Scotsman Review
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April 20, 2018

Ransacked Black Oven, Edinburgh, restaurant review

Give peacamole a chance with a visit to Edinburgh's Ransacked Black Oven, says Gaby Soutar

My nieces do V signs in photos. Not with their fingers the sweary way round, because they’d get their Skittles rations docked, but the palm out version.

Originally a victory sign in the Second World War, this gesture was co-opted by anti-Vietnam protestors in the Sixties to mean peace. Then it was picked up later on in Japan, maybe also by pacifists.

And now the kids do it in selfies, without any particular meaning, apart from maybe “hey” or “YOLO”.
They don’t even know who Sir Ringo Starr is.

This wonderfully-named place’s logo features the peace sign, all covered in flowers, and the staff wear it on black T-shirts, with We Are Family: Make Feast Not War emblazoned on the back.

They originally served food from a truck in Aboyne, but have now taken up residence in the former premises of the defunct WildmanWood Pizza.

The menu consists of a double sided paper list, divided into Microsoft Word-esque box sections, in amongst which you’ll find references to the blackboard on the wall. I am not very good at that kind of skittish complication, which is why I failed in my earlier career as a librarian.

From this Dewey Decimal System of a menu, I chose one of their botanical punches (£5.50) with rum. It was a cinnamon and cardamom spiced slushy, served with a cute wooden tiki-bar-style straw and a good hit of pirate’s poison, yo ho ho.

Most of the edible things are bread based, all the better to show off their woodfired oven, and there are plenty of vegan and vegetarian options.

To make up my savoury kebab (£8.50), as instructed, I chose a bread (sourdough) from the list, then a salad from the board (Persian beetroot, date and cabbage), a couple of fillings from the paper list (I went for half and half halloumi saganaki and Persian spiced goat) and a spread from the board (baba ganoush).

This smorgasbord arrived with pale triangles of flatbread and roasted potatoes, which were golden-edged and thyme-y.

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The cubes of feral tasting and fibrous meat were tepid, but had good cuminy earthy spice, while three squares of cheese were pleasant enough, and the magenta chopped salad was juicy, though I couldn’t find any dates.

Their take on baba ganoush, however, wasn’t my favourite, since it was lumpy like badly mixed plaster and with no particular smokiness or seasoning.

We didn’t much like the acrid rocket and cashew dip (£1.50) that we’d chosen from the board, either, though the chilli and garlic laced peacamole (£1.50) was better than we thought it’d be. Give peas a chance, I say.

Anyway, a crispy sheet of za’atar speckled flatbread (£3.50) was nice enough without dip.

I’m not sure how sauerkraut made it onto this menu, but there was a spiced version of this on one of their flatbread pizzas (£7.50), or so they said, though it was more like plain old white cabbage, along with sliced button mushrooms and red peppers. Meh, not a patch on what they served at WildmanWood.

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Despite the fact the baba ganoush reappeared as part of the fatteh (£5.50), or baked sourdough nachos, these were probably my favourite thing, with aerated chips blobbed with clots of cheesy labneh, chopped tomatoes and rocket.

For pudding, we chose one off the menu and another from the board. They were both served in hollowed coconut shells and we hoped we’d be able to finish every scrap so we could make clippety-clop noises.

Sadly, we couldn’t get through the three scoops of chocolate and banana ice-cream (£5.50) studded with cocoa chips and cookie dough-ish lumps, nor the watery but comforting almond and ginger (£5) rice pudding.

Anyway, I’m not sure that would be the right percussion sound for this place. Perhaps an anticipatory drum roll followed by a silence would be better, since the food here is wholesome, but not quite as exciting as you’d imagine.

I will calm down by playing my pan pipes, because love IS all you need (though a good lunch would be a bonus).

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Ransacked Black Oven

27-29 Marshall Street, Edinburgh

(0131-667 7001,



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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