In my head I have the food equivalent of taxi drivers’ The Knowledge.
Restaurants are my landmarks, and cafes are my wayposts. Say a street name, and I have no clue. Tell me what eatery is on that thoroughfare, and, voila, I can plan my journey (and have lots of options if I need to stop for a snack along the way).
I calculated that this place was off the main road where you’ll find L’Escargot Blanc, beside Le Di-Vin and opposite Indigo Yard.
But how come Harry's Bar & Grill has never made it to my internal topography? It became clear when we got there. It’s secreted down a narrow basement on Randolph Place, with only a little sign to indicate its presence.
“I’m not going in there!” I said to my other half. From our angle, it looked like someone’s house.
But then, you get down the stairs and there’s this warren of a space.
It’s recently undergone a £375k makeover, but I can’t comment on the after, as I didn’t see the before. The Shilling Group, who also own six other Edinburgh gastropubs, including Sligh House, Cross & Corner and The Fountain, obviously splurge on interiors. This place is no exception. It looks classy and warm, with a burnished palette including a wall of copper artworks, as well as a raised dining area with banquettes.
Everything on the perfectly designed menu sounded so tempting.
I mean, hello, charred fillet of Angus beef, fired chicory & iberico fat (£8). Come to mumma.
Quelle disappointment. I do not want to be this dish’s mummy, or even its friend. On a board was a piece of beef, tightly screwed up like an angry fist, and a few salad leaves. No chicory and nada special flavour to the beef that might suggest that it had been cooked in iberico fat, if that had ever been the plan. Fine, edible, but not what was listed on the menu.
Our other starter – Tamworth pork belly, white onion purée, charred radicchio, jus (£8) – was also a bit of a fail.
The cubes of barely lukewarm pork looked pretty enough, but had a strange texture – the crackling was like pencil eraser, and the meat was oddly dehydrated, as if it had been served to a pack of leeches earlier, who’d feasted on it by sooking out all the goodness.
It came with a couple of blobs of lumpy white purée, a swirl of balsamic syrup and no radicchio.
When it came to my main of pot-roast burnt spring chicken (£14), I wish someone had told me it needed a side.
These were over the page, and this protein’s accompaniments of “braised fennel, blood orange dressing” amounted to a delicious, but so very tiny, bit of fennel, three segments of orange and a handful of leaves. The chicken itself was fine – squishy and wet, with bubbly skin.
Due to lack of carbs, I pinched the new potatoes that had come with my partner’s spring lamb (£16). I didn’t really want to steal the meat because, like the beef, it hadn’t been rested and, thus, chewing it was like masticating a runner’s leg while he was suffering from terrible cramp.
It came with a rather mean flourish of good smoked aubergine purée and one of harissa.
So far, there was a sense of the kitchen having run out of stuff. It’s infuriating not to be told about missing ingredients, as if you wouldn’t notice when you’ve been hungrily studying the menu like a final year exam paper.
Still, everything was present and correct when it came to the flourless chocolate cake (£5), which was a chunky tile of light cake, doused in chocolate sauce and topped by a couple of raspberries and a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream.
My toffee panna cotta (£5) was kind of amusing, as the mixture, though pleasant, filled only a sixth of the glass it was served in. (They’re lucky I’m a glass sixth full kind of girl). It was topped with a teaspoonful full of coffee granita and there was some house shortcake on the side.
On our visit, we were the only diners there, and there was a sense of us having visited at the wrong time.
Maybe people don’t usually order from the a la carte on the Sunday?
Anyway, this place is certainly not the worst restaurant in the area, but the food reads a lot better than it eats.
I shall use Harry’s as a landmark, but I don’t think it’ll be my destination.