the amount of characters involved in why the murders came about. As with most Agatha Christie novels, the policeman is usually left completely in the dark and things have to be carefully explained by Poirot. I was on Catchpool's side with this one and had no idea what was going on. I think that Sophie Hannah did really well in capturing the essence of Poirot and his ability to see things that others simply ignore. I wasn't fond of the character of Catchpool, for some reason I just couldn't warm to him and felt a bit annoyed with him. On several occasions I wanted to yell at the book 'just move aside and let Poirot do it!' which is how I sometimes felt about Captain Hastings in Agatha's books- but at least he was likeable.
All in all, I think the book is worth a read for any one who is a massive Agatha Christie fan like me, but I also think it would appeal to readers who maybe aren't as familiar with Poirot.
The Monogram Murders by Sophie Hannah is out now. You can purchase it online here.
To find out more about the novel, I recommend visiting the Agatha Christie Official website
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Who knew that Broughton Street had so many hidden gems? I can't believe it has taken me four years to realise that this street has all you need for a great night out. Last Friday some friends and I went for dinner at Thai Restaurant Port of Siam. From Broughton Street you can access Port of Siam through the Bangkok Bar which is a small and trendy bar with a large selection of cocktails.
I have to admit that I am a bit picky when it comes to Thai food, but my dining companions reassured me that all of the great reviews about this place were well justified.
Trying to decide what to order from the extensive menu was a task as it all sounded ridiculously good. We opted to order a selection of different things and have a little taste test of everything.
First up was spring rolls, satay chicken and tempura prawns, all of which were fantastic. Our favourites were the vegetable spring rolls (called Por Pia on the menu) that came with a spicy sweet chilli sauce.
For mains we had satay chicken (again- as it was really good), satay prawns, sizzling duck and Pad Thai. The satay sauce was extremely good, and I kind of wished that I could get a bottle of it and take it home for later.
Having dessert was just not an option for us as we had stuffed ourselves silly with our starters and mains. It's difficult to say what was our favourite dish as all of them were amazing. Even after we had finished we were looking with interest at what other diners were ordering and picking our choices for our next visit. The restaurant has a relaxed and informal dining atmosphere with attentive and friendly staff. Port of Siam is well worth the wander down Broughton Street.
Port of Siam & Bangkok Bar
36 Broughton Street, Edinburgh, EH1 3SB
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That's it, we can't deny it any longer. Christmas is well and truly on its way. Boxes of decorations are being brought out of storage, and present lists are being written. Now is the perfect time to star planning a Christmas getaway, and Europe has some stunning festive locations.
The first year that I moved to the UK, I spent 11 days travelling around some of the best Christmas Market destinations in Europe. The whole idea of wintry markets filled with waffles, mulled wine and gifts was foreign to me- we just don't have that in tropical Queensland.
So, to help you plan your winter getaway here are my top 3 European Christmas Market destinations....
1. MUNICH, GERMANY
Ahh my beloved Munich. There isn't anything about this Bavarian city I don't love. The city is beautiful, diverse and utterly charming. The main hub for Christmas festivities is Marienplatz in the city centre. The Christmas Markets have their origins way back in the 14th century and offer traditional Bavarian food and German gifts. Bavaria is a hive for independent and expertly made original gifts including wood carvings from Oberammergau, gingerbread (lebkuchen) from Nuremberg and glassware from the Bavarian Forest. Once you've had your fill of mulled wine and shopping, Munich has a range of other attractions that make it the perfect weekender. I love the Nymphenberg Palace which I could quite happily live in, the famous Hofbrauhaus for its rowdy beer culture, and the beautiful Munich Residenz for its stunning Antiquarium.
This year, the markets start on the 27th of November and you can find further information here.
2. LUCERNE, SWITZERLAND
There is no denying that Lucerne really becomes a stunning city in the winter. Granted, it is beautiful in the summer too, but I get the feeling that winter is when it is at its best. Franziskanerplatz is where you will find the majority of its festive activities. Rows of stalls sell Christmas decorations, food, drinks and handcrafted gifts. While you're there, I highly recommend a cruise on the icy Lake Lucerne and a trip to the top of Mount Rigi. I still remember the feeling I had when I stood (freezing) atop this mountain and viewing the Alps. It was one of the most breathtakingly beautiful things I had ever seen in my life. The gondola ride back to the base of the mountain is for those who aren't afraid of heights, but well worth the white knuckle ride.
