Eats | The Magnum Bar & Restaurant

The Magnum

Last week on a gloriously sunny Tuesday evening, David and I headed along to check out The Magnum Bar & Restaurant in Edinburgh’s New Town. Apparently this place used to be a regular haunt of David’s dad in his younger years, but we weren’t really sure what to expect.

The blurb on the website says: “At the Magnum we combine Scotland’s best local ingredients with traditional flavours. We serve classic Scottish dishes alongside fresh seasonal game and seafood.” Sounds promising.

We were seated in the back dining room. It was a quiet evening with just a few other tables taken  although many more people were seated outside enjoying a glass of wine or two in the sunshine. The waiting staff were very friendly and helpful, giving us extra details about the menu and providing a swift service. There are two menus available in the evenings at The Magnum – the bar menu and the main dinner menu and we could mix and match from either.

Starter 01 Magnum

For starters David had goats cheese mousse with a trio of beetroot, radish and pea shoot salad and a balsamic reduction. It was interesting to see beetroot done in different ways and David said that the tartness of the beetroot cut through and balanced out the creamy goats cheese.

Magnum starter 2

This epic dish was my starter, not a main! I had pan fried pigeon breast with salad, pine nuts, sultanas and a quails egg. I’ve never had pigeon or quails egg so I was a little hesitant, but after the first tentative bite I was glad that I went for something new. This was a fantastic introduction for me to game bird. The meat was plump and rich and was complemented by the juicy sultanas. The texture was complemented by the crisp salad and bacon and the crunchy pine nuts. A really well thought out, fully realised dish.

Magnum main 1

David’s main was chicken breast with black pudding mousse, champ mash and a mange tout and thyme sauce. The chicken was tender and juicy with a flavourful sauce. David also really enjoyed the black pudding, saying it was his favourite part of the dish.

Magnum Main 2

From the bar menu, I went for the tempura battered haddock with chips and aioli. The chips were double fried to lovely and crispy. The tempura batter made the dish a lot lighter than normal fish ‘n’ chips and the haddock was obviously fresh. I was really impressed with this dish, it is standard bar food, but done really well. I would definitely put The Magnum high on my list of go to places for fish ‘n’ chips.

Magnum Dessert 1

Dessert was a tough choice as we were already so full but luckily The Magnum has a number of lighter options for those who just can’t resist a sweet. David had the Pimms jelly with poached strawberries and a basil and cucumber sorbet. Quite simply, this was a Pimms as a dessert. The sorbet was something else! Unusual but deliciously refreshing, it was perfect for a summer evening.

Magnum Dessert 2

I went for the simple choice of a trio of ice cream – I had vanilla, strawberry and cream and rosemary and honey. I’m not usually a big fan of strawberry ice cream but this was a bit different as it retained the tanginess of fresh strawberries instead of having a bland artificial taste. The real star was the rosemary and honey scoop. Again, this demonstrates The Magnum’s flair for flavour combinations. The rosemary is subtle and complements the honey flavour. It’s a thinner consistency than the vanilla and strawberry, but I ate it all before it melted, so that’s OK!

Overall, we both really enjoyed our meal at The Magnum and I would really recommend this restaurant to anyone looking for good, Scottish grub. They describe themselves as classic and traditional, which they are (as is the setting) but there is a definite modern spin on the dishes. It sits in a mid-range price bracket with starters and desserts under £7 and mains £12 – £20. The price for the above three course meal for two  with two drinks each (vodka & cokes for me, bottled beer for David) was £72.85. We’ll definitely be visiting again and have already been encouraging David’s dad to go and rediscover his old stomping ground.

*Disclaimer – we were invited along to The Magnum for a complimentary meal but were not asked to write a positive review. All opinions are my own and reflect how much I genuinely enjoyed my meal!

Beauty & Book Haul

Book and Beauty Haul

Happy Monday guys! Today is the first day of my holiday and it just so happens to be pay day so I figured I was due a little treat. Cue a Boots and Waterstones haul. Nothing too out of control, but I wanted to share my goodies with you.

Boots Haul

Let’s do beauty first as Boots was my first stop. I must say, it was a bit of a disappointing trip. I had a list of stuff I wanted but only managed to find a few bits. Models Own seems to have disappeared from Boots so there now seems to be nowhere in Edinburgh that sells it. Major sad face.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Maybelline Lasting drama gel liner

I’ve been very intrigued by the new Benefit They’re Real Gel Liner, but having heard mixed things, I wanted to try a cheaper version to see if I would get on with the applicator. So the Maybelline Lasting Drama Gel Liner went in the basket. Trying it on the back of my hand it seems tricky so practice will be needed, I shall let you know how it goes!

