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Address: 77B George Street / Edinburgh / EH2 3EE

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      27.11.2012 18:42
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      Lovely Spanish restaurant in central Edinburgh - have the pork cheeks

      I am enjoying living in Germany on the whole, but I do often find myself missing the good old UK. Specifically, I find myself missing particular places in Edinburgh to which I used to love going when I lived there. My friend who's here with me and I have recently been waxing nostalgic for certain restaurants that were favourites of ours. One of these is a Spanish restaurant in the centre of the city on George Street: Café Andaluz.

      == Café Andaluz ==

      I have been going to Café Andaluz in Edinburgh for years and believe that the first time that I went was actually before I moved there for university in 2008, having been many times since then, so it's somewhere I'm certainly familiar with. There are a few Café Andaluz restaurants to be found in the central belt but this is the only one to be found in Edinburgh, with the other two or three being in Glasgow. Despite having "Andaluz" in the name, the food here isn't all Andalusia based and there is a good selection of Spanish dishes to choose from here.

      == The Food ==

      The food here runs along the lines of what you'd expect from a Spanish restaurant: the main dishes on offer are small tapas or large paellas to share. There are a few different paellas (that they recommend for two persons) and a fairly extensive selection of tapas, separated on the menu into vegetarian, meat and seafood dishes. They recommend that you order 2-3 tapas per person and share them, although of course you can have a few to yourself if that's what you would prefer. I'm sure most of you will recognise a lot of the items on the menu, such as patatas bravas, calamares, chorizo and tortilla española, but there are also some less expected dishes on offer. Some more 'unusual' options include carillada de cerdo (pork cheek), chorizo y butifarra negra (chorizo with black pudding) and chuletas de cordero (lamb chops rubbed with rosemary, thyme and garlic). There are also some breads, olives and chips should you wish to have these to start or accompany your meal.

      == Restaurant and Location ==

      This is a lovely looking restaurant that has a nice atmosphere. The main thing that jumps out at you is their use of tiles on the wall and wooden furnishings, as it does lend it more of a Spanish feel and doesn't feel like anywhere you'd expect to find in Britain. There is a café area with some smaller booths and tables at the front, with the restaurant proper being found behind this in view of the kitchen. There is also an upstairs area that is used when it is particularly busy (and is also where the toilets are), but you generally find this area empty at lunchtime or outwith busier times.

      Its location is also very good, especially if you're not from Edinburgh, as it's not hard to find. It can be found on George Street in the new town of Edinburgh, not far from Princes Street or Waverley Station. Most buses in the city go either via Princes or George Street so it's also easy to get to using public transport. Anyone who knows Edinburgh more than vaguely will know that George Street is home to a lot of 'posh' shops, restaurants and bars, and Café Andaluz deserves to stand among them.

      == What I Thought ==

      As I said earlier, this is a place that I greatly miss now that I am out of the country and obviously unable to go to. The food is great and I've never had a bad meal here. It's atmosphere is also great and bustling due it being pretty busy most of the times that I've been and the staff are good and friendly.

      There are some tapas that I want to rave about and particularly recommend. The amount of times I've been here over the years has probably reached double figures by now so I've tried a fair range of what they serve and feel quality to say what the best dishes are here.

      My current favourite is one that they added to the menu fairly recently, or rather around a year or so ago, but recent in terms of how long I've been coming here for: Carillada de Cerdo, or pork cheeks. I don't feel I have the expressive power to properly describe how gorgeous these are, but will of course try. Three or so slices of pork cheek are served in red wine, paprika, chilli and honey and may as well have been cooked by the gods. I was sceptical before trying this for the first time as I expected them to be quite fatty, and I'm not a fan of meat with too much fat on them. I was more than pleasantly surprised as these cheeks are not only not fatty, but they are amazingly soft and tender, being complemented by the sauce very well indeed. I hadn't ever tried pork cheeks before and while they do have a hint of pork to them, they do taste different to other parts of pig and I can't do justice to how nice they are in mere words. I've ordered these every time that I've been to this restaurant since. If you go to Café Andaluz, have these. I insist.

      Another favourite of mine is Queso de Cabra al Horno, or grilled goat cheese. This is served with an orange and chilli marmalade and my mouth is watering just thinking about it. The cheese is warm and soft and its savouriness is complemented very well by the sweeter marmalade. It's not too heavy and is also something that I order most times that I go.

      Other favourites include:

      * Chorizo y Butifarra Negra - chorizo and black pudding, served in a lightly spicy tomato sauce. The chorizo is perfect and the black pudding soft and delicious. I wouldn't have thought to but these two foods together myself but they are gorgeous together.

      * Patatas bravas. These are a classic Spanish dish - small, fried potatoes in a spicy tomato sauce. Every bit as good as in Spain.

      * Carne de Res Picante - 'spicy beef on a bed of rocket with a manchego cheese and chorizo dressing'. Not something that I would think of as traditionally Spanish but this tapa is gorgeous and is something I'd definitely recommend.

      * Calamares/chipirones - battered squid rings or friend baby squid, served with garlic mayonnaise and lemon. Squid being my favourite food, I order one of these a lot of the time as well, but I have to say that the past couple of times I've been they haven't quite lived up to expectations. I think they've increased the amount of batter and it's hard to get the full squid flavour through with the baby squid. I wish that they served the baby squid grilled without batter so their taste could be better appreciated. Nevertheless, still a good dish that I used to love, anyway.

      There are many other things that I enjoy on the menu, but to list and describe the rest would take me all day. I've only had paella here once, I believe, as I usually can't go past the tapas, but it is very good and I could also recommend it. There is also a small portion available as a tapa and I've had it in this form a few more times. The menu can be seen on the website in PDF format (http://www.cafeandaluz.com) if you're interested to see what else they serve. They also have some desserts but I'm usually too full from the tapas to have any, but have enjoyed the cheeseboard and crema catalana on the few occasions anyone has had room for a pudding and ordered one.

      == Drinks ==

      The drink selection here is good and I've never been disappointed with wine that I've ordered. There is also a good coffee selection for post-food times, including liqueur coffees and even liqueur hot chocolates. You can of course also get soft drinks and other beverages, but I can't comment on their beer or spirit selection as I always have wine or water when I'm here.

      == Conclusion ==

      This is a fabulous restaurant in central Edinburgh and writing this review has made me realise how much I miss the food in this city. This will definitely be on my short list for places to eat while I'm at home for Christmas and when I hopefully move back there in March. The food is lovely and the atmosphere pleasant, and I highly recommend it if you live in or are visiting the Scottish capital. Prices are reasonable considering the prime location, with all vegetarian tapas being under £5, meat between £5 and £7 and seafood between £5 and £7.50, and the most expensive paella (paella valenciana) is £24 for two people. There are cheaper places to eat in the city but there are also ones considerably more expensive and I feel that the prices here are very reasonable considering the quality. Recommended should you find yourself in the area.

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