Lucerne's Christmas Markets start on the 4th of December and you can find more information here
3. VIENNA, AUSTRIA
Vienna does Christmas but on an epic scale. These were the first authentic Christmas Markets I'd ever seen and I felt like a kid in a candy factory. Vienna has at least four major Christmas Market locations across the city. My favourite were the markets at the Rathausplatz in front of the City Hall, but you can also try Schonbrunn Palace, the Old Viennese Christmas Market on Freyung and the markets at Marien-Theresein-Platz. Mulled wine, candied fruits, and roasted chestnuts are aplenty at all locations as well as traditional Viennese handcrafted gifts.
While you're in Vienna, I highly recommend a visit to Schonbrunn Palace and a romantic cruise on the Danube which runs through the city. So eager are the Austrians to get in the Christmas spirit that some markets are open from as early as the 15th of November. You can find a full list of market locations in Vienna here.
Where is your favourite Christmas Market destination? leave a comment below!
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Broughton Street has been crying out for a cocktail bar with a difference, and then along came 48 Below. Situated beneath The Phoenix in their old function room, 48 Below is an intimate location with a trendy atmosphere that almost feels like an insider's secret.
Open Thursdays to Sundays, the bar has an extensive cocktail list and hosts comedy, live music and jazz performances. I went along last Friday night for a Comedy + Cocktail night hosted in conjunction with foodie website Zomato.
The bar fits about 60 people, and is furnished with trendy sofas, seats and ornate tables. As a female, I was particularly impressed by their women's dressing room near the bathrooms. It had a leopard print chaise lounge, glitter details and large well lit mirrors- basically it was what every sassy woman's boudoir should look like.
The cocktail of choice last Friday was a Tia Maria Espresso Martini, expertly made by the friendly bar men. It looked pretty damn good, but I was on a non-drinking night, so asked them to make me a mocktail and surprise me what was in it. I got a blueberry and raspberry blended drink with mint and ice. It was one of the best mocktails I've had in Edinburgh.
Fancy a look around yourself? Check out their website for details about performances: www.48below.com
Before moving to the UK, I was never that fussed about curry. There weren't any Indian restaurants in my small country town, and the closest one was an hour and a half drive away. Sure, I had homemade curries with sauce from a jar- but let's face it, they just don't compare to the real thing.
My boyfriend loves curry, so thanks to him I have been able to experience quite a few Indian Restaurants in the past 4 years. Mother India has always had good reviews, but it wasn't until a fortnight ago that we found the time to give it a try.
We went along for a late lunch on Saturday, and the moment we stepped into the restaurant the smell was amazing. The menu is set out to encourage tapas style dining, which is perfect as my boyfriend and I can never decide on just one. After much deliberation, we went for Lamb Saag, Butter Chicken and Chilli and Garlic Chicken. Mushroom rice, poppadoms and a piratha are our usual accompaniments so we ordered them too.
The food came out pretty quickly and we pretty much sat in silence as we devoured the food. It was SO good. The butter chicken was probably the best I've had in Edinburgh, the sauce was creamy with just the right amount of spice. I usually have lamb curries, so I was particularly keen to see how the Lamb Saag faired. It was melt-in-your-mouth good. My boyfriend's favourite was the Chilli Garlic chicken as it was in his words 'pretty hot'.
All in all, we agreed that Mother India was amazing. We can't believe it took us so long so go along and try it. My boyfriend has since been back twice- with his mates and with his parents. So to go 3 times in a fortnight is true testament to how good it is (or maybe to his curry addiction).
Where's your favourite Indian Restaurant in town? let me know by leaving a comment below.
Mother India, 3-5 Infirmary Street, Edinburgh, EH1 1LT
Tel: 0131 524 9801
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One of my favourite songs of all time is Highland Cathedral. The version I love most is the one by the Red Hot Chilli Pipers on their last live album. I discovered the song on my first trip over the to UK, it was blasting from the speakers in a shop I visited in the Highlands. I loved it instantly!