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Not wanted to completely turn my back on Benefit, I treated myself to a Posie Balm – one of their new tinted lip balms inspired by their famous lip and cheek tints. The packaging on this is unbelievably gorgeous! The balm itself feels moisturising and gives a very light hint of colour, exactly what I wanted.

Ecotools

I wanted a couple of new eye brushes and Ecotools were buy one get one half price so I choose a square eyeliner brush and a set of mini powder brushes. the mini brushes will be fab for switching between matte and shimmer eyeshadows when I’m too lazy to wash my main brushes!

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Oh yeah, exciting! Couple of basics but I choose these on account of their smell. I love Batiste and I usually get the cherry one, but recently I’ve been obsessed with coconut so I went for the exotic one instead. I didn’t really need an anti-bac gel but the Carex Strawberry Laces one just smells so damn good!

Book haul

Waterstones has a good selection of book on their buy one get one half price offer so I got four. Hey, reading is always a positive activity right?

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I’m dubbing this one my imaginary beach read. Sadly, I’m not jetting off anywhere this summer, but that doesn’t mean I can’t have a quintessential summer read. The Lemon Grove by Helen Walsh is somewhat controversial. It centres around a middle-aged woman who becomes infatuated with a teenage boy. I’m sure it’ll be an interesting read.

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The Humans by Matt Haig is classic me getting sucked in by the cover. About a man who suddenly and unexpectedly begins to feels extremely alienated from the entire human race, it promises to be funny yet heart-warming.

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Boasting cover quotes from the likes of Joss Whedon and John Ajvide Lindqvist, The Girl with all the Gifts by M.R. Carey looks deeply intriguing. I can’t even say what’s it about other than a remarkable girl with extraordinary and seemingly terrifying powers. Can’t wait to read this one.

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I’ve heard lots of good things about The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Flier. About a family dealing with the grief of losing a child and mental illness, it was hugely praised last year and I’m sure I’ll fly through this book.

That’s not all I bought today, I also placed a rather large ASOS order, although it was all basics, so kinda boring I guess. Will have to try to control my spending for the remaining 13 days of my holiday…

Book Review | How to Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran

Earlier in the month I went to Festival Theatre to see Caitlin Moran on her book/comedy tour How to Build a Girl. The show was a combination of excerpts from the novel (she got a book to sell y’know), name dropping and funny feminist rants, as you would probably expect from Moran. Barely 15 minutes into the show, the audience was encouraged to stand on their (tipping) chairs and yell “I AM A FEMINIST” which they gleefully did. Let me tell you though, the dress circle in Festival Theatre is hiiigh! Laughs came from tales of woe anecdotes of having to  deal with mooncups in front of a-listers, tweeting under the influence and getting your belly out in the boardroom. After what felt like an epic girly bonding session, of course I had to buy what she was peddling. Not the 5 Rules of Feminism tea towel, but the book.

Caitlin Moran How to build a girlImage from GoodReads.

How to Build a Girl follows Johanna Morrigan as she navigates her way into womanhood. Growing up on a Wolverhampton council estate she is looking for an escape although she is told that there is only one way out – the fame her father dreams of as a wannabe rock star. But Johanna realises that there is only so much you can learn from your family, she must build her own life and in doing so, build herself.

As Moran said on her tour, she thought that she had written a book about adolescence, rock and roll, class, but when the critics reviews came out, turned out she wrote a book about wanking. It would be easy to get caught up in the focus on Johanna’s sex life, it’s big part of the book, but Moran has ensured that this remains realistic, not merely titillating. The fact that young women can enjoy sex, but that it doesn’t always go Hollywood-perfect is a big theme in HTBAG. 

If you have read How to Be a Woman, or seen Caitlin Moran speaking, you will know that a lot of the inspiration for HTBAG is from her own life. To be fair, it’s a fun story to repeat. Johanna becomes a music journalist, invents herself as a bitchy, cruel critic until she realises that she can’t and shouldn’t suffocate her enthusiasm, with sex and drugs and rock ‘n’ roll livening up the proceedings. There are moments, however, when Moran’s voice comes over too strongly. Johanna is a self-reflective teenager, yes, but sometimes she talk about her situation, the politics and social injustice in the past tense and the voice of the thirty-something author pushes its way in. Johanna is momentarily lost behind Moran, the outspoken newspaper columnist.

Despite this, HTBAG is tremendously fun. It’s laugh out loud, cringey and omg I was totally like that. For the most part, Moran has created a new teen heroine to be enjoyed by women of all ages. The book (and tour) is also a pertinent reminder that you build your own life: do something you can be proud of'; if you want change, create it; build a person in yourself that you love. Be more Johanna.

