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The Caley Sample Room, Edinburgh, Restaurant Review

Popular gastropub The Caley Sample Room has lost its mojo, says Gaby Soutar

Published: December 1, 2016

They’ve gone and painted it bright blue!” said a neighbour, when we heard that someone had taken over The Caley Sample Room.

This is our local, and has always been dependable when it comes to being everyone-friendly (it welcomes families, and dogs, sports fans, foodies and those who take craft beer seriously).

It’s a useful business in an area that mainly features the esoteric. What we do have in EH11? Auld Reekie Chimney Sweep, a trophy and medal shop, a vacuum cleaner mender and a funeral parlour – all places that you might only need to visit once in a lifetime (or only slightly beyond).

Anyway, turns out that the cobalt was just an undercoat, and the new owners, who also have Tollcross bar, Moriarty, haven’t painted the building the colour of Papa Smurf. Cease curtain twitching. Deep breath. Calm falls over Shandon/Fountainbridge/Gorgie.

It’s not THAT different inside either, though cooler and brighter, with more booth seating.
There’s still a chalked up menu of specials on the blackboard. However, the options scribbled in white are not quite as appealing as they used to be and most of it, said the waiter, was off, or just available in the evening.

It’s a shame there isn’t a blackboard eraser shop round these parts.
Still, since I’m a sucker for a rollmop, we started with the cured fish board to share (£13.50).
It was presented as a chopping board topped with five small white ramekins, of the sort that my mum used to eat potted hough out of.

Apart from one stuffed with yellow pickled onions and mini gherkins, this was an anaemic looking presentation, broken down here.

Beige # one: smoked mackerel pâté, which was claggy and had a bit of cling film in it.

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Beige # two: potato and fennel salad, with unwieldy lumps of potato and gluey mayo, no obvious fennel.

Beige # three: normal rollmops (nice, if unremarkable).

Beige # four: sweet cured rollmops. Ditto (see above).

Beige # five: slices of cold ciabatta.

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Still, there was also a generous helping of OK smoked salmon. No lemon though.
Next, I went for the pan-fried seabass (£13.75), which consisted of two well-cooked fillets of fish on top of a pile of sautéed new potatoes, plus spinach and asparagus spears. The essential ingredients were fine, but the “caper butter” seemed to be unadulterated melted butter and nothing appeared to be seasoned.

Our shin of beef pie (£11.50) should’ve been the perfect winter pub grub dish. With a rectangle of puff pastry on top, the tomatoey sauce was comparatively low on soft chunks of beef, but very high in carrot content. Fine, if you take your pack of guinea pigs to the pub with you and like to feed them scraps under the table. It came with the accompaniment of naked broccoli and cauliflower florets, and yet more carrots.

Our third dish was the halloumi and portobello mushroom burger (£10.50), consisting of a shiny bun containing a few squares of halloumi, tomato, raw spinach, red onions and mushroom bits. It came with a handful of skinny fries and some of that coleslaw where the springiness of the cabbage and carrot have been overwhelmed by a mayonnaise with the texture of cheap sun lotion.

When it comes to pudding, you can’t really go wrong with crumble. Or can you? A pear and blackberry version (£5.50) was inedible, thanks to something in the crumble topping – nut shells maybe? Whatever it was couldn’t be chewed and was a bit like sawdust from the bottom of  the aforementioned guinea pigs’ hutch.

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The dark chocolate orange torte (£5.50) was, hooray, decent, with a thick rich topping, a good pastry and a blob of vanilla ice-cream. Not great overall though. The food here used to have flair, but now it seems to be made with the bare minimum of enthusiasm.

I’ll still visit the Caley for the booze and the quiz, but, otherwise, I don’t think the grub will ever warrant a visit to next door’s trophy shop.

The Caley Sample Room

42-58 Angle Park Terrace, Edinburgh

(0131-337 7204,

How much?

Lunch for three, excluding drinks, £60.25

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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