Eat a flatbread as big as your head and show off your tattoos at The Empress of Broughton Street, says Gaby Soutar

You may not have noticed, but journalism is on a shoogly peg.

I have toyed with the idea of many plan Bs, but the most lucrative would probably be to train in laser removal for tattoos.

After all, there’s hardly anyone left who doesn’t have a full sleeve.

Beards can be waxed off, but all that ink is gonna need something more invasive (and painful, sorry kids).

Anyway, I have no body art, though I have toyed with the idea as my mid-life crisis reaches its zenith.

According to the portrait on the wall of this new-ish pub, Maud Wagner (aka The Empress), was covered in them, as befits the first female tattoo artist in the US and the namesake of this place.

Situated at the top of Broughton Street, it was formerly Mathers Bar. There’s personality in its quirky decor, and the staff on our visit were super welcoming and nice (though neither of them had any visible tats, which is letting the side down).

The US-style menu was a bit more ordinary than the one I’d seen online, but hey-ho. We shared three starters – the buffalo hot wings (£5), paprika halloumi chips (£4) and pulled pork spring rolls (£5). All three looked a bit ascetic, un gussied-up by salad, garnish or other frills, and were served on prison style metal trays.

The chicken wings weren’t saucy or hot, but were crispy and salty, with a blue cheese dip on the side that was suitably tangy.
I like whoever invented the “chips”, which would have been the perfect partners to a cold beer. We had a Jenga stack hand’s worth of cheesy rubbery fingers dusted in loads of paprika and fried. Naughty.

A set of four (well, two chopped in half) spring rolls were pleasant too, with a mashed and chewy piggy filling, a dash of five spice and cumin and some bits of spring onions in their pipe-like enclosures, plus a pot of barbecue sauce on the side.

For your main, you can choose salad (nah), burgers or their flatbreads (£7 for a small and £12 for large).

“The small is about the size of my head,” said the lovely waitress, performing a Madonna-esque face-framing gesture, “And the big is about this shape,” she said, indicating how big her bonce would be if she had an afro or was wearing a motorbike helmet.

We went for the bigger option, with peach, prosciutto, mozzarella, rocket and balsamic dressing. Cooked peach is a bit of a retro ingredient, but I have a soft spot for this fruit in savoury dishes (as a child of the Seventies, my mum used to fill them with cream cheese and bake them).

For me, this option worked, especially with the saltiness of the meat. The base was good – crispier than pizza dough – with a tomato and garlic sauce.

I’d like to work my way through all six versions of these, though maybe not the one with nachos on top, and I’ll go for the head-sized next time.

I’ll break down my burger option – The Brunch (£11) – from the base up.

Bottom bun lid – present. Toasted on the inside. A slice of soft lettuce on top and a disc of beef tomato.

Beef burger – two inches in width, well done, good flavour but very dry.

Bacon – thick cut and fibrous coaster, slathered in hot sauce.

Fried egg – hard yolk, curses.

Top bun lid – yes, it’s there.

Not amazing, but the accompanying medium girth chips were decent, and the coleslaw had a lot of nice vegetable shavings in it, but not much to clad them in.

For pudding, our lemon cheesecake (£4.50), with a dollop of vanilla ice-cream on the side, had a pale and glossy topping, which resembled grout but tasted smooth and zesty.

The base was fine too, though we could have done with a mini drill, like the ones the Doozers used in Fraggle Rock, to break it up. The sticky toffee pudding (£4.50) was served school-dinner-style, in a perfect square, with plenty of toffee sauce.

This place is not going to set the world ablaze, but it serves decent and affordable grub.

Also, just think, if you eat and drink enough here, you’ll have more available skin surface to tattoo.

If you want those removed in 2023, I’ll be sure to add you to my waiting list.

The Empress of Broughton Street

25 Broughton Street

Edinburgh (0131-556 6754)

 

The Empress of Broughton Street, Edinburgh, restaurant review
Food70%
Ambience80%
75%Overall Score
Reader Rating: (6 Votes)
54%

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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