In the city, when the leaves are slippery on the pavement, it’s easy to forget the nice things about autumn.
Not so when you’re in a forest.
“This is like therapy,” I said to my other half, as we trudged through Colinton Dell in unsuitable footwear.
There were nunchuck-like conkers on the ground, the evening light had illuminated the trees like impressionist paintings, and a pack of mucky dogs were paddling in the river, truffling in the trees like busy wild boar, and stampeding past our legs, oblivious to any opportunistic pats while they were in total sensory overload.
You could get the bus, but I totally recommend approaching the second branch of cafe bistro The Pantry, in Colinton Village, (the original is in Stockbridge) from the leafier traffic-free route, which starts off on Lanark Road, opposite the Water of Leith visitor centre.
Also, an hour-long preprandial hike means delayed gratification (or, if you forget your map, going totally Bear Grylls, which is fine if you like eating bark).
We were starving by the time we’d negotiated the Long Steps and made it up to this cottage-y eatery, where the all-day menu is served all week, but dinner from Wednesday to Saturday, 6-10pm. Instant snackage arrived when a bowlful of salty giant pretzels slid onto our table.
When designing the actual menu, someone has gone a bit dad-joke pun-tastic.
So, I went for the “asparagus on the bus Gus” (£7.50), which I think is a reference to the Paul Simon song, 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover, and my dining partner fancied the...“brown butter crab cocktail” (£7.50).
Who knows why they didn’t call that option claws and effect, or, did you sea what I did there? Missed opportunities.
Anyway, both starters were pleasant.
My option was very brunchy, with struts of tender, but rather unseasonal, asparagus, a crispy duck egg (whose yolk was a bit cold), some slightly too runny Hollandaise, and crumbs of their “marmalade roasted gammon”. There were little mistakes, but I enjoyed it very much nonetheless.
The crab cocktail consisted of a massive heap of creamy brown meat threaded with feathers of dill and topped with five shrimp. It came with some pickled bits of cucumber, and two large pieces of melba toast that were as crunchy as it’s possible to be.
“It’s like how you imagined it would be to eat glass when you were a kid,” said my other half. Riiiiggghht.
Inspired by Robert Louis Stevenson, who regularly stayed in the area while visiting his grandfather, and his Child’s Garden of Verses (a poem of which, ‘Fairy Flowers’, is on the wall by the Long Steps), I went for a main of “cause I’m a fungi” (£12), aka a strudel filled with demolished fairy houses.
It was pretty good, with crushed pistachios amongst the forest floor fungi, all swaddled in slightly soggy filo pastry, and there was a heady rosemary and garlic sauce on the side.
Very good skin-on chips here too, yours for just £3 and there’s enough for two.
We’d also ordered the, cringe, “ducking tasty”(£16) , which was a bit too fancy to have such a low rent name.
It featured a large duck breast, which was perfect in most parts, but a bit sinewy in others, with slightly flobber-y and, thus, pointless skin.
This came with chunks and a purée of sweet celeriac, broccoli and a couple of smudges of a rich plum and game sauce (more please).
Our pudding of “deep choc” (£7.50), and no, I don’t understand the name either) tart looked so pretty, corralled by splotches of cream, dulce de leche and crumbled pistachio.
The best bits were the crisp pastry and the topping of dark chocolate ganache, but the middle caramel layer was rather granular and achingly sweet, which spoiled it somewhat.
Anyway, I’m looking forward to coming back here. It’s the treasure at the end of the rainbow.
And, after all that food, we walked home, feeling stuffed but also re-energised. Only joking, we got the number 10 bus, Gus. n
(2 Bridge Rd, Edinburgh EH13 0LF, 0131 629 4420)