Lunch (Mon - Fri)
Sandwiches £11.00 - £13.00 | Mains £14.00 - £22.00
Starters £5.00 - £8.00 | Sharing Plates £10.00 - £15.00
Mains £14.00 - £22.00 | Desserts £8.00
Cooking 4.5/10 | Service 5/5
Flavour 3/5 | Value 2/5
Gemma, Gemma, wherefore art thou Gemma?
OK, There may be a few out there who think that wherefore means where. For those who know that it means why, the rest of this may make more sense. Having lunched here with E, my long suffering Italian teacher, I have come up with rather more whys. Why is Gemma not in charge of the kitchen? Why did Gemma not have a say in the design of the very odd lunch menu? In fact, why not just put Gemma in charge of the whole place? She is, as you may be gathering, a superstar.
I had looked at the menu online (proudly proclaimed as the Festival Menu) and assumed there must be some sort of error. For lunch, Monday to Friday 12 - 4, you have a choice of sandwiches, main courses or desserts. There are no starters, and no small plates. These don't become available until the dinner menu kicks in at 4. Not much imagination has been expended compiling the list of mains. The five choices comprise burger, steak, pasta, fish and chips or salad. Come 4 o'clock and you can choose to start with smoked salmon or hummus, or fried chicken, ox cheek or aubergine parmigiana. Before the clock strikes 4 you can have these only in sandwich form. Except that is on Saturdays and Sundays when the brunch menu kicks in. If you don't want brunch you choose from the same list of mains (minus the steak), and puds. Again, no starters.
Well, we both fancied at least two courses, and I seldom eat desserts. What to do? Speak to Gemma of course. She gave the kitchen a good talking to, and suddenly the full range of evening starters was available for our delectation and delight. E was very happy with her smoked salmon. There was lightly pickled red cabbage on the plate too, with some crispy onion and a little wasabi, none of which detracted from the excellence of the star ingredient. I was less fortunate. A generous portion of ox cheek had been braised slowly, but was over salted. The accompanying spring onion pancake was a sad soggy companion.
Roles were rather reversed come the next course. To find steak of any nature priced at £22 is rare. This grilled flat iron steak was medium rare, exactly as ordered. The meat was flavoursome and had been well seasoned. I wouldn't have recognised the sauce as Bearnaise, but very tasty it was. With your fish or your burger they sell you hand cut chips: with the steak it's pommes frites. A generous helping, well fried, well seasoned, but lukewarm. Salad with wedges of iceberg lettuce as the main event are popular. They do mean that there's not much surface area for the dressing to cling to. Once the first thin layer of blue cheese dressing disappeared the rest was fairly tasteless despite the bacon and tomato.
I would have quit at that stage, but E fancied something sweet. Lime and blueberry pavlova. Out of a sense of duty I offered to share and Gemma brought another spoon. Turns out that a hammer and chisel might have been better. This being the north part of Georgian Edinburgh I did pause to see if a piece of cornice had dropped into our plate. No, meringue, apparently. The blueberries bore no resemblance to any I had ever seen, being the size and consistency of not terribly nice grapes. I'm just not an expert on tinned fruit, and we have no idea what happened to the advertised lime.
An odd meal, with some redeeming features. And if E and I ever choose to recall it in future years, we'll always have Gemma.