Scotsman Review
Our criteria 
  • Ambience - It's important that a restaurant is inviting. We rate the decor, comfort and atmosphere.
  • Drink - Is the wine or cocktail list as exciting as the food, or does it fall short? Same goes for soft drinks. 
  • Food - We judge dishes on flavour, but also use of produce, cooking skill and presentation
  • Service - The staff and pace of a meal can make or break a meal out.
  • Value - From the food on the plate to service and surroundings, we check that you get what you're paying for.
April 14, 2017

The Bakers Arms, Edinburgh, restaurant review

The Bakers Arms occupies a prime spot, but the food is dire, says Gaby Soutar

Apparently it’s just a myth that you shouldn’t eat just before swimming.

Still, the inevitable bloat is never attractive. In one’s bikini, one does not want to resemble a manatee that’s just swallowed a buoy.

Despite my initial reluctance, I’d been persuaded to visit this new restaurant before taking the nieces to the local pool, and was prepped to choose food that wouldn’t make me float, sink or swell up like the twisted tail of a balloon poodle.

It’s in the former premises of The Raj, which occupied this corner spot for three decades (now Tommy Miah and his crew have moved this Indian restaurant to Blackhall).

The corner premises, painted white and with a mezzanine eating level, is beautiful, with huge Victorian windows looking along The Shore.

With natural light to suit an artist’s studio, it would be hard to fail here.

They’ve kept the vibe bohemian, in the style of Edinburgh’s Hemma or Joseph Pearce pubs/eateries, with board games, and a bed and bowl area for dogs. There are deer head trophies on the wall, and anti-Trump posters. I like them already.

The casual menu is chalked up on a board. We shared the devilled chicken wings (£5) and the Fruits of the North sharing board (£14) – aka “the best North Sea seafood, selected and prepared by us”.

Hmm, what to say about both of these options. First up was our fishy selection on a slate, but the flavours weren’t quite there. The beetroot-stained gravadlax was OK and there were olive-oil drizzled crostini, two rollmops (fine), five uniform sized mini oatcakes, a scattering of crayfish tails and a salad of cucumber strips that tasted of water.

It all tasted mainly of nothingness and the seafood wasn’t quite sparkling enough to make up for that. Still, at least most of it was edible, except for the two matchbox-sized pieces of grey smoked mackerel, which were the only awful thing on the smorgasbord. They tasted like melted plastic. I was discreet, but my dining partner, with her polo-neck like a horse collar, gurned like Les Dawson.

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Our bowlful of wings were fine, meat-wise, but the russet red batter was a disaster. It was spongy, moulded to the chicken like polystyrene packing material, and had to be peeled off in bits, resulting in a pile of what looked like discarded false nails.

Mains were similarly amateurish.

A bowl of breadcrumb-topped celeriac, swede, crowdie and chilli gratin (£10), was served as a pile of sliced raw root vegetable, like mdf in a skip. There was hardly any of the billed crowdie or, in fact, anything wet to lubricate the crunchy carb. We gave up and, like miserable sheep, nibbled on the kale served on the side.

My parsley-sprinkled “naughty steak and dumpling stew” (£11.50) was more rustic than the indulgent title might suggest, though decent enough, with fatty nuggets of meat and a pair of burly palm-sized dumplings. Hearty.

The nieces had mini versions of the fish and chips (we were charged £6.50 for both portions, which seems like a bargain). Apart from the fact that the batter was undercooked and, thus, slimy inside, this was fine, with fresh cod, decent wedges on the side and ramekins of peas.

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You’d think, with the name of this place, you couldn’t go wrong with a chocolate bread and butter pudding (£5). Wrong. They’d added curdled cream, so it was repulsive.

On the other hand, the baked cheesecake and raspberry coulis (£5) was great, and the nieces devoured it like piranhas on a toe, before I could get much of a look in.

Honestly, though, this place needs to pull its socks up, because it’s got one of the best vantage points in town. At the moment, it’s wasted on badly executed grub, which yo-yos between decent and inedible.

Nobody asked us what was wrong with the things we couldn’t eat, but I hope they noticed the still full plates and made a vow to try a tiny bit harder.

Oh, and the swimming? I didn’t sink, because I’d hardly eaten anything. Silver linings for those who are scared of tubby manatees.

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The Bakers Arms

87-91 Henderson Street, Edinburgh

(0131-554 4444,

How much?

Lunch for four, excluding drinks, £57

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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