Scotsman Review
Our criteria 
  • Ambience - It's important that a restaurant is inviting. We rate the decor, comfort and atmosphere.
  • Drink - Is the wine or cocktail list as exciting as the food, or does it fall short? Same goes for soft drinks. 
  • Food - We judge dishes on flavour, but also use of produce, cooking skill and presentation
  • Service - The staff and pace of a meal can make or break a meal out.
  • Value - From the food on the plate to service and surroundings, we check that you get what you're paying for.
February 18, 2019

Lady Libertine, Edinburgh, restaurant review

The food isn't quite as colourful as the cocktails at the super cool Lady Libertine, says Gaby Soutar

You know the dream that involves finding undiscovered rooms in your house?

Apparently it’s as common as the losing teeth, stuck in mud or going-to-work naked ones.

This building – the former Bank of Scotland HQ on St Andrew Square – reminds me of that. It’s the size of a gazillion plastic piggy banks placed snout to tail, a mosaic of as many overdraft letters, or twice that amount of clear plastic change bags.

You imagine that one day they’ll discover a bank clerk who got lost on their way to the toilets back in 1973.

I’ve already been to their upstairs bar and eatery The Register Club, the steakhouse, Hawksmoor, and had a tour of the Edinburgh Grand hotel’s penthouse suite on the top floor.

I thought it must be at capacity, but there’s a new resident – this bar, presumably named after the erotic Seventies film of the same name. (We’re lucky, I suppose, it’s not called Emmanuelle).

It’s from the people behind the Edinburgh empire that is The Bon Vivant, The Bon Vivant’s Companion on Thistle Street, the pair of El Cartel Mexican eateries, and the fancy old town hangout, The Devil’s Advocate.

This time they’ve created a venue for party kids (they have DJs and whatnot) who are probably too cool for George Street but want something ritzier than The Voodoo Rooms.

Upstairs, with its checkerboard floor, you can have drinks, eat lighter mezze or split up with your other half (happening to someone on our visit). While, in the basement, there’s the old bank vault, and a list of still casual, but more substantial, grub.

Diners sit in this trendy bunker, under a mezzanine level, with Nineties hip-hop playing.

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We were told by the prudent waiter to order one and a half things each, so, ever the rebels, we went for five.

From our selection of squishy and brown stuff, item number one was chicken wings (£10). This set of seven had wings clamped shut, as if their oxters were cold.

They were also a little dessicated and the billed za’atar was missing, but the stuff on top – Jerusalem spice and a coriander-y Yemeni hot sauce both made for a good herbal heat, like a Radox bath.

Their hummus (£6) was nice too – smooth and very garlicky, with a topping that consisted of scrapings of fried lamb, toasted pine nuts, Zebedee-like springs of crispy onion and parsley. There is also a version with rose harissa and dukkha (£5).

There was a huge gratis plateful of salty and seedy chips on the side to dig into this mixture, as well as our aubergine (£6) – another earthy looking compost-textured combo, but with grilled aubergine, baba ganoush, a creamy basil sauce, pomegranate seeds and nuts.

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We also had two main-course sized things from the Mezze and Flatbreads section. Our favourite was the lamb shawarma (£8), which consisted of a saucer sized soft flatbread.

It was heaped high (not the sort of thing you can pick up and eat with your hands) with a smear of garlic yogurt, and lots of other interesting nibs and treasures, like more lamb shreds, red pickled onion hoops, beetroot-cured turnip and white cabbage.

The pork souvlaki gyros (£8) was a similar bread bottomed creation, but with fatty nibs of pork belly, a garlicky tomato sauce, pickled gherkins, and a handful of feta crumbs over the top.

Everything was big on flavour, though maybe lacking individual definition. Still, it’s dark in here.

As far as pudding goes, the waiter told us that they’re still in development, so round things off with a cocktail. I savoured my Mrs Evans (£9.50), whoever she may be.

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I didn’t want to Google her at work, in case she was a retro erotic film icon.

Although it was a pinky coral colour, with a decorative pickled melon ball on a stick, this mixture was an interestingly dry and non sweet combination of Star of Bombay Gin, Cap Corse Blanc, cantaloupe melon, citrus, organic honey and crémant de bourgogne. It was a good dessert alternative, and obviously drinkie-poos are their forte.

I suppose that, when it comes to drawing out long lost bank clerks, Lady Libertine’s cocktails and music will do the job.

Lady Libertine Edinburgh

25 West Register Street, Edinburgh

(0131-322 1020,

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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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