The Voyage of Buck, Edinburgh


The Voyage of Buck

29 - 31 William Street, Edinburgh EH3 7NF

0131 225 5748

Voyage of Buck Interior 2

The Bill

 A la carte

Starters  £7.00 - £11.00 | Mains £17.00 - £22.00

Desserts £6.00 - £7.00

The Score

Cooking  5.5/10 | Service 4.5/5

Flavour  4/5 | Value 4/5

TOTAL 18/25


Arriving here for lunch I confess I had no idea who Buck is or was, and I had no clue whither and whence his travels had taken him. I rather liked the name. Less prosaic than Bert's Bar, the previous moniker, and a distinct improvement on The Auld Hoose, its name when I started my working career just along the road in the 70s. The latter was famous/notorious for the style of decor beloved of its then owners, Dryburgh's Brewery. The centre piece was a life sized plastic tree whose branches spanned the entire width of the ceiling. See the 1970s, see sophistication.

By contrast, this place won the Most Stylish Bar of the Year award in 2018, but it has been toned back a bit now. The corner table where we ate was a standard dining layout. Early photos show a Chesterfield festooned with animal skins, possibly shot and brought back by Buck himself. The Buck in question is world traveller and philanthropist William "Buck" Clarence, clearly as much of a character as my famous ancestor Binkie Johnston. Some of the memorabilia in the place were brought back by Buck himself. We know this must be true, as the story was written by the same people who brought us Greyfriars Bobby.

Anyway, I went for lunch with JB The Money Man. Even on a very quiet Monday the place had a certain style, and we were warmly greeted by the affable Daniel, possessing both natural charm and, of course, a large hipster beard. (They sell a lot of cocktails, apparently.) The menu is short and enticing, a bit like ... well, you know. Their website describes the food as hearty European. To me it reads more as sophisticated Scottish.

Game pie is a large and long affair from which you are cut a generous tranche. With less scrupulous kitchens these things can have a lot of sausage meat padding. Not here. The centre piece of mine was a big succulent chunk of venison. Serving it like that, however, it's impossible to keep the pastry crisp, and I left most of the quince and bramble chutney. A raviolo was stuffed with ricotta and came with a cinnamon pumpkin velouté. Lovely seasonal idea, and it looked great. Sadly, completely devoid of salt. Just a few grains away from a terrific dish.

When it came to mains, Daniel said he had known that I was going to order the confit of duck. Sadly, this gift of prophesy didn't extend to foreseeing the the kitchen was out of it. It was no hardship to swap for the pan fried venison with braised endive. A generous and perfectly cooked chunk of meat (ie, NOT done as they do on Masterchef) was nicely complemented with some venison jus and a hint of orange. JBTMM enjoyed his monkfish with pancetta and butternut squash. Classical and seasonal. A generous bowl of rosemary fries was left largely untouched as they were lukewarm when they arrived, and cooled rapidly. A pity.

The couple of main courses which were excellent showed that there is good skill in this kitchen. Cut out the mistakes and the food here could be very good indeed. Sadly each and every service needs to be up to speed. Get off to a slow start and sod's law will dictate that that's the day the food reviewer will come to call. Daniel said he used to work at Hamiltons which is part of the same group. I commented that Buck's food is much better. That's why I moved, he said.

Convert the willingness, the style and the charm into a better result on the plate, and you would end up with a score a full 2 or 3 points higher than today's. Please don't let me put you off going.

We'll have the review of the year around Christmas time, probably in two parts. Tom Eats!  proper will return some time in January. Have a wonderful Christmas and eat well.

Leave a Comment