The day: 4th October 2008, Dinner.
The place: 3 Hunter Square, Edinburgh EH1
The venue: Creelers Seafood Restaurant
The food: Mostly seafood
The drinks: Simple, well-priced wine list, and some beers.
After Sardinia, our insatiable hunger for all things fishy is not exhausted. So we go to Scotland, and among other culinary adventures that we’ll keep for ourselves, in Edinburgh, enticed after reading this, we decide to plump for this family owned restaurant. The family has a fishing background: they operate around the Isle of Arran, where they have another restaurant (in fact the original one). Located just off the touristy Square Mile, we can see that opening a branch in the thriving capital makes acute commercial sense. We hope the big city has not corrupted their Arran integrity…
The interior is warm and vivaciously decorated, with rustic tiled and wooden floors, paintings and mirrors on the walls, primary colours, no tablecloths.
The menu, as promised, caters for the fish-lover, but it also offers a few fine bits for the others. All dishes look simple but with some non-trivial culinary enticements. Starters are around the £7 mark, offering for example mussels steamed in white wine, shallots and parsley, or Tuna carpaccio with Wasabi mayo and herb salad (both £7.50). Mains tempt you with the Creelers seafood platter for 2, at £40, featuring an array of home cured and smoked fish and shellfish, but also, among the non-fish dishes, fillet of Aberdeen Angus beef with horseradish mash, baby carrots, and a red wine jus (£27.50, ouch). We are a little disappointed that the special of the day is farmed seabass.
The bread arrives:
Rustic, no variety but not too bad.
Here are our starters:
– Creeler’s fish cake (£6.25)
– Trio of own smoked and cured salmon (£7.25)
The fish cake (salmon and potatoes), comes pleasantly warm, looking more sautéed than deep fried, is nicely prepared. It’s moist, not soggy, softly pleasurable, with a right balance between fish and potatoes that satisfies demands for both flavour and texture. The piquant tang is correctly judged, and the accompanying salad, with very finely diced onions and peppery seeds, is very pleasant indeed.
The three salmons are nicely presented for a ‘trattoria’. The smoked one is quite rustic in style, a little harder than we are used to, but good. The other one, marinated, is exceptional. The one prepared in chunks offers very concentrated flavour. A lovely simple little dish.
Next, our mains:
– Panfried Hake with Stornoway black pudding and a tomato and smoked paprika sauce (£16.50)
– Seared West Coast King Scallops with creamed smoked haddock and leek (£18.50).
In the hake dish we encounter bold and gutsy flavours. The black pudding is ravishing for us, melting in the mouth, and the cooking of the hake is admirable. Woman thinks the paprika is a little too much, while Man, maybe fuelled by the paprika, violently disagrees, finding that the piquant hit perfectly suited to the character of the dish. They finally settle to agree that the chef has had overall a very good hand in this rustic dish.
And the scallops, once again, are cooked really well, with the smoked haddock chowder a great match, repeating the style of rich and strong but balanced flavours. We are very happy with the portion size, too.
(We accompanied all this with two portions of green veggies, cooked properly crispy, at £5.50).
Let’s go for desserts:
– Rice pudding (£5.25)
– Crème brulee (£6.25)
The pudding is well prepared, creamy and not stodgy: well, so Man says, fuelled by the almonds Woman violently disagrees, she does find it quite a tad too stodgy. The preserved cherries hidden inside are good but feel a little cloying, maybe some contrasting flavour would have be appropriate.
The crème brulee is excellent: here the fat cream is well contrasted by the passion fruit. And those crumbly shortbreads, and that chocolate-covered orange: how yummy and how much more interesting do they make this dish!
We didn’t drink wine but Arran Ale this time (2 pints at £7.50). Tap water is happily brought to your table, and only a 10% service charge is added. So we end up with a reasonable £80.85.
The service is young, friendly, cheerful. The only snag in the atmosphere were some very rowdy customers (who ended their dinner by removing a pole from somewhere and – kindergarten style – pretending to enhance their masculine attributes with them), and which underlines conclusively that this is not a ‘fine dining’ place. But at the same time it is very clear that in the Creeler’s kitchen there isn’t a McDonald hamburger flipper but a very respectable professional indeed, who is in full control of the strong flavours he wraps his dishes in, and who can cook the fish itself very sympathetically. So it happens that the good raw material is not simply put on the plate, but is prepared here even with some interesting culinary ideas, while still maintaining the character of rusticity and simplicity. We were happy that night at Creeler’s, and we suggest you take a try yourselves if you happen to be in the vicinities and are in a fishy mood.