In JG Ballard’s sci-fi book, High-Rise, the toffs live towards the top of the eponymous building, working classes and poverty stricken towards the bottom.
Time to ‘fess up, I haven’t read it, though I did see the recent film adaptation starring Tom Hiddleston.
"The paper was ripped off to reveal pumped, protein-shake drinking sweet scallops"
It sprung to mind when I visited this new place, just above Spanish eatery Café Andaluz and owned by the same people. Essentially, it’s a first class lounge version of them downstairs.
While the pavement-level restaurant is clattery and lively with people-pleasing pile-’em-high tapas, its better half, Cadiz, has gone for an upmarket seafood bar feel.
There’s a pared-back menu, fishy artwork (including monochrome photographs of the spume-wizened faces of fishermen), white marble tables and shiny shiny glassware.
It has its own entrance, so the only thing shared is the conveniences.
To some extent, I suppose, one must fraternise with the guttersnipes.
You also pay the premium to have a top deck view of a boring bit of George Street (specifically, Hollister and The East India Tea Company), though Cadiz is offering a set price lunch/pre-theatre menu at £19.95 for two courses, £23.95 for three.
We stuck to the à la carte, and went for shellfish bisque (£8), which could have been more consistently heated if they’d stirred it, but was suitably saffron scented, fishily rich and rust coloured, with a side of aioli and a couple of palm-sized crispy croutons.
Our set of three salmon croquettes (£8) were decent too. They were pasty, yellow, lemon and garlicky inside, with a russet crumb coating, and each was fastened to the plate with a dollop of pulverised avocado, and topped with a thatch of crispy fried leeks.
We’d both gone for suitably seafood-y mains. My monkfish and scallops (£21) had been cooked in a lantern of pale brown paper, which was ripped off to reveal fat treasures – pumped, protein-shake drinking sweet scallops, with their creamy foot-shaped corals left on, and some less interesting dollops of monkfish.
They’d been cooked in the Chinese style holy trinity of soy sauce, ginger and spring onion. Simple and good, though you’ll probably need a side dish, and I would’ve liked to have known a little more about the provenance of the catches.
Same goes for the half lobster (£24), cleaved perfectly in two like the subjects in Damien Hirst’s Mother and Child, Divided.
It was served cold (or you can have it hot for the same price, with garlic butter and skinny fries) and came with a pot of slick smoked paprika aioli and a rather boring “Cadiz house salad” of red chard, tomatoes, cucumber and peppers. They also chucked in a free pot of skinny fries (usually £4), either because we were their kind of clientele, or, more likely, since we are easily identifiable as chip lovers.
The crema Catalana (£5.95) here is “caramelised at the table”, which means it arrives theatrically on fire, with eyelash-licking flames that were around six inches high.
Once you’ve been fireman’s lift-ed out of the building and they’ve done an inspection and declared it safe to return, the flames have burnt out and there’s a good crispy lid on your dish of slick custard. Nice. Our other dessert – a huge slice of praline cheesecake (£5.75) – had a buttery- textured topping, a biscuit base and a sail of peanut brittle, with a splash of salted caramel sauce on the side.
We were also sugared up to the max by the gratis chocolate rum truffles that arrive with coffees (£2.15 for a double espresso).
Yes, so, this place is very George Street.
It satisfies all the requirements of those who come to this thoroughfare to people watch, feel a bit glam, shop at Hollister, eat indulgent (but not necessarily that exciting or memorable) food, and drink cocktails or champers.
Apart from having to share the toilets with the proles, I can’t say I didn’t enjoy it.
Lunch for two, excluding drinks, £72.70
77b George Street, Edinburgh
(0131-226 3000, www.cadizedinburgh.co.uk)