Scotsman Review
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May 17, 2021

Restaurant Review: Salt Cafe, Edinburgh

This place specialises in brunch finds Gaby Soutar.

“I’m so scared”.

I get this text message, along with a sad face emoji, from my nine-year-old niece as I’m walking up Morningside Road.

Poor thing, I think, these lockdown children are terrified of a little bit of brunch.

I understand though. You might burn yourself on a sausage, choke on granola or slip on a chunk of smashed avocado.

Don’t they say that 96 per cent of accidents happen while having brunch? You’re safer staying at home, where you can go up a ladder to fix your own aerial, or make toast while having a bubble bath.

It transpired though, that she was actually worried about getting her ears pierced, with an appointment along the road booked in later.

I tend to lose my appetite when I’m nervous, but the niece prefers to feed the fear. Luckily, there were plenty of soothing options at this cafe.

During lockdown, it was taken over by new owners - Steve and Liv Connolly-Bastock - as a going concern.

They’ve made the name they inherited into an acronym for Seasonal, Artisanal, Local and Thoughtful, which is reminiscent of my name, which stands for Gorgeous, Able, Bananas and Youthful.

Steve is a former chef at Tom Kitchin’s Scran & Scallie, while Liv is the baker and front-of-house.

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As always, I visited them incognito, but she talked us through the menu and their ethos, so I thought I’d been rumbled, until I heard her giving the same spiel to the next table along.

Anyway, she’d made the raggle taggle crew of me, my sister and her three offspring very welcome, even if we did make the chic space look more like a church hall jumble sale.

There was a high-chair for the baby nephew, and children’s menus.

To say farewell to her un-holey lobes, the niece stuck to the grown-up options and went for their carnivorous butcher’s breakfast (£13.50).

It included a huge rasher of dry-cured bacon, a bouncy and herby pork sausage, presumably made in-house as Steve does his own butchering, a puck of Fruit Pig’s rich black pudding and another of their peppery haggis, a perfectly fried (or you can choose scrambled or poached) Corrie Mains Farm egg, a pile of a mushroom and onion mixture, and a helping of mild Sriracha baked beans.

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These were safely ensconced in a ramekin. I know, after becoming addicted to Channel 4’s Four in a Bed during lockdown, that people have strong feelings about bean juices touching other foodstuff.

She loved it all. However, her mind was most blown by the triangles of Wild Hearth Bakery sourdough, which had been fried in beef fat and sea salted.

I think she would probably sacrifice all her LOL dolls and the rainbow slime for another slice of that.

My elder niece’s less food-orientated little sister was happy with something from the kids menu - cheese and beans on toast (£5) - and the baby brother fully rejected his lovely and fluffy stack of banana pancakes (£4) for no obvious reason.

Instead of eating, he wanted to focus on lobbing his sippy cup, and massaging the accompanying yoghurt, like it was a deep-conditioning treatment, into his scalp.

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Among the chaos, the two adults were very happy.

I had the asparagus and duck egg (£9.50), which was rendered in technicolour, thanks to bright green gently charred spears and a slick yolk the colour of a luminous orange Sharpie.

It was drizzled with wild garlic oil, and strewn with dill and a few chilli flakes. All the little details that elevate something simple.

I also had my first dirty chai latte (£4) - a balmy spiced tea, but with a shot of espresso.

My sister went for a good flat white (£3.20) and the 6oz flat iron steak (£13), along with a portion of toast (£2.50).

The meat was served perfectly medium rare, topped with a herby and peppery mulch of watercress salsa verde and another sunny side up fried egg.

We rounded off our savoury stuff with a couple of cakes, since we had to try Liv’s creations.

My sister was masked and sent, as my amanuensis, to scope out the counter.

She reported back, and we went for their most excellent and fudgie textured brownie (£3.20), the poppy-seed-speckled slice of lemon bundt (£3.20), which undulated like one of Charles Jencks’ mounds, and a white icing and crumbled biscuit topped Biscoff doughnut (£3.30).

(My sister reported that this was by Edinburgh business, Kilted Donut).

What a lot of food, but it was medicinal, as we needed it to calm my niece’s nerves.

For those who are anxious about anything, including the highly treacherous meal that is brunch, you’re in extremely safe hands here.

NB: She did it, and has two blue sparkly studs. Thanks Salt.

Salt Cafe

54-56 Morningside Road, Edinburgh (0131 629 5910)

How much? Brunch for two adults and three children, £57.20

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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