The Auld Alliance is strong in culinary Edinburgh. Pierre Victoire was a much-loved marque until troubled times were visited upon entrepreneur Pierre Levicky. Café Marlayne’s twin enterprises on Thistle Street and Antigua Street are always busy.
"The Baba au Rhum, raisin secs & crème Chantilly was a hit, mainly due to the rum. After all who doesn’t love a boozy pud at the end of a leisurely lunch?"
And this month the Scottish Food & Drink Excellence Awards named Fred Berkmiller of L’Escargot Bleu as its Scotsman-sponsored Food Pioneer of the Year for his work to bring Barra snails to the attention of the mainland, among many other achievements.
Another Scots-Franco success is located in the city’s west end as part of the dining offer at The Caledonian, with the Galvin Brasserie de Luxe our destination for a cheeky Friday lunch.
The Galvins behind this enterprise are brothers Chris and Jeff, both associated with Michelin stars, who earned their plaudits individually, and then teamed up to launch their own series of restaurants. I hesitate to use the word “chain” as Pizza Express they are not, but along with Galvin Brasserie de Luxe and The Pompadour by Galvin in Edinburgh there is Galvin Bistrot de Luxe, Galvin at Windows, Galvin La Chapelle and Galvin HOP, plus Galvin Demoiselle in Harrods.
So have they cracked the brasserie formula? It certainly feels that way when you step through the doors into this chic, white-tiled space and are met by a smiling, black-aproned member of staff, who whisks your coat to the cloakroom and briskly ushers you to a round table near the bar, although cosy booths are also available. I feel like I’m in Paris already.
The menu only serves to reinforce that sense of Gallic charm. Brasserie classics like duck cassoulet and steak tartare sit next to fish and options from the grill.
Mum had Berwick crab mayonnaise & toasted granary bread (£10.50) for her starter which she described as being well presented, but found the mayonnaise to overpower the flavour of the crab. Dad, who was not entirely on board with the brasserie vibe, distrusting any restaurant which doesn’t put its chip offer front and centre, had traditional haggis, crushed swede & carrot (£7.50) to start. He said it was a well balanced portion and tasted really good.
I couldn’t see past the theatrical crustacean showcase which forms part of the large, central bar in this space, so opted for half a dozen Cumbrae oysters and shallot vinegar (£15.50) which I enjoyed, though they were missing their traditional side-kick half lemon which I really should have asked for.
For mains it was mum’s turn to plunder the oceans with a choice of fillet of sea bream, braised fennel & Gordal olives (£17.50). She found the fish to be well cooked and she loved the bream and fennel flavour combination.
Dad relaxed when he saw he could have fries as a side order (£3.75) to go with the beef burger (£12) which was served with Virginia bacon, tomato & pickled cucumber. He was happy. Even the exotic toppings went down well.
I was back at that bar again, selecting the simply titled grilled langoustines & garlic butter (£19) for the perfect summer brasserie choice (as long as you are not wearing anything that might be ruined by the odd splash of mayo, butter or both). The shells were soon piling up satisfactorily.
The menu didn’t reveal their provenance, unfortunately, although many other dishes get a credit.
We shared two puddings from a very tempting list. The Baba au Rhum, raisin secs & crème Chantilly (£7) was a hit, mainly due to the rum. After all who doesn’t love a boozy pud at the end of a leisurely lunch? The sponge was light and very moist which made it even easier to polish off.
Our second dessert, a vanilla cheesecake with a buttery biscuit base and a lime jelly topping, seems to be absent from the menu currently, but I do hope they bring it back as the lush vanilla of the cheesecake worked beautifully with the tart lime topping. We kind of clashed spoons on that one.
Opened in the autumn of 2012, Galvin Brasserie de Luxe has become popular with a wide range of customers, from shoppers taking a break from Princes Street to escapees from the nearby financial district.
I can also thoroughly recommend the Sunday Lunch offer if you are pining for a roast dinner, although you could maybe save that for an autumn treat – not long now. You can enjoy slow-roasted brisket Scotch beef with all the trimmings including roasties and a Yorkshire pudding for £17.
However, not every Scot is in love with France at the moment. With events at Roland Garros still smarting, maybe don’t book a table for Andy Murray until he’s safely won Wimbledon again later this month.