David Bann, Edinburgh


David Bann

56-58 St Mary's Street, Edinburgh EH1 1SX

0131 556 5888  www.davidbann.co.uk

David Bann Interior

The Bill

Set Menu 2 courses £20.50 | 3 courses £25.50

A la carte

Starters £5.95 - £7.45 Mains £12.25 - £15.50

Desserts £6.50 - £7.50

The Score

Cooking  5.5/10 | Service 3/5 

Flavour  3.5/5 | Value 4/5

TOTAL 16/25 

Don't do it!  said the lady, forcefully, causing one or two heads to turn. That's the advice I'd give anyone. Never do it.

The IT in question was adopting a vegan diet. My heart sang. Remember that bit in the Bible about more joy in heaven about a sinner repenting? Well the lady in question was herself a reformed vegan. After a year of poor health and hair loss, she is now back looking a million dollars on a healthy pescetarian diet, while her husband, once one of those who did it, is an omnivore. I always smile when I meet MYF, but these were even more reasons to be cheerful.

For our first meeting in five years, I chose David Bann. Two reasons. MYF still follows a primarily vegetarian diet - what a difference some butter, cheese and eggs can make - and it's been on my To Go To list for a decade or more. I remember eating a few samples of their food at a festival in the Meadows, and being blown away. Oh, and a third. It's handy for the station for MYF to whizz across from Fife.

It seems that DB has been here for just over 20 years now. That's probably reflected in the decor, which would have oozed sophistication then: less so now. At 1 on a Friday, the place was empty; however it is open all day, and people started drifting in soon afterwards. (Put someone like MYF at a table in the window, and that's bound to happen, despite her gargoyle of a lunch companion.)

There is an a la carte, and a shorter menu with 4 starters, 4 mains and 5 puds. It's not really much of a bargain compared to the alc. The two courses which I had from the shorter version were less than two pounds cheaper, and it would be possible to choose from the a la carte for less than the price of the set menu, which is odd. But never mind the price, what about the quality? Coconut polenta with tikka masala cream and spiced brassicas sounded enticing. A couple of triangles of fried polenta were tasty, as was the drizzle of sauce. There is, however, a line between al dente and undercooked. The broccoli was only just on the right side: the rock solid cauliflower florets were not. The almost invisible spicing was, apparently, organic tomato powder. Despite the tofu being smoked, marinated and fried, it didn't push that protein up my list of favourites.

On to mains. I'd been eyeing up the Baked parsnip pudding with potato dauphinoise. The lady got there first. But I must say that she is a reviewer's ideal companion. In no time at all goodly amounts headed in my direction. It was a whopping plateful, the big chunks of turnip looking like chips. All it needed was a side of beans to resemble a truck driver's delight. My first bite of the pie was pleasant, but I really wasn't getting the advertised Strathdon cheese and apple. MYF admitted that it got a bit dull after a while. The pommes dauphinoise. on the other hand, were terrific. Almost as good as mine (though not on a par with Craig Wood's). Star billing went to my Risotto of roasted celeriac, braised leek, sage and kale. Risotto can be a very bland dish, even with a good chicken or beef stock. The menu advises that they make it in our own broth. I think I know what they mean, Mr Knorr not being involved. Whatever the base was, it was enhanced with a red pepper sauce. The generous bowlful  constantly yielded surprises in the form of hidden chunks of squash and celeriac and other good things. A triumph.

We omnivores feel much more at home in the dessert section of a veggie place. Obviously no gelatine was used in the making of the nicely balanced pineapple jelly. It was, however, let down by a drab lemon cake base, and the coconut ice cream was a little sweet for my taste. The Chocolate cake with plum and port compote was another curate's egg. Advertised on the set menu as cake, the same dish on the a la carte was more accurately described as a coulant, otherwise a fondant. As chocolate fondants go, this was a very, very fine example. Served with just the boule of beetroot and coconut ice cream which had a good kick of whisky, this dish would have been up there with the risotto. Sadly the advertised plums had been cooked by the same person who did the cauliflower for my starter.

When Ron McKenna of The Herald reviewed last year, he blamed the flaws on the fact of it being an all day restaurant. Perhaps a kitchen needs the adrenaline shot of concentrated bursts of activity? I don't think that's the problem here. This is a menu which could reach greater heights, closer perhaps to the food I sampled al fresco all these years ago; however, the meal was riddled with errors, and those errors are etched in my memory more clearly than the very good stuff. It's a great pity. Lunching with MYF is one of life's great but rare pleasures. It would have been wonderful had the food lived up to the company.

I'm astonished to discover that this is the 500th column to be published on what I still think of as the new website. How time flies.


  1. Michael Greenlaw on 5th May 2023 at 7:41 pm

    I still think of it as the new website too; 500 columns – that cannae be right.

    • Tom Johnston on 5th May 2023 at 7:49 pm

      It surprised me too, but that’s what the stat thing at the top of the page said. Jay Rayner told me he was contracted to write 80,000 words a year for The Observer/The Guardian. I worked out that I do about 20% more than that for Tom’s Food! And get paid a lot less.

  2. Bon viveur on 5th May 2023 at 11:16 pm

    500 not out! Keep going please Tom!

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