I rated How to Build a Girl  4 stars on GoodReads. I am half way through my 2014 challenge with 10/20 books read. Follow me there.

Double Team | Barry M Gellys

Barry M Gellys Barry M Gellys

When you have over 100 nail polishes, how are you ever meant to pick one to wear? Following Essie Button‘s lead (aren’t we all, always?) I figured, lets go for a different colour on each hand. We all know I’m a BIG fan of an accent nail and I think it ties this particular look together nicely. My current two faves are Barry M Gellys in “Blueberry” and “Dragonfruit”.

What would your favourite nail polish combo be?

Toast of the Town Photography Workshop

Canon dslr

I take part in a lot of blog chats on Twitter and one message that is always consistent is that when it come to blogging, photography is king. Good photography won’t necessarily make up for bad content, but bad photography will overshadow good content. I have definitely let my photog skills slip in the 8 years (!) since I left art school and now I rely on a compact system on auto and my iPhone, so when I was invited along to a photography workshop I knew I had no excuse not to go.

The workshop was hosted by the Joe Blogs blogger network in the Millennium Hotel in Glasgow. Millennium have been involved in hosting a number of blogger events under the handle “Toast of the Town” and the Glasgow one was aimed at celebrating the city in the run up to the Commonwealth Games as well as teaching us bloggers some handy skills to capture the spirit of the city and to improve our own blogs. The workshop was led by Stuart from Dreghorn Photography Studio who was assisted by Hamish to ensure that all 25-odd participants got individual help when they needed it.

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The first part of the workshop took us straight off the  fully automatic setting and onto the ‘P’ programmed auto mode. We were shown how to use this so that we could control what was to be in focus in the picture, not the camera.

*Top Tip: Create interest by having the focus off centre. Position the item you want to focus on in the centre of the frame. Half press the shutter to focus on it. With the shutter still half pressed, turn your camera to move the focus off to the side.

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Then we paired up to take some portraits and challenged to take something different from the usual square on mug shot. Stuart explained the rule of thirds, where you divide the frame into thirds and try to use the lines to centre, or off centre, your image. I didn’t quite get the hang of this, I found the Canon display – where there are small squares where the lines cross over – tricky to use, but when you know the rules you can break the rules, right? The photos above are of the gorgeous Charlene from Dainty Dresses, thank you for being my model!

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Mid way and we were treated to lunch at the Millennium Bistro. As suitable for a celebration of Glasgow, a Scottish buffet was put on, including venison hotdogs, haggis burgers and shortbread. And the best bit? Haggis bonbons. My one true love!

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After lunch was straight back to work with the shutter priority mode (Tv), and learning about how shutter speeds affect the photo. A remote control helicopter demonstrated that a fast shutter speed will freeze a moving object. A slower shutter speed blurs the image which is great for capturing movement and can also create a point of interest in an otherwise static image.

*Top Tip: Remember that a fast shutter speed lets in less light so make sure you have a bright environment for these kinds of photos.

Once we got the hang of this, we ventured out into the streets of Glasgow to put our lessons into practice. And as an added incentive, Millennium told us that one lucky person would win a prize for photo of the day, so here are what I think are my best shots:

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IMG_0008 (2)On the steps of the Gallery of Modern Art, Royal Exchange Square.

IMG_9982Example of Glaswegian Victorian architecture with a Greek Classicism influence.

IMG_9974A great example of modern sculpture in the noble Donald Dewar statue overlooking Buchanan Street.

Street Photography IMG_9961Chewin’ the fat.

IMG_0017 (2)George Square is a real photo hotspot, particularly with it’s colourful Commonwealth display.

IMG_9953Street photo of a fellow blogger taking a street photo. Meta.

The final tip Stuart and Hamish gave us was just to get out there and practice our photography. Practice makes perfect. I found the whole day really motivating. No, my pictures still aren’t perfect, but I enjoyed taking a few hours to concentrate on polishing up my knowledge and trying new things. I really want to take a longer class now and work on this further.

Massive thank you to Joe Blogs for inviting me and to Millennium for having us and showing us such fantastic hospitality. Millennium really got into the spirit of the day, offering prizes for the best tweet and best instagram as well as feeding us lots of cakes – always a win – and giving us a parting gift. I love the camera cleaning set, as you can see from my first phoot, my camera is due a good clean! You can read their blog about the event here.

Finally, a big thank you to Stuart and Hamish for the class. If you are in Glasgow and looking for photography classes, I really recommend Dreghorn Photography Studio. Both Stuart and Hamish were very patient, helpful and approachable, fantastic qualities for tutors. I also love the fact that they do a Selfie course for younger photographers, it really shows that they don’t take themselves too seriously and are responsive to trends and what people want to do.

