Faux flowers have fairly come on, haven’t they?
I used to work in a shop that sold them, and they were easily distinguishable from the real thing, what with the frayed polyester petals and plastic blobs that joined the leaves to the stem.
This new restaurant, bar and hotel, has three actual-sized olive trees, each separating a booth.
Though they look authentic, down to every nick in the bark, they’re not real, nor is the mock wisteria that overhangs the entrance, with purple flowers that needn’t ever fret about pollination or photosynthesis.
Apparently, in feng shui, fake plants represent dead energy. Harsh. Still, they look dramatic, along with the marble tables, chandeliers and fancy flooring by the bar, which is underlaid with US nickels.
It’s safe to say that they’ve spent big dollars on the interior of this place, formerly hotel and bar The Links.
According to them, the menu is inspired by “local luxury”, whatever that means (maybe doing a roly-poly on Bruntsfield Links while wearing cashmere), though that seems to translate as offerings that sound surprising MOR.
With little else to inspire us, we went for the sriracha king prawn cocktail (£7.45), the bang bang chicken skewers (£6.25) and the chicken liver parfait (£5.95).
The best of the three was probably the scoop of light parfait, which came with three palm-sized super crunchy crostini, rocket salad and a sweet tomato chutney.
Our prawn cocktail, served in a martini class, was a fail, since “our take on a classic” turned out to be three average-sized crustaceans (that’s £2.48 each) in a cayenne pepper-ish Marie Rose, with a pile of chopped iceberg underneath and another couple of crostini on the side. Oh come on.
While, the chicken, which was supposed to be “marinated with peanut, chilli and lime”, consisted of plain clods of chook, threaded onto wooden skewers and doused in a boring sweet chilli sauce.
There was no local luxury to be found with the mains either.
I’d gone for the steak and ale pie (£11.95) – a hugely over peppered pile of beef in thick gravy with a disc of puff pastry on the top.
Ordinary, like something you’d get in a pub chain, though with a decent stack of buttery mange tout, broccoli and peas on the side, and some soggy chips.
Although the skillet mac and cheese (£9.95), which came with a pastry cheese straw and a nest of rocket salad, was supposed to be made with a combination of smoked applewood, Scottish cheddar and mozzarella, it was insipidly milky tasting and anaemic looking, without any robust mouse-baiting fromageyness.
However, the worst of our three mains was probably the chargrilled chicken burger (£10.95), which came with chips and a ramekin of tomato chutney. The meat had a flaccid rubbery texture and was rattling around, along with a few bits of “smashed avocado” and a baby gem leaf, in a dry pretzel bun.
Puddings were equally lame.
We tried the special of salted caramel cheesecake (£5.50) but maybe a biscuit base was too much like hard work, as they’d slopped a sweet pie crust with frothy mascarpone, topped it with halved strawberries and splurge gunned the lot with salted caramel sauce.
The cinnamon doughnuts option (£5.50), featured five dry scrunchie-sized hoops of fried dough, a scoop of crunchy peanut butter injected ice-cream and dollops of strawberry jelly.
If the waiting staff had been making poodles out of balloons, I would have sworn I was at a kids’ party.
I’m not sure who this place is being pitched at.
This year, Tom Kitchin is opening a branch in Bruntsfield, as is Chop House, and there are already loads of well-loved and affordable stalwarts, like Cafe Grande, Three Birds, Left Field and Bia Bistrot.
With so much competition – even if their branding is slick, the interior Instagrammable and the cocktails decent – the food shouldn’t be an afterthought.
Either they lost their mojo after embedding all those coins in the floor, or there is something to that feng shui thing.