2 courses £25.00 3 courses £28.00
2 courses £28.00 3 courses £32.00
Cooking 5.5/10 | Service 3.5/5
Flavour 3.5/5 | Value 5/5
What is normal? A question asked often, everywhere. I offer but a single clue. Normal married couples celebrate only one wedding anniversary a year. L & I, on the other hand, enjoy two. This happy state of affairs is due to a strategic east/west alliance. L's bro and his wife live west of Harthill. Their anniversary is in October: ours is in April. We celebrate both. It therefore makes perfect sense to have the April one in Glasgow, and the October one in the capital. An unwritten convention is that we go somewhere we haven’t tried. Like all good feasts, these are moveable.
I’ve written before about the delights of the Edinburgh tram to Leith. The other week we passed by Walnut on Croall Place. Edinburgh has a lot of these confusing, multi-named streets. For example, the road from Edinburgh Castle to Holyrood House, the so called Royal Mile, actually comprises five different streets. Similarly, the thoroughfare generally known as Leith Walk is made up of lots of sections. Croall Place is quite near the border betwixt Edinburgh and Leith. (Why do you think the Boundary Bar is so called?) Get off the tram at McDonald Road and a hop, skip and jump will find you in Walnut. It had been on my To Go To list for a while.
Two ladies are engaged in some sort of work related discussion behind the bar. So we wait. And wait some more. Now it turns out that Maria is only on her second shift, and is being instructed in something by FOH manager (Paula?). After what seems like a long time, our presence is acknowledged. Were I to be writing Walnut’s staff manual, rule number 1 would be, make eye contact with customers the second they enter. Still, they turned out to be charming ladies, and one is always especially charming to newbies. So I said nothing about my dirty water glass, and rubbed it with my napkin.
If you read reviews of the place when it opened, be aware that it changed ownership or management a few years ago, and is quite different. To very good effect, evidently, given that every table was filled within quarter of an hour of our entrance.
The menu is an eminently sensible affair, three each of starters, mains and desserts, plus cheese. That avoids undue pressure on the kitchen, and helps eliminate waste.
Gravalax (their spelling, don’t write in) isn’t my favourite way of eating salmon; however when it’s jazzed up, as they do here with fennel and cucumber salad, it gets better. The final flourish of avocado blitzed with crème fraiche is a neat touch. L was very taken with her starter of whipped goats cheese with beetroot, fig and balsamic. The other starter was a fusion lover’s dream. Ox cheek (from anywhere they eat beef, I suppose); served in a spring roll (China, Vietnam); gochujang glaze (Korea); burnt aubergine and miso (Japan). Not a bad idea, but for me it didn’t quite work. There was a slightly burnt taste which I don’t think was down to the aubergine.
We sampled all three mains. Pork fillet (or tenderloin, as it seems we must call it these days) was served with a celeriac and brown butter purée, sweetheart cabbage, Bramley apple and black pudding. This was served to the non sharer in the family. It looked good and he seemed happy enough without being ecstatic. Ricotta and Parmesan agnolotti were served with sage butter, butternut squash purée and other veg. It was a dramatic bright yellow. Its principal scoffer was more impressed with it than I.
Not so long ago coley was something which Scots folk would feed to their cats. Now, with fish prices on a par with silver, chefs are having to turn elsewhere. I once ate coley in an Angela Hartnett place. Very good it was too, but I wasn’t prepared for the generous chunk which appeared. It was classically served on a bed of cauliflower cream and sautéed leeks. I raised my eyebrows slightly at the notion of new potatoes in October, but I’m sure chef has his sources. Just another grain or two of salt would have made this a very good dish indeed.
I gather that their Walnut Whip dessert is something of a classic. I don’t know if the confection of the same name is still produced. Once made by Duncans of Edinburgh it featured a conical whirl of thick chocolate hiding a half walnut swamped by some sort of sweet gloop. Another half walnut sat proudly on top. All in all the top of the new St James Quarter in Edinburgh reminds me of it. But then the accountants took over. The chocolate became thinner, and the internal walnut disappeared. So three cheers to today’s heroes for reviving the memory.
No one else in the group could be persuaded to order it. A man has to do… Here it’s a chocolate crémeux covered with Italian meringue. At the base is a crispy crèpe, and there are little chunks of walnut. A fine thing for someone with a tooth a little sweeter than mine, and a splendid tribute. There was also some decent cheese. The driver swapped the Frangelico in the Afffogato for straight espresso.
3 courses for £28 for this amount of chef work is terrific value, but assessing the rest of it is tricky. The non sharer was non committal as ever; the two ladies were enthusiastic. None of them has a review to write, and I would hate to be unfair. In normal (that word again) times I try to give you a summary so you don’t need to read the text. Sorry, this time you have to draw your own conclusions.