The Orchard Bar & Restaurant
1 - 2 Howard Place, Edinburgh EH3 5JZ
0131 550 0850 www.theorchardbar.co.uk
Starters £5.50 - £10.50 | Rustic Sandwiches £7.75 - £9.25
Mains £13.25 - £31.00 | Desserts - ?
Cooking 6/10 | Service 5/5 | Flavour 4.5/5 | Value 4.5/5
Fascinating how the English language evolves. Even more interesting to find that even the legendary Oxford English Dictionary finds itself way behind the times. Legendary - oops! The definition of a legend, says the OED firmly, is the story of a life of a saint. While it does go on to give some less familiar uses of the word, it completely ignores the (not that modern) usage as a traditional story sometimes popularly regarded as historical but not authenticated. Thus we happily talk about the Arthurian legend. And I'm not sure what the learned editors would make of our more modern definition of an extremely famous or notorious person, especially in a particular field. (Both latter definitions courtesy of Dr Google.)
The word is even more debased when applied to workaday footballers. Best, Law and Dalglish, perhaps, but anyone emanating from Tynecastle or Easter Road in the last decade or two? Probably not.
But I can say positively that on each of my visits to The Orchard, there have been two legends at the table, and I, obviously, was not one of them. The legend in human form was sometime journalist HC. There may be people out there who know more about Edinburgh and its history, but I doubt it. The second legend?
Well that takes me back to a blog towards the end of last year's lockdown, when I invited readers to share where they would be going out to eat when allowed. HC said he would be heading to The Orchard for their legendary steak pie. It therefore seemed an appropriate venue when we were allowed out to play. The two of us have now visited on a couple of occasions. I can't remember why I didn't write it up first time round. Perhaps that had something to do with a certain person calling for a second bottle. Once a journalist, always a journalist.
If you think that the column is going downmarket by reviewing a pub lunch, that is all the more reason for you to visit to sample for yourself. I find the term gastropub as meaningless as fine dining - looking at The Orchard's website, I'm pleased to see that they don't use it. What do you get here? I'll use an equally meaningless phrase in reply - proper pub food. By that I mean food which has been made by a chef, on the premises, and not, in the main, been delivered frozen from a van from the likes of Brake Bros, or whatever they call themselves these days. Let's be more specific.
Starters are hefty portions - be warned if you have a small appetite - and excellent in a rustic way. Haggis fritters? Well forget these tiny bon bons the size of cherry tomatoes which you'll find in High Street tourist traps. You are served three chunky ones, beautifully fried with no obvious grease. The haggis is, apparently, from Cockburn's of Dingwall and it comes with a fresh tomato and chilli jam. You can of course have soup, or perhaps garlic prawns. A lighter option is an apple and walnut salad. At the other end of the starter spectrum is the warm salad with black pudding and bacon - and a poached egg - and Hollandaise sauce. You can have the latter as a main course, a more sensible option than mine. In retrospect, I can see why we needed the second bottle.
For mains you can have all the standards, fish and chips, burgers, steaks. For a break from standards you could have cod with a bean, tomato and chorizo cassoulet. There are seasonal variations too. Most recently pheasant was pot roasted with celeriac, apple and celery. Has chef been reading Tom Cooks! I wonder? Great minds, and all that. And where I really empathised with the kitchen was when it came to the steak pie. Legendary wasn't HC's description, it was a quotation from the menu, The Orchard's Legendary Steak Pie. As one who modestly describes his own culinary creations as routine masterpieces, I love these guys. And I can tell you that no trading standards regulations were breached in the writing of that bill of fare.
Everything I've sampled here was great. I believe they offer desserts, but I'm simply daft, not suicidal. The only reservation is, make sure you're hungry before your visit. The people are lovely and even when it was a basic pub, The Northern Bar, it was always an attractive space. I must stop now to email the legend that is HC to find out when we're going back.