Some restaurants, like Edinburgh Rendezvous, exist best in the memory, says Gaby Soutar

My fortune cookie crumbled when it came to Chinese New Year.

We’re already seven days into the annum of the rooster (2016 was the monkey), and I was hoping that I would have reviewed this restaurant in time for last weekend.

Unfortunately, the beginning of this lunar calendar is already more cock-a-doodle-don’t than do, as I had a bug and had to cancel and rebook my visit five times.

However, to avoid familial disappointment, I decided to visit anyway, for nostalgia purposes.

Rendezvous has, incredibly, been here for 61 years, and the Soutar posse used to visit often, back in the day.

One time, a couple of decades ago, when the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary was central, we even broke dad out of hospital, still in his dressing gown and slippers after a major op, to come here for lunch. Their lemon chicken was better than industrial painkillers.

And, yes, that’s still on the menu, because, apart from a freshen-up of paintwork and lots of youthful and efficient staff members, little has changed at this first floor institution.

There’s still a huge à la carte, with dishes ranging from spring rolls to mushroom omelette and sea blubber, via a few Thai options and a chicken and yellow bean dish with added Cointreau.

My ‘rentals went for the lunch menu (£7.99 for three courses), which was extremely retro, with a Seventies style prawn cocktail as one of the starters (and, yes, they both went for that). I suppose, if thick Marie rose sauce and iceberg lettuce is your bag, this was a decent example of the genre.

I picked a starter of shiu mai (£4.30) dumplings, served like four overweight chicks in their nest-like steamer. They were fine, in their satisfyingly sausage-y and sweaty-looking minced pork and prawn-ness, though they would have really benefited from some kind of acidic dip on the side.

The set of five barbecued spare ribs with Peking sauce (£5.50) weren’t much to get excited about either, though the meat was passable and the soy-ish sauce added some flavour, if not, texturally, any of the desirable sticky-ness.

When it came to mains, which we shared by spinning the wheel of fortune, aka their glass Lazy Susan, everything passed into a watery and syrupy haze, with little definition between dishes.

I’m not proud that I’m usually a fan of the very Western and old-fashioned dish that is sweet and sour chicken (part of the set lunch menu) but it’s Proustian memory – blame it on growing up in the Seventies and Eighties. Anyway, in this version the batter was too soggy and the sauce too dilute. The wilted looking sliced lemon chicken (also part of set lunch) was similarly coated in a thin orange gloop.

“It’s not quite as good as it used to be here, is it?” said dad.

With a clockwise turn of Suzy, I tried a piece of rather dry roast duck breast (£10.95) slopped with a plum sauce that could have been any kind of jus.

The barbecued pork Chinese style (£8.95) featured slices of beige meat dressed with chopped spring onions and beansprouts, with a nondescript sauce over the top.

Sadly, the protein didn’t taste like it had been within a dumpling’s throw of charcoal or anything that might qualify it as a char sui option, while, the salt and pepper spicy squid (£10.95) was one of their better dishes, with a bit of vibrancy from Szechuan pepper (though little sodium) and a thick but light layer of glistening tempura covering the tombola-ticket-sized strips of cephalopod.

You’ll also be needing some rice, and boiled is £2.20 for a rather large pot-full.

As far as puddings go, we’d had enough sugar with our mains, though ma and pa got old-school banana fritters as part of the set menu and scoffed their oily golden pellets quite happily.

What to say. I love my memories of this place, it’s part of my past and I would be sad if it ever shut down.
Dad was right though, they are different. Or maybe the problem is that they’re exactly the same, and we’re the ones that have changed.

Edinburgh Rendezvous

10a Queensferry Street, Edinburgh
(0131-225 2023, www.edinburghrendezvous.co.uk)

How much?

Lunch for four, excluding drinks, £58.83

Edinburgh Rendezvous, restaurant review
Food55%
Ambience55%
55%Overall Score
Reader Rating: (3 Votes)
42%

About The Author

Gaby Soutar

Gaby Soutar is a lifestyle editor at The Scotsman. She has been reviewing restaurants for The Scotsman Magazine since 2007 and edits the weekly food pages.

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