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September 4, 2022

Barry Fish, Edinburgh, restaurant review

Rosalind Erskine tries the latest pop up menu from chef Barry Bryson.

Festivals and fine dining don’t exactly go hand in hand. For years the fodder available in fields up and down the country during peak summer festival time could be indistinguishable - burgers, hot dogs and enough chips to shake a glow stick at.

I am old enough to remember when T in the Park at Balado ‘went posh’ with the addition of their Healthy T food area, which offered an array of dishes and sweet treats from more artisan producers.

Back then these were relatively unheard of and certainly not as mainstream as they are now.

These days food at festivals has greatly improved and cater for different dietary requirements - the chips even come with toppings other than cheese or curry sauce.

It is of no real surprise then that celebrated Edinburgh chef, Barry Bryson and his pop-up, Barry Fish, was on the line-up for this year’s Connect Festival at the Royal Highland Centre Showground.

Speaking ahead of the festival, Bryson said: “I’m truly excited to be partnering with Connect festival.

"My business may have evolved over the years but it has always been collaborative with the arts and as a music lover, this is a really exciting partnership.

"Barry Fish is a new brand for me and so it’s an exciting opportunity to work with Connect, who have such a great identity and scale of audience.Guests can expect a focus on flavour, season, and locality of great produce.”

Barry Fish has been running as a pop-up in Leith since 4 August, with a five course menu that celebrates (you guessed it) the best of Scottish seafood.

Using his local supplier, Edinburgh’s Welch Fishmongers, Bryson spent early summer developing dishes.

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Speaking to The Scotsman earlier this year, he said: “I am planning a solid mix of modern with some traditional dishes too, so a mix of my own tastes and styles. The fourth fish dish will be the link that brings them all full circle”.

It was a version of this that was on offer within a Scandi-style building inside the VIP area of Connect over Saturday 27 and Sunday 28 August.

I was looking forward to really ‘elevating’ my festival experience by tucking into this lunch, which started with a cool and crisp glass of prosecco - made all the nicer by the warm and sunny weather outside.

The meal kicked off with apple smoked sea trout, oyster mayonnaise, wild salad and pickled radish.

The bright , deep pink piece of trout was surrounded by circles of mayo and scattered with radishes and topped with salad leaves - each piece of the dish as bright as jewels.

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Barry Fish

The delicately smoked fish was plump and fresh, with the mayo - complete with whole oyster - added richness and the pickled radishes, bite.

The dish that followed was sea bass served with black lentil dahl, and a highlight for me.

A crisp piece of seabass was laid atop an oozing bed of lentil dahl and topped with toasted whole almonds. The fish was light, soft but juxtaposed with the crispy skin and melted into the comforting slightly spiced dahl.

The almonds added texture and a smoothness that complemented the warming creaminess of the curry. 

While these dishes in themselves were satisfying, we had one more savoury dish before dessert - a fishcake served with a classic Beurre blanc sauce.

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The epically sized fishcake arrived surrounded by a golden lake of buttery sauce and topped with fried capers.

Looking a bit like a giant Kiev from days gone by, this dish was wonderfully moreish despite everyone at the table being full.

The crisp cake batter gave way to flaked salmon and potato filling, which mopped up the creamy, rich sauce that was cut through with lemon.

Barry Fish

The capers gave a sharpness that went well with the sauce. It was an absolute delight, despite its size.

Then dessert, which was a seasonal display of Scottish strawberries, but not as you may know them.

Bryson has spiked them ever so slightly with Szechuan spice and served with a dome of cocoa dusted milk chocolate mousse and creme fraiche.

The result was a sweet, but not overpowering, mix of fresh fruit, spice and creaminess that was well balanced. Those that find Szechuan too numbing need not worry as it was present but not too much.

We left full and contended and ready for an afternoon and evening of live music in the sunshine, without any cravings for chips - no matter what toppings were on offer.

Tickets for this meal only were £59 plus a booking fee. It was £71 plus booking fee for the meal and a glass of wine. Food plus a bottle of specially selected pairing wine was £99 + booking fee.

Barry Fish will continue at Swanfield in Leith. To book, email barry@cateredinburgh.com or visit the Cater Edinburgh website.

Known for cake making, experimental jam recipes, Champagne, whisky and gin drinking (and the inability to cook Gnocchi), Rosalind is the Food and Drink Editor and whisky writer for The Scotsman, as well as hosting Scran, The Scotsman's food and drink podcast.
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