If there’s any Edinburgh street that’s the opposite of a fantasy Montmartre boulevard, it’s Morrison Street. Fancy boutiques? Non. Chi-chi cafes? Non really. Dusty tenements and slightly dodgy shops? Mais oui. Actually, I’m being a bit mean. Some good things have happened to lift this rue’s reputation in recent times.
Perhaps it was the £25 million revamp of Haymarket Station that prompted it, but now, as well as long term favourites Chop Chop and Milk, there are additions including the excellent Atelier restaurant, cheesecake purveyors Mallow Valley, Greek eatery Ola Kala, The Jolly Botanist bar and Mumbai Mansion. It’s certainly a step up from the old days of Bratissani’s chipper and The Spider’s Web pub.
Now there’s another opening – Brasserie Les Amis, named after the French word for friends, as opposed to the author of London Fields – which made every dog look like a poodle to me and the theme tune from Amelie play in my head.
Owned by father and daughter duo Peter and Alison McGrail, it’s housed in the former Murray’s Tool Store, and offers breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Apart from the fact you have to be as skinny as a squashed gitane to squeeze between the white linen clad tables, they’ve done a great job of the interior refit, with white tiles, a smart dark wood room divider, buttery yellow banquettes and jazz (Yusef Lateef) playing on the stereo.
The Table D’Hote menu is a good-value two courses for £19.95 and three for £24.95, and they chuck in around six slices of satisfyingly chewy sourdough to kick off the degustation. I wouldn’t normally go for the soup, but the cream of butternut squash with fresh ginger and heather honey sounded like my bag. Sadly, this sunset-coloured summery broth was rather watery and reminded me of the medicinal immunity-boosting drink my other half makes when he feels a cold coming on. Still, it grew on me the further down the bowl I got and the more gingery the flavour became, and I enjoyed the pair of crescent-shaped cheesy sables that floated on top.
I challenge you to eat a whole slice of the ultra-rich chocolate ganache cake
Our forestiere terrine with duck liver was a simple starter made perfect. There was a block of pâté as smooth as mortar with a properly feral and mushroomy hit, as well as accompaniments of vibrantly tart rhubarb compote and crisp oatcakes. It was a great threesome – like the Minions, but less annoying.
I like unnecessary generosity and the post-starter palate cleansers of zingy strawberry sorbet seemed just that. Thanks guys.
The specials board main of grilled lamb cutlets was equally winning. There were three large pieces of meat, each of which were as pink and plump as Channing Tatum’s pecs. These came with a redcurrant-infused jus, a triangular portion of crispy and chewy topped potato gratin and loads of undergrowth green broccoli.
Our other option of corn-fed chicken supreme wasn’t quite as good, but more than decent, with a small-ish helping of crispy skinned chook, a (slightly lumpy) pomme purée, neatly brunoised vegetables, like Lego bricks of every colour, and a thick duvet of creamy nutmeg sauce, which was speckled like a brown egg.
Puddings are well rendered classics. I challenge you to eat a whole slice of their fantastic, ultra-rich cocoa-dusted chocolate ganache cake, which comes with Chantilly cream and raspberries. Our slice had to be taken home, then consumed with the help of tea on three separate sittings. The French apple tart, with neat armadillo-style layers of pomme, was a thin tile of sweetness that was cinnamony and sticky in all the right places.
So, if anywhere is going to add a little je ne sais quoi to Morrison Street, it’s this brasserie. Maybe it was the glass of wine I’d had or the rain glittering off its glass roof, but, when we left, I’m sure I saw the Edinburgh International Conference Centre sparkle like la Tour Eiffel.
Dinner for two, excluding drinks