Over the years, it has become my go to mood lifting song for any occasion. Whenever I hear it being played around Edinburgh, I always stop to listen. On the weekend I just so happened to be walking down Princes Street when this little Pipe Band started to play it.
I hope this video makes your Monday morning a little brighter!
Do you have a go-to song that brightens your day? let me know by leaving a comment below.
We all love food right? but how many times do you find yourself sitting down to a meal in a cafe/ restaurant/ bar and taking pictures of your food? I do it all the time, and up until a few years ago this would have been considered extremely rude. Nowadays, no one bats an eyelid in even the most prestigious restaurants if you spend the first few minutes enjoying your meal by taking pictures of your food from a variety of angles.
This trend is so popular, that they now have an International Food Photography Day. This year, the day will celebrate and promote food photography on the 13th of November. The theme this year is "Snap the Rainbow" and everyone is encouraged to capture the colours of food on their phones of camera and share them on social media.
If that wasn't a good enough excuse to go out this week and treat yourself to some fine food, if you share your pictures on twitter using @foodphotoaward and the hastag #allfoodsbrightandcolourful you can go into the draw to win a Fuji Film camera and lens worth £1078.
For more information about the International Food Photography Day or the people behind it, visit: www.internationalfoodphotographyday.com and www.pinkladyphotographeroftheyear.com
In the spirit of the competition, I thought I would share with you some of my fondest food memories of 2014. If you have some food photography that you'd like to show off, share them on my Facebook page or tweet them to @EdinburghWishes with the tag #Ilovefood
When I lived in Australia, I worked in a library and it was heaven. I love everything about books, and now that it's getting darker earlier and the nights are colder, it's the perfect time to start curling up with a good book. Here's my Top 3 books I've read this year:
I'm always on the look out for great recommendations for books to read. Have you read anything this year that you just couldn't put down? Leave a comment below and let me know!
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Agatha Christie's 'The Mousetrap', is the longest running show of its kind in the world. Now in its 62nd year, The Mousetrap recently embarked on a tour of the UK, including the King's Theatre in Edinburgh. Agatha Christie is my favourite author of all time, so naturally I snapped some tickets up pretty quickly and headed along for an evening of murder mystery.
This was my first outing to the King's Theatre on Leven Street. The theatre opened in 1906 and has all the charm and decadence of a historical theatre. I settled into my seat in the upper circle and waited for the show to begin. The Mousetrap is set in a newly opened hotel called Monkswell Manor. Husband and wife team Giles and Molly have only just opened the hotel in their inherited home and are anxiously waiting for their first guests to arrive. When the curtain came up we were inside the hotel's lounge room. Wooden panels, a fire place and homely furniture set the scene. I loved the large bay window at the back of the set that looked like snow was falling heavily 'outside'. The old radio was on and the reporter was relaying details of a murder that had taken place in London and police were searching for someone of medium build, wearing a dark coat, light scarf and dark felt hat.
Molly and Giles are a seemingly happily married couple about to celebrate their first wedding anniversary, but with most Agatha Christie stories, you always have your suspicions. The guests arrive one by one, each one instantly more suspicious than the last. You have the typical eccentric young man, the Colonel, the stuffy old lady, the tough feminist and the unexpected foreigner. They were an interesting mix of people, made even more suspicious by their reaction to a police Sargent arriving. One of the guests is murdered at the end of the first act, and I spent the entire interval deciding and then changing my mind as to who the murderer was.
My favourite character was 'Christopher Wren'- the eccentric young man. Every time he walked into the scene I felt like he really lifted the mood. He was exactly the sort of mad character that for some reason I always identify with.
In the end, I tweaked who the murderer was about 10 minutes before it was revealed, but my sister (who came with me) was completely in the dark. At the end of the play, they ask you not to tell any one who the murderer was- so I won't tell you, but in true Agatha Christie style it was genius!
The set design of the performance was fantastic, I loved the bay window with fake snow falling outside. It created a really sinister atmosphere. The play was gripping, funny in some parts, and had a cast of truly talented actors and actresses. The Mousetrap has a regular run at the St Martin Theatre in London. If you weren't lucky enough to catch it on tour, I highly recommend that next time you're in London you head down to the theatre for a truly entertaining night.
Visit the St Martin's Theatre website here for further information about upcoming performances.
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