This place is like me in any childhood PE class – always last to be picked.
(That may have been down to my resting unenthusiastic face, my flailing arms while running, my general runtiness, or the fact that I have a sort-of magnetic force in my head which makes footballs hit it).
Although it opened just before the festival last year, I skipped visiting Clark and Lake, since they serve mainly wine, cheese and charcuterie, without a lot of actual cooking going on. However, as it’s currently sleepy season in the capital as far as restaurant openings go, I’m mopping up the ones I originally deemed unsuitable. Not that I’m complaining. I do like a nice wine bar.
It’s in a premises that was formerly US-style eatery Frontier. They’ve exorcised the fried chicken smell, and brightened it up with a lick of paint. The long space does look fresher and bigger, though slightly spare, with Noughties tunes on the stereo.
It was also a little chilly, though maybe that’s just because my trousers had wicked water from the wet Tollcross pavement.
Still, nothing can warm the contents of one’s flares more than raclette (£8). We went for a helping of this cheese, melted in an inch-thick and bouncy pale yellow lava over an Alpine range of sautéed potatoes, with dinky cornichons, pickled onions and a rocket nest on the side.
It made us yodel with joy. The hills were alive. Apparently they have a fancy Swiss imported machine here. I would like to lie underneath it and press the red Extreme Melt button.
We had more of the stuff, though with a slightly stronger feral twinge, over the herby and loose meatballs in a baguette-like sandwich (£7), along with a piquant marinara sauce. I guess this was the grown-up version of one of those Subway subs, but the opposite of revolting.
We’d also gone for a couple of deep fried nibbly bits including a bowlful of salty fried olives (£5), which were stuffed with anchovy and had a great Panko-ish crumbly armour. Street food for the likes of folk who live on, say, Northumberland or Ann Street.
Best hot, so eat fast. Same goes for the cauliflower frittelle, with a russet-coloured cayenne-pepper-infused batter that clad beefy chunks of veg and a punchy aioli on the side.
With all this lardy deep-fried stuff, I was thankful for my glass of the acidic and cleansing sink and plughole unblocker that was a 125ml (£5.40) glass of albariño Lagar de Bouza, Galicia Spain, 2016. Like the other wines, it’s also available as a 175ml glass, a 500ml carafe or by the bottle.
This vino also went well with their roughly textured smoked mackerel pâté with toast (£6), though this soon-to-be neglected offering felt a bit weekday packed lunch-ish compared to all the deep fried and cheesy treats.
The last of our savouries was a British board (£16). A shame there was nothing Scottish on here, but it was a good selection nonetheless.
The Keen’s cheddar was robust and tingly, and there was a wedge of milkily rich Baron Bigood brie, both of which went really well with a Kilner-jar full of gummy apricot-ish chutney. Vehicles were provided courtesy of a couple of slices of OK bread, mini oatcakes and some water biscuits. Meat-wise, there were fine feathery petals of Moons Green rosemary and garlic salami, and some mild Cornish chorizo. Good ploughman-pleasing assemblage.
If you want a sugary ending there are truffles (£5), or they offer ice-cream from the Chocolate Tree – a cafe up the road at Bruntsfield Place, where they serve the only hot chocolate I’ve ever had that’s measured up to Narnian fantasies, without any Mr Tumnus shenanigans.
The triple scoop helping of dairy-free chocolate sorbet (£5) was an intense cocoa hit, and we’d also gone for a helping of the smooth coconut ice-cream (£5), which was riddled with bits of the desiccated stuff.
Lovely casual grub, especially that raclette and those meatballs. Although I understand why nobody picked me for any kind of sports team back in the day, perhaps this place should have been a little higher up my list. n
8 Gillespie Place, Edinburgh (0131-281 6021, www.clarkandlake.co.uk)