"Badger hates society, and invitations, and dinner, and all that sort of thing.”
I’m not sure why this new restaurant and bar – named after a character from The Wind and the Willows, since author Kenneth Grahame was born at this address in 1859 – decided to name itself after the curmudgeonly and rather anti-social mammal that is Badger.
"The vibrant wild garlic pesto smelt like fresh eau de woodland dell"
I suppose Toad, Mole and Rat aren’t quite as conducive to eating, what with most of them being either green and squishy, or considered vermin.
So Badger it is. He features on a few portraits, re-imagined as younger and more rakish than in literary form, though he does look a bit weird in the slightly trippy mosaic that decorates the courtyard (as does Mr Toad, who resembles a gastroenteritis-stricken Jabba the Hutt).
According to my editor, badgers have been eating the bulbs in her garden, but there was none of those on the menu, it’s not that avant-garde, think gastropub.
I went for the pan-seared ox tongue (£7), which featured a stack of salty half moons of crispy edged meat, plus some buttery ribbons of wilted spring greens and a single pearl (tbh, I would’ve liked a whole string) of a punchily horseradish-injected bread crumbed potato bonbon.
Good, and the duck and blood orange pâté (£7) wasn’t bad either. This mink coloured block had a texture like smooth peanut butter, with sweet chevron stripes of a citrusy syrup over the top.
The rectangular plate also featured three dinky and knobbly gherkins, each the size of a toad’s forearm (or is it a leg?), as well as a slightly measly triangle of light rye bread.
For mains, my dining partner went for the whole Scrabster landed (using Ratty’s little rowing boat, surely) megrim sole (£14) from the Grills menu. This speckle skinned flatfish had been marinated with chilli, lime and garlic, but they’d gone pretty easy on these ingredients, so they just floated in the ether rather than overpowering the subtle white flesh.
Time for a joke. “What’s green and goes round and round?”, “Toad of Toad Hall in a blender”.
I apologise. Anyway the sole came with a ramekin of wild garlic pesto (you get a choice of sauce with Grill options), which may have resembled liquidised amphibian, but tasted vibrant and smelt like fresh eau de woodland dell.
There was also some of the same moosh swirled around my roast rack of Borders lamb (£16.50). It was a decent dish, even though the three fat commas of meat were slightly overdone, and the chive dotted Parmesan polenta mash a bit rough. Still, the green flavours from the minty peas and the pesto made this offering a bit more special.
We both thought the banoffee crumble (£6) was a stroke of inventive genius, though it should’ve been called bumble, since there wasn’t really a toffee element. There was, however, a layer of squashed and sliced banana, then a crunchy granola-ish topping of chocolatey oat crumble and a few caramelised walnuts suspended in thick sugar cases, which made them look like insects preserved in amber.
This pud also came with a jug of cardamom milk which was a bit too watery to slug into the dish, so we poured a little onto each spoonful, like medicine. It was lush, though don’t dig into this option too quickly, or the hot nanas will singe the papillae off your tongue.
Our other dessert – a huge wad of chocolate orange cheesecake (£6) – was a bit less exciting. Still, it was pleasingly nuclear sweet, with a milky mousse-y layer zig-zagged with what appeared to be the same orange syrup that had appeared on our duck pâté, and a digestive-y base.
The food here is more than decent and I’ve heard since my visit that the cocktails are impressive too, so don’t get Ratty, Badger someone to go with you, Toad and Mole say you Otter.
Lunch for two, excluding drinks, £56.50
Badger & Co
32 Castle Street,
(0131-226 5430, www.badgerandco.com)