Lizards can be as cute as kittens. Just search YouTube for “chameleon likes popping bubbles,” and you will see the evidence.
Despite this, they are pretty unconventional beasts, with that insect-grabbing tongue, 360 degree vision and, of course, their ability to change colour to suit their surroundings.
That’s the skill this new restaurant, from the team behind Seasons on Broughton Street, is hoping to emulate. They’ll adapt to their New Town neighbourhood by encouraging diners to suggest menu tweaks, cocktail recipes or new dishes for their tapas-style menu.
On our visit, we witnessed this ethos in action.
“Halloumi chip Jenga please, my man!” said a diner, obviously a regular, who was swiftly presented with an extra large stack of cheesy blocks.
Obviously, booze was more his focus, as I don’t think he ordered anything else edible.
No wonder, as there’s a very good, and similarly evolving, drinks list.
I loved their cocktails – the heady Downtown Drammin’ (£7.50) with Buffalo Trace Bourbon, sweet vermouth and cherry bitters, and the bright Stand and Deliver (£7.50) with Broker’s Gin, sweet vermouth, peach, grapefruit and prosecco. I was as merry as a chameleon popping bubbles.
Food comes as it’s ready.
Our fishy choices arrived in a wave, with hake, prawn and mackerel options. Sadly, they were all notable for their lack of flavour.
We couldn’t detect any of the “chilli, lemon and garlic” with the tepid prawns (£9.50), some of which had armour intact, while others were nude. It was a bare protein fest.
Though it looked like something out of a Nordic cookbook, our mackerel (£7) was equally understated. There were two small tiles of crispy skinned fish served on a salad of shredded fennel and orange segments.
We spotted a tiny dusting of paprika, but not enough to give it any chutzpah.
While, the ceviche hake (£7) option featured a wet mixture of chopped white fish mixed with clean-tasting partners of crème fraîche, capers, cucumber ribbons, radish and chives, served on two small slices of sourdough. Fine, but we weren’t exactly fighting over it.
At this point, they dimmed the lights, which seemed apt as our other senses felt like they too were fading.
The lamb (£10.50) featured chewy dark meat as atrophied as the sole of a vintage brogue, on top of a pile of red pepper and yogurt spotted couscous. It was accessorised by two fibrous-as-damp-wood lamb bonbons.
Our cassette-sized piece of pork schnitzel (£8.50) went down a little better. At least there was a bit of black pepper in the crumb, and moisture was provided by a splotch of herby mayo and cabbage-based-coleslaw.
However, like the other red meat option, it felt a bit like a gussied-up version of leftovers.
We had to remind them we’d ordered the beef (£11), but better late than never, as it was decent. There were five thin slivers of rare steak, a moss green bank of chimichurri, three blistered tomatoes and the billed “potatoes”, which turned out to be three game chips. One each, woo!
Of course, we had to try the halloumi fries (£6.50), with four Ruskoline-coloured fingers of cheese and the unusual combination of a tangy hoisin and yogurt drizzle. Nice enough, though I wouldn’t want a whole Jenga.
I liked the mini meringues and blueberries adorning our white chocolate mousse (£5.50), though the main element wasn’t aerated and more like whipped cream.
The salted toffee ice-cream (£5.50), which came with a cube of nicely spiced carrot cake and some red vein sorrel, was a challenge, since there was barely any sugar in it. It tasted like the solution I use to clean my contact lenses. “Disgusting,” said my dining partner, though I persevered, since it was intriguing if nothing else.
Still, sadly, I do not comprehend.
The food here looks gorgeous, reads so well on the menu, yet lacks any kind of soul.
Let’s hope that this adaptable Chameleon doesn’t blend in so much that it vanishes.
48 Howe Street, Edinburgh (07904 153493)