You’ll find a cauldron of bats and a prudence of vicars in this new venue’s radius.
I’m thinking of ecclesiastical collective nouns, since there’s a congregation of four churches on Edinburgh’s Holy Corner (though one has been an Eric Liddell Centre since 1980).
Thus, there’s also an audacity of gargoyles, gurning down at this place, formerly a Bank of Scotland.
(If I had a pound for every time I’ve been to a restaurant or hotel that used to be a bank, my piggy would be set for smashing).
This one, named after Lord Provost of Edinburgh and politician Duncan McLaren (1800-1886), has two restaurants, The Bar and The Parlour & Tellers’ Room, a private dining room called The Loft, and about half a dozen menus.
It’s owned by the Signature Pub Group, who also have 14 other style bars in Edinburgh, from Copper Blossom to The Huxley, as well as four in Glasgow, three in Aberdeen, one in St Andrews and another in Stirling.
As with the other gaffs, it’s all about the look. To complete the “home from home” theme, The Bar features a horseshoe-shaped velvety banquette, beside a picture of a country gent with the head of a chihuahua. Just like my own lounge.
From the evening section of the Ground Floor Bar Menu, we went for the Let’s Taco ‘Bout Scallops (£8), which I think may be a tenuous Salt ‘n’ Pepa pun. Served on a ceramic taco holder, this consisted of three soft flour tortillas filled with a chopped seafood ceviche, a green chilli dotted tomato salsa and some avocado.
We also had four roast butternut squash ravioli (£7.50) in a pool of melted brown butter. The pasta was decent, but I’m not sure if the quarters of pickled mushroom were the right contrast to the general puddingy sweetness.
Devilled usually means spicy, but there was none of that with the devilled duck eggs (£8.50). Maybe that’s because Beelzebub has been exorcised from Holy Corner, though I’m sure I was standing behind him recently in the Luca’s queue. (He ordered ten scoops of Toffee Fudgy Wudgy and a Flake). Anyway, these egg halves looked pretty gross, with the yolks, mixed with crab meat, piped on and piled high, like rockabilly quiffs. Tasted OK though.
My main course was “McLaren’s pie of the day” (£15), which came with chopped spring onion-sprinkled mash. It’s disappointing when a pie doesn’t have an undercarriage and this one consisted of a flaky pastry lid attached to the ceramic dish, with a lamb chunk and gravy filling that only came half way up, so there was an empty roof cavity.
Also, way too many peas, which made me as irritable as a Hans Christian Andersen princess.
Our best dish was probably the fancy take on bacon, egg and chips (£15), with a neat bracket of chop topped by a fried duck egg and teamed with dods of apple jam and some gravy in a little copper pot.
We weren’t quite so keen on the tandoori chicken (£14). It featured a tiffin tin full of chicken legs that were slightly over charred, and we were confused by the portion of cold lime and coriander quinoa.
There was also a rich and salty lukewarm black lentil dahl and a couple of pads of naan bread, which was a bit like chewing on a tea cosy.
Just point at it, if you’re too prudish to openly ask for a dessert called porn star Alaska (£8). (I wouldn’t think that would be a sensible profession there anyway. Extremities are prone to hypothermia). This was slathered in Italian meringue, and the harrassed-looking waiter told us they’d done a health and safety assessment, before pouring a shot of Absolut Vanilla on top and blowtorching the lot. Hoorah, we survived.
It was probably our favourite course, with a central reservation of pineapple salsa, and so was the sticky banana pudding (£6.50), thanks to mahogany-coloured salted caramel sauce and rum and raisin ice-cream.
A nice ending to a fairly ordinary meal. However, if you’ve got a prudence of vicars to take out on the randan, you could definitely do worse.