Here’s to a marked improvement in photography on this blog in the near future! Do any of you have top tips for taking photos? I’d love to hear them.

Film Review | How to Train Your Dragon 2

I was a big fan of How to Train Your Dragon when it was released into cinemas in 2010. Out the same year as some kids’ film heavyweights (Toy Story 3 and Shrek 4 to name just two) it slipped under the radar for many. Of course there is no such competition for the sequel this year, but could it live up to the original?

how-to-train-your-dragon-2How to Train Your Dragon 2 | Dean DeBlois | 2014 | USA | PG | 102 min

Set five years after the original, the residents of Berk are enjoying coexisting with the dragons that were once the scourge of their village. Now they are welcomed into the homes as pets, racing buddies and companions. With Toothless, Hiccup goes exploring, aiming to create a map of the world previously shut off to the Berk islanders. When they stumble across  ship destroyed by ice they inadvertently bring a war between a mysterious dragon rider and aggressive dragon trappers to Berk.

Meanwhile, Hiccup is facing pressure from his father, Stoic, to take over as chief of the village. He still feels very much in his father’s imposing shadow, unable to believe that he would ever be able to lead as well as him. This narrative follows on nicely from the first. It would be unrealistic (because that’s important in a film about dragons!) to assume that one victory would give Hiccup all the confidence in the world. Stoic is a changed character, although again in an organic way – his new-found respect for his son’s abilities doesn’t mean that his listening skills have improved any. The introduction of the dragon-rider-viking-lady and the change in the family dynamic this brings is a real point of interest in the film and is wonderfully handled.

It’s a bit of a cliché to describe a film as an emotional roller-coaster, but that is what this is. Funny, entertaining moments give way to thrilling action sequences which then plunge you into real heart-breakers. It’s a film of real heart, not least because the two central characters are carrying disabilities from the previous film. The strength of the bond between Hiccup and Toothless is the soul of the film. And you will definitely want a pet dragon. Fact.

Book Review | Bed by David Whitehouse

Bed by David Whitehouse

Every family has a story. Mal was ours.

Malcolm Ede weighs 100 stone. He hasn’t left his bed for 20 years. In Bed, his younger brother tries to tell us why.

Mal has always been a bit different, his adoring younger brother describes him as extraordinary. He spends his childhood and adolescence standing apart from society. Mal felt constrained within societal norms, often shedding his clothes in public to rebel and escape and ultimately, to be removed from the situation, much to chagrin of his family. When Mal finds himself finally “conforming” – holding down a job, living with a girlfriend, planning a family – he dramatically switches gear to zero. He goes home, strips off his clothes, climbs into bed, and never gets up. Years of Mal’s outbursts have made him the nucleus of their family. They mould themselves around him, so as he begins to grow and grow in size, they simply make more space for him.

Bed is about a family’s identity being swallowed up by one person and the narrative he has created for himself. Before he goes to bed for the final time, he ponders “Maybe my purpose is to give purpose to others”. The most painful thing about the novel is hearing the family, and particularly his brother, the narrator buy into this. I say the narrator because, as much as he laments being known as “Malcolm Ede’s brother”, he never corrects them, nor tells us his name. He is Malcolm Ede’s brother. The emotional dependence they all have on Mal is as full as his physical dependence on them becomes. Mal’s mother become a shell of her former self, she has always played the caring, nurturing nurse but she is transformed into a veritable slave. Mal’s father recedes into the attic, obsessing over past failures, the monolith of Mal between him and his wife. Mal’s girlfriend, Lou, puts her own happiness second to making other people happy – Mal’s relationship with his mother reflected and reversed onto Lou and her own father. And Mal’s brother. 40, living at home, still sharing a room with his older brother, miserable. He is subconsciously waiting for Mal to give him permission to start living his own life, but how will he do this – by getting out of bed? By dying?

Bed is a tender meditation on the prison of unconditional love taken to the extreme. Wonderfully written with vivid descriptions and seamlessly moving between the past and present it evokes a real sense of understanding of the strained family dynamics. Despite the heavy subject (figuratively as well as literally), the writing is peppered with quips and amusing observations from Mal’s brother which lifts it into being an enjoyable read while retaining it’s sincerity. He is all too aware of the situation and finds himself with a morbid sense of humour over it. He knows that it is impossible to fully understand why Mal has made the decision to stay in bed for most of his life but that there can be flashes of understanding or at least empathy.

I would highly rate Bed as an emotionally affirming book that explores the correlation of love and dependence with a touch of black humour.

I rated this 4 stars on GoodReads. Follow me here to follow my reading challenge (currently on 9/20 books) and send me book recommendations.