Building on the success of their Royal Mile café, the Edinburgh Larder Bistro in the West End puts a gourmet twist on homely cooking, writes Alex Watson
Falling somewhere between a hipster’s paradise and your Granny’s kitchen, Edinburgh Larder Bistro is a delicious secret, hidden in a basement in the West End.
You may have previously sampled brunch at the original Edinburgh Larder Café (just off the Royal Mile), but the Bistro – which opened in 2012 – is a newer venture that focusses on homely main meals with a gourmet twist.
The bistro’s interior can only be described as a cosy and rustic hobbit-hole. Warm and inviting, with exposed stone walls, low ceilings and wooden furniture, the mix of old fashioned and modern décor left me feeling blissfully unaware of the current time, date, or even year.
Arriving promptly at 6pm on a week night meant my companion and I were the first customers through the door, but we were soon joined by two other couples. Their quiet chatter – combined with the soft, indie warblings of Bon Iver, Beirut and the like – was enough to create a comfortable and relaxed atmosphere throughout the restaurant.
We were seated in a booth at the back, which felt private without being isolating. On inspection, the restaurant’s menu isn’t overwhelmingly large, but some wordy food descriptions took a little time to decipher.
Edinburgh Larder Bistro seems to have perfected the art of posh comfort food. Fish and seafood lovers will be spoilt for choice, although there are tasty treats on the menu for carnivores and vegetarians too.
The vibrantly coloured smoked salmon pâté with homemade toast to start tasted citrussy and light, while my friend’s scallops with clementines were well cooked, with a pleasing mixture of textures and flavours.
I took a gamble on the unusual main course of pollock with mussels in a mustard sauce, which more than paid off. The meaty white fish was cooked to perfection, and the mustard taste was obvious but not at all unpleasant. A good portion size ensured that I cleared my plate before the strong flavours became too much.
The duck leg was a hearty option, which arrived drenched in rich gravy on a bed of buttery and well seasoned mash. Although satisfyingly crispy on the outside, the duck itself tasted just a little overdone.
Choosing dessert was a battle, and there were at least two more intriguing options I would happily have gone for. In the end, a marmalade parfait with sheep’s milk ice cream made the cut. The zesty parfait had a perfumey taste, which would normally put me off, but worked well in this instance. A special mention goes to the parfait’s accompaniment, which was the best vanilla ice cream I have tasted in years.
The orange sorbet served alongside a slice of spiced chocolate tart tasted equally sensational, and it was refreshing to sample a chocolate dessert that wasn’t sickeningly rich after two mouthfuls. The spices came through loud and clear, bringing back some wistful festive cheer with every bite.
Food presentation at the bistro was pleasing without being too fussy, which really sums up the whole feel of the restaurant. Every ounce of potential pretentiousness has been avoided at the Edinburgh Larder Bistro, leaving behind a cosy escape from real life and a well-rounded menu of good, Scottish food that even your Granny would be proud of.
Where? 1a Alva Street, EH2 4PH (0131 225 4599, website). The Edinburgh Larder Cafe is at 5 Blackfriars Street.
How much? Dinner for 2, excluding drinks: around £55.
The verdict: Food: 4/5; Ambience 5/5; Total: 4/5