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No.8 Lister Square, Edinburgh, restaurant review

No. 8 Lister Square has an enjoyable, relaxed vibe and great food, finds Gaby Soutar

Published: June 13, 2015

Here I stand, head in hand, turn my face to the wall.

No, I’m not huffing after another rotter of a dining out experience, those are lyrics from The Beatles’ You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away.

A dude was strumming it on the acoustic guitar when I visited this place, which has picked up where Quartermile’s briefly resident restaurant Enzo left off.

It’s co-owned by Barrie Brown of 99 Hanover Street, 12 Picardy Place, Beer & Skittles, Steak on Stones and Steak Edinburgh. The latter’s head chef is Jason Wright, who’s also responsible for the menu here.

"We liked the sparkling salad of grapefruit segments and mango salsa with cucumber"

Upstairs for food, while pups are welcome downstairs, where it’s all about liquor, pool, live music and, on our visit, a bulldog that was reclining in concertinaed layers like a beached walrus. On both floors, they seem to be attempting a chillaxed vibe, which is tricky in such a stark building, but they’ve made a decent stab at it, with pea green armchairs and Persian rugs.

Food-wise, they’re calling themselves a gastropub, so there are the obligatory sausages with mash, haddock and chips, but also fancier stuff.

As someone who is hyper attuned to the possibilities of a bad meal coming my way, the design of the menu scared me a little, with its random caps, ampersands and typos.

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Thankfully, the blackened cured salmon (£6.95) was a nice surprise. Its ashen topping of toasted cajun spice was appealing, though slightly lacking in kick, and we liked the sparkling salad of grapefruit segments and mango salsa with cucumber and coriander, as well as dollops of crème fraîche. Summery.

Pups are allowed downstairs. Picture: Jane Barlow

Pups are allowed downstairs. Picture: Jane Barlow

Our smoked mackerel starter (£6.95) consisted of flaked fish served on a couple of three inch thick triangles of (slightly stale) toast, with a chunky wet tomato chutney on the side. I think they’d forgotten to add the basil oil. Overly chewy in parts, yet enjoyable.

I’m not sure what Bobo needs to wear a tie for, but, when not being facetious, we could guess that “Bobo tie” was the South African dish bobotie (£12.95). This was a mild version, not particularly jammy with the usual apricot ingredient, but savoury and homely, with bigger hunks of meat amongst the mince texture, and a thin topping of egg custard with an echo of brandy. It came with decent fat chips and a garlic-infused mayo.

My main course of roast pork belly (£13.95) featured two wheels of well cooked pork that were stuffed with a completely flavourless black pudding. This came with caramelised apples that were coated in honey – I’m a bit funny about pig and honey, as there’s just too much cloy with the fat and the sticky stuff, but you may be fine with that.

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Anyway, the other bits – super smooth creamed potatoes, brittle stamps of pancetta and a smudge of wholegrain mustard – were perfect.

Top tip: order the chocolate brownie (£6.95) and share between two people. It’s two puddings in one bowl. I don’t think they’ve noticed.
As well as large chunks of brownie, which are studded with sugary jewels in the form of almondy Dime-like bits, there was also a full-sized and Butterkist-tinged “popcorn panna cotta”, not to mention the large blob of salted caramel ice-cream. Sweeter than a Savoy truffle, as The Beatles might sing. The more grown up baked caramelised plum and almond crumble (£6.95) was pleasant too – not too sugary, with plenty of crimson fruit, and a jug of strong vanilla flecked-amaretto cream on the side.

I hope this place lasts longer than Enzo did. The food is of a similar standard (though its former incarnation was of the fine dining persuasion – Bobo would really need to wear his tie), but perhaps the low-fi relaxed vibe will work in No 8 Lister Square’s favour.

I just wish I could remember what the balladeer was strumming on our way out. Love Me Do might’ve been too enthusiastic an endorsement. I Feel Fine seems more measured (though the bulldog had already put in a request for I Am the Walrus).

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Dinner for two, excluding drinks - £54.70



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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