My first “usual” was a Newcastle Brown Ale, then it was a Jack Daniel’s and Coke before, in the Noughties, I moved onto a long vodka or Moscow Mule, as did everyone else.
There was a brief period of gin and tonic before my pub use all but ceased – apart from the occasional visit to a quiz to exercise my talent at the name-that-tune round.
Of course, this new place from prolific wunderkind, Nico Simeone, of Glasgow’s Six by Nico, 111 by Nico, Supper Club by Nico, and Edinburgh’s Six by Nico, is more of a gastropub than a boozer.
The decor reminds me of a slightly spartan version of Tom Kitchin’s Scran & Scallie, with touches of tartan, some bare brick walls and an aperture through to the kitchen, though this place also features some awfully cheesy Vettriano-esque prints on the magnolia walls.
Diners are tightly packed and, thus, on our visit, roasting hot, so don’t wear a chunky roll-neck, then feel like a turtle being microwaved, as I did.
Although they’re big on their Sunday lunch here, and breakfast, we tried the Small Plates, available daily.
They said to choose six, so we did seven (if you count a side dish of triple cooked chips with aioli, £3.50).
These come when they’re ready, so first we got a Jenga-esque set of three Arbroath Smokie croquettes (£7), which were gorgeous – huge, like whole fish fingers, with a fine and crisp coating and a smooth lotion of a haddock-y filling, and some super savoury brown butter and miso hollandaise on the side.
Then there was the crab and crayfish rarebit (£9) – a dusty-crusted wedge of toasted “stout soda bread” that was sturdy enough to handle a wet topping of mashed seafood, with some apple compote and a mustardy and cheesy quilt over the top.
Next up was the fish pie (£8.50). It wasn’t THAT big, but it was hearty. There were salmon, leeks and mussels in a cream laden sauce, then a layer of soufflé-esque mash, which was fluffier than one of Queen Anne’s bunnies.
In between those layers was a strata that featured globules of something orange – cheese? – nope, we think it was runny egg yolk.
Anyway, rich, and we were nearly scunnered, especially since those crusty chips, with their silky garlic dip, had arrived.
I suppose at least the curried coley (£8) was a slightly lighter option, with an aromatic amber-coloured coconut and lemongrass sauce and a delicate tile of fish, as well as two buttery matchbox-sized pilaf rice cakes and loads of wilted and garlicky pak choi.
The Desperate Dan style ox cheek pie (£9) was such that I felt a bit guilty about the other courses. It should have had our undivided attention, with its salty beefy gravy and hunks of meat, along with mushrooms, carrots, shallots, and a flat flaky pastry lid, burnished so it looked like tortoiseshell.
In a similar comfort food vein, the three lamb faggots (£8.50) had good charred flavour, yet were so airy, they deflated like puffball mushrooms when you cut into them.
They came with a single hasselback potato (sadly neglected, as I am not an eating machine and we already had chips) and lots of mint sauce.
So, the only thing we weren’t that keen on was pudding. They’d gone a bit too far with a classic, and this baked cheesecake-esque take on treacle tart (£6) had a weird chalky gelatinous texture, with a tall layer of the malty stuff on a shortcrust base.
I don’t think the pastel green apple ice-cream was a great acidic foil alongside it either, though it was nice enough separately and was a good palate cleanser after all the pub grub.
Anyway, name this tune – da da da-da dum, da-da-da, dum. Nope, it’s not Michael Jackson, it’s Weird Al Yankovic with Eat It, and I would indeed be happy to do so here, repeatedly.
Told you I was good at a music round.