(Visited: May 2013)
We pass by this basement while walking around Edinburgh’s West End. The menu looks interesting, the name looks interesting, and they offer a lunch or pre-theatre two course menu at £16.50: how not give it a go?
The interior would merit a review on its own.
A unique room that reflects the personality of the owner (and his antique expert wife – and we don’t mean his wife is antique) and stands out amid the many formulaic rooms that litter the restaurant scene. Every detail oozes care and originality, from the furniture, to the decor, to the beautiful Sheffield cutlery.
It feels like being a guest in the graceful house of a wealthy friend with good taste. Not a bad friend to have, thinking of it…
Tap water comes with sliced lemon and lime, made-in-house bread (two varieties, walnuts and black olives) is rustic, pretty good, with a good crust
butter is lightly imprinted with a thistle and served too cold.
Overall things are looking on the up. But for £16.50 we are trying to rein in our expectations. We now know we really shouldn’t have.
The Lamb and wild mushroom pie with the thinly sliced pig trotters is a lush, rich dish, though the ‘pie’ enclosing the meat is a bit too heavy for us. Luckily a hint of asparagus and a chutney lightens and balances the dish considerably. The pig trotter ‘carpaccio’ is lovely.
However the other starter of Rabbit rillette with chicory, pickled cucumber tartare and walnut vinaigrette, and with a ‘fugasse’ (a type of Provencale bread) on the side, is a show stopper: sweetness, acidity, intensity, balance, a well thought out and well executed dish. Gosh, this is going to be a good lunch!
The mains were a beef shin and a braised pig cheek. The latter
was glorious in the moisture of its fat yet not heavy, just look at the colour of that meat to see that there’s somebody who can cook at the stoves, with inter-species fraternity provided by a tasty venison sausage. We lingered with gusto on the potato ‘dauphine’ with herbs, and the broccoli, and the dark, well made jus.
was also supremely tender and moist, the sauce just lacking a bit of depth in our opinion, but a croquette with polenta and oregano was so lovely that it could have been the central ingredient itself! The aubergine puree’ and spring carrots were not intruders in the long list of ingredients, rather discreet and welcome participants.
We resist the temptations that the dessert list offers, we don’t even look at the cheeses, and jump to the coffee. A good filter coffee, served in fine bone china, of course, coming with a nice coconut bon bon, an acceptable madeleine, a meringue and a pretty intense chocolate ganache.
Our four dishes were all packed skill and care, all frighteningly dense with ingredients and flavours, but all superbly well balanced. And for a ‘petit’ menu, at these prices, all this was incredibly generous. Probably more a cue to draw you back, and a successful one at that, than a profit making scheme.
Service on the day was by a pleasantly upbeat, courteous, efficient waiter, and by the owner himself, Clemens Hoss-Estenfeld, judging from the surname obviously coming from a Scottish mining family: a man of charm, discretion, politeness and enthusiasm spilling out as soon as you break the ice.
Of course we had to go back for the full menu…stay tuned!