WE ARE planning a family dinner out, which means catering for two children, a vegetarian and a meat eater. So, looking for a child-friendly spot that doesn’t involve pizza or golden arches, we decide on family-run deli and bistro Porto & Fi, in Edinburgh’s Newhaven area.
Early Monday evening and the restaurant is quiet, but still feels warm and welcoming. Situated on a corner site on Newhaven Main Street, it looks out to the Firth of Forth and we have a window seat with great views.
Other diners are a mix of old and young, with children and without. The restaurant is licensed (house wine is £4.30 a glass; bottled beers from £3.50) and there is a good selection of soft drinks, including cream soda (childhood memories will flood back).
Bright and spacious inside, artworks line the walls, while cast iron radiators, wooden floors and globe lightshades create an informal feel, like being in someone’s rather nice front room.
There is a separate children’s menu, offering a drink, with a choice of fish goujons, sausage and mash, penne pasta, or a mini burger, finishing off with an ice-cream cone, all for £5.95.
Elder daughter’s penne with Napolitana sauce isn’t the most inspiring dish, but younger’s fish goujons and curly fries get a thumbs up. Served in a metal pail, tightly curled fries make a crispy bed for chunky, lightly battered pieces of fish. Peas come in a ramekin and I’m slightly embarrassed to have to ask for it to be replenished three times (which is done with good grace at no extra charge).
My husband starts with the crushed chickpea and feta served with aubergine ragu and pitta bread (£5.95). It is beautifully presented on a long wooden platter in a couple of Le Creuset-style serving dishes. Succulent blobs of feta melt into a little pond of chickpea houmous, while chunks of aubergine in a rich tomato sauce are the perfect contrast. It’s a refreshing change from the usual run-of-the-mill veggie offerings.
I go for the hot flaked smoked salmon with beetroot, rocket and horseradish cream (£6.95). The salmon is excellent and the cheery little cubes of beetroot have a lovely balsamic dressing. Served piled high on a bed of rocket sprinkled with seeds, it looks a treat, however I did feel the amount of horseradish cream lavished on this dish overpowers the other elements.
Next up is the homemade veggie burger with chilli jam for my husband, which is presented on a brioche bun with a decent mixed salad topped with olives, sweet potato wedges and a small pot of beetroot-infused coleslaw. The generous filling is like a fat, spicy bean burger struggling to burst out of its shiny brioche shell, while the orange wedges of sweet potato are firm and fleshy.
My pan-fried hake (£12.50) looks equally good, with the fillet perched atop a bed of green beans, shredded savoy cabbage and finely chopped pancetta in a red wine sauce. A swirl of potato puree wraps around it with a drizzle of sauce through its middle. The balance here is just right with the rich, fruity sweetness of the sauce working beautifully with the greens and creamy potato.
We are all deliciously full up, but a meal out is not the same for younger daughter without chocolate brownie to finish off. We glance at the dessert menu, which is full of many home-baked delights, but not a brownie in sight. Younger puts on her brave face, which is when the waitress appears with the blackboard of specials and there it is, the coveted brownie (£4.25). I manage a sliver while she is drawing breath and it is very good indeed, light, moist and the sort of thing that makes me think I must return for coffee and cake without a child in tow.
My husband – under duress – shares his chocolate ice-cream with elder daughter, which is voted excellent (she had been too full up to eat anything else, until she saw it).
In the name of research and inspired by a recent Bake Off episode, I go for the pear frangipani (£4.25) washed down with an espresso. The light fruity filling sits beautifully on a firm pastry base – no soggy bottoms here.
Our bill for four comes to £67.05, with £58 of that on food. It isn’t often that you get such a good mix of children’s options, decent vegetarian choices and a touch of fine bistro dining under one roof, but that’s what you can expect here.
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This looks like an ideal place to kick back with a newspaper, and breakfast is served Monday to Saturday until noon and all day on Sunday. Choose from the lighter options of granola, Greek yoghurt and fruit compote (£3.80) or a range of croissants or pastries (from £2.60), through to the full range of cooked breakfasts including scrambled eggs on toast with bacon or smoked salmon (£6.95), bacon or sausage rolls (£3) or Stornoway black pudding and tomato on a roll (£3.50).
Porto & Fi
47 Newhaven Main Street, Edinburgh,
EH6 4NQ (0131-551 1900, www.portofi.com)