Grand Cafe at The Scotsman could be great, if the service wasn't so slack, says Gaby Soutar

The newest inhabitants of this newspaper’s old office put a call out on Twitter, looking for stories about the building.

I’ve been at The Scotsman for 16 years, but missed a stint in the beautiful North Bridge behemoth, built in 1905, by six months.

Thus, I have no tales, so asked a colleague.

“There’s lots of stories, I just cannae tell most of them,“ was her response.

Others said there were repeated sightings of a ghost on the seventh and eighth floors.

Apparently, there was also a random man, supposedly a relative of the owners, who lived somewhere in the building and had his own key.

Some think he may have actually been a sub. Nobody really knows, maybe the two stories are related.

Though it’s tricky to soften the space, with its grand marble columns and walnut panels, they’ve managed to inject the feel of a fin de siecle Parisian cafe.

It should be a dressing-up sort of joint, so I was disappointed by the walking-booted, bum-bagged and visor-wearing clientele.

Still, they were probably residents, mainly doing brunch, since this place is an all day affair and they offer that alongside lunch, dinner, afternoon tea (courtesy of their pastry chef, Philippa Baker) and a bar menu.

Because the food list is so extensive, we weren’t holding out that much hope, though their Dundonian executive head chef is MasterChef: The Professionals finalist, Chris Niven. This telly programme’s other alumni includes Scotland’s National Chef, Gary Maclean – he’s done alright.

The three of us (once we’d been reunited after being taken to different tables) shared two starters.

The crispy pork belly rillette (£7.45) was a brick of foxy coloured breadcrumbed shredded meat, alongside an artful looking scattering of accoutrements.

Perhaps these additional bits were too subtle (and wee) for the burly block of protein, but they were rather lovely, with rhubarb puree, blocks of apple jelly and ribbons of apple skin.

The torched mackerel (£7.45) was good too, with a piece of well seasoned crispy skinned fish, as black as typewriter ink and presented alongside another still life in pastels, this time with cucumber cubes, dill, and horseradish blobs.

We were enjoying the grub, but, as was the problem with its former incarnation, the North Bridge Brasserie, the service is friendly, but a bit confused.

You can wait a long time before your plates are cleared, while staff look slightly lost and distract themselves with other stuff. I think I dealt with five different people on my visit. My sister used to be a waitress, and piled the plates up as a “hint”. Cringe, but needs must.

Eventually we got our mains. And, again, hooray.

My sea trout (£14.95) had a crunchy roof, and the block of rosti potato tasted appropriately lardy. There was a kind of pink beetroot-y yogurt, beads of beetroot, some herby oil and garden snippets or sorrel. No pouts with this trout.

This Chris dude is evidently clever with fish, as our baked Peterhead hake (£15.95) was another velvety hunk, with a splash of seaweed butter, broccoli, sweet clams that had been popped out of their shells, samphire and Ratte potato tiles, like the beer mats in the nearby Jinglin’ Geordie.

Our roasted lamb rump (£17.95) was a little overdone, but all was forgiven since it was slopped in the most intensely meaty jus, and loads of work had gone into all the accessories, like the cloves of smooth centred confit garlic, celeriac puree and wild mushrooms.

There must be a team of Oompa Loompas in that kitchen. Not so much on the restaurant floor. We waited another stretch for the steamed marmalade sponge (£5.95), though it was worth it, since it was heaped in a sticky whisky butterscotch sauce, with an orange sorbet on the side. Paddington, all grown up.

We asked for the bill, oh, three times, and eventually managed to procure the card machine.

I am pretty impressed with the food and interior here. So, apart from The Scotsman’s old ghost/sub/resident, the only thing haunting this fancy new caff is the service.

Grand Café at The Scotsman

20 North Bridge, Edinburgh

(0131-622 2999,  www.grandcafeedinburgh.co.uk)

 

 

 

Grand Café at The Scotsman, Edinburgh, restaurant review
Food80%
Ambience60%
70%Overall Score
Reader Rating: (5 Votes)
51%

About The Author

Gaby Soutar

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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