A la carte
Starters £6.90 - £17.00 | Mains £17.00 - £36.00
Desserts £7.00 - £9.00
Cooking 7/10 | Service 5/5
Flavour 5/5 | Value 4.5/5
Just a pub lunch, said the lady. I'm fed up with your fancy poncy w**k s**t stuff.
The more perceptive among you will be thinking that L doesn't speak like that at all. It occurs to me that I have inadvertently inserted a quotation from a Giles Coren column. For it was the blessed L who pointed out that the Tom Eats! tank was running on empty, and that we'd better get something else in the can soon. But just a pub lunch.
In Edinburgh's New Town north of Queen Street options are relatively limited, though it does make for a fine walk. Option A? Toasties only. Option B? Kitchen opens at 16.30. So, to The Magnum. I suspect that owner Chris Graham might not care for the phrase pub lunch being applied to his food, and with reason. The website describes the place as Edinburgh's Hidden Gem. It continues, The Magnum quietly defies pigeon-holing. This bistro-esque watering hole is not simply a restaurant, nor is it just a pub or a wine bar…
Most websites contain a load of rubbish. (I should know.) Here, they call it absolutely right. It's two or three interconnecting rooms on the ground floor of an elegant block just north of Queen Street. I had always regarded it as being in Dublin Street, but I see that the address is Albany Street. One of those rooms is a dedicated dining room lined with elegant illustrations. Sit in the corner and people watch. A postie finishing her shift; a New Town dandy with camel coat, ponytail and designer beard; a bewildered looking Welsh rugby fan heading in the wrong direction.
Were I to give you a basic summary from the menu, you might be forgiven for shouting, yes it is a pub lunch. Soup of the day (Friday), duck parfait, haggis spring rolls. Then haddock and chips, burger, beef bourgignon (AKA steak) pie. But read on and eat on. These are supplemented by ravioli and scallops, by venison, gnocchi and monkfish.
We are served by a pair of charmers, Terry and Jack, laid back and friendly. The food isn't rushed at you, signalling correctly that dishes are cooked and plated to order. The duck parfait, intriguingly, is served on a slice of Belgian waffle studded with slivers of smoked duck breast. There is a cherry sauce and cubes of Cointreau jelly, and just enough pickly and salady things to form a perfect complement. A stunning combination. A haggis spring roll is a billionaire's cigar of a thing, stuffed with top notch haggis. The clapshot is served on a drizzle of whisky infused green pepper sauce with some real heat. Head chef Piotr Dzierlega has taken that Scottish cliché of ingredients and elevated them into something very special, topped with tiny shards of freshly cooked parsnip crisps.
Follow that if you will. And he did. Well, a burger is just a burger, is it not? Nope. Home made and served slightly pink this beast was slathered with cheese and good bacon, and seasoned with great subtlety. Is beef bourgignon pie but a fancy name for a pub standard? It wasn't a real pie, having a disc of puff pastry on the side. But the beef was of a decent standard and cooked just right. (Yes, you can overcook beef stew.) If the onions which I love as an integral part of this stew were absent, the mushrooms had been given special treatment to enhance their flavour. Sides were a delight. My heart sinks when I read the phrase pomme purée, as it calls to mind the near liquid slurry which so called top chefs think justifies a star. I needn't have worried. This was perfect mash shot through with grain mustard. Neither was there any nonsense with the fries on the plate with the burger. As good as they get.
Eating out well is always a pleasure: eating out at a level far higher than your expectations is a great delight. The Magnum is a great delight.
Tom Eats! will be back some time in March