A la carte
Starters £6.50 - £11.00 | Mains £15.00 - £23.00
Desserts £6.50 - £7.50
Cooking 8.5/10 | Service 5/5
Flavour 5/5 | Value 5/5
Did you see the flash? Bright blue. Even if you didn't blink you might have missed it, or been left doubting yourself as to what you'd seen. It was almost certainly one of the kingfishers which frequent the Water of Leith. Sip your aperitif here and keep your eyes on the water below you. You never know what you might spot. Rather easier to spy is the haughty heron which may glance disdainfully in your direction as it glides past or, rarer still, a pair of otters splashing about, testament to the rejuvenation of this once polluted river.
But no need to be a David Attenborough fan to come here. Just celebrate that it's opened at last, a testament to the Job-like patience and persistence of owners Paul Brennan and Stuart Muir who had to combat every obstacle known to man. For about a year the sign outside this newly constructed building proclaimed a scheduled opening in early 2022. But rejoice and remember the old adage about the best things being worth waiting for.
This is the third venture for Messrs Brennan and Muir, adding to the portfolio of Dine Edinburgh and Dine Murrayfield. The latter is an all day brasserie. This is more traditional in style, serving lunch and dinner. In Murrayfield there is more of a pick and mix approach, with many dishes being available either as starters or mains. Here it's a starters, mains, puds affair. Interestingly, no side dishes are on offer. When you see the tiny kitchen that's perhaps not a surprise: not should it be a surprise to anyone who has eaten Stuart's food in the past that what emanates from this dinky space is of the highest quality.
The menu will change every fortnight, an excellent excuse, if one were needed, for regular visits.
Toasted bread soup was an intriguing sounding starter. I'm not sure what my expectation was, but an unctuous thick mushroom broth exceeded it. The rest of the starter menu tantalises. Smoked mackerel is promised with Greek salad flavours, tomato marmalade, cucumber gel, soused shallots, tapenade tuile and feta espuma. That's a heck of a lot of work on one plate. Or salmon tiradito with tiger's milk, cucumber, red pepper gel, fried seaweed. Tiradito, in case you were wondering, is similar to ceviche, but the fish is served raw and sauced just before service, whereas ceviche involves the fish being "cooked" by marinading in citrus juice. I could go on, but you get the gist. Importantly, it all tastes even better than it sounds. This is modern subtle food of top quality.
Roast breast of duck came with beetroot done in a couple of ways, smoked celeriac, chicory and hazelnuts. Fab. And it took me a very long time indeed to stop oohing and aahing over my braised lamb shoulder. The meat itself was a triumph, but raised by the spiced cous cous - the best ever - dotted with little blobs of raisin and caper purée.
I'd finished the first draft of this piece and realised I'd forgotten to rave about the service too. A diverse bunch from Milan, Angola and Surrey. Charmers all - and we had the bonus of a chat with Stuart too.
I really have no idea how they can produce food of this quality at these prices. The portions may not look huge but after two courses we were stappit. We toyed with a plate of cheese between two. This was partly in the interests of research, but also an excuse to spend longer in the stunning, bright setting. Congratulations, gentlemen, this place is a winner.
Tom Eats! will return on 4 November