I’m not a fan of the phrase ‘hidden gem’, when it comes to restaurants.
It’s too much of a cliche, and they so rarely fit that description. However, if I was asked to compile a list of them, I’d probably include this independent eatery. Perhaps that’s something to do with its liminal location, at the junction between Bruntsfield and Morningside.
I sometimes forget it’s there, until I pass by, and see the gilded fish logo on the front door.
Although I don’t usually review restaurants a second time, this place, owned by chef Stuart Smith, is an exception. I last wrote about it during lockdown, when it launched an excellent takeaway service.
During those grim years, it survived by selling lobster rolls from its doorway. I never waited in line, but they must’ve been good, since they regularly inspired queues along Colinton Road.
Anyway, I always promised to return in slightly more normal times and the fact that it just celebrated its third birthday with the launch of a downstairs wine bar seemed reason enough. There’s also a new small plates menu, though some people are funny about those. For that lot, there is a selection of bigger dishes and a very reasonable set menu at one course for £16, two for £20 and three for £24.
However, we stuck with the shareable options, and I tried a drink too - the Improved Sour (£12), with rye, amaretto, lune d'abricot, citrus and bitters. This mixture really scratched my cocktail itch, where so many others have failed to hit the spot.
Our first savoury course to land was the salt cod mousse (£7) - a salty and buttery-textured ball of pale fishy joy, which was topped with a tarn of bright green parsley oil and served with two sturdy planks of toasted bread. It prompted a wave of contentment, as the tips of my toes finally defrosted.
Next was the pickled mussels (£10) option. Now, I love pickles - egg, gherkin, onion, rollmop, I’ll take them all. These molluscs were suitably zingy, and came with a fresh and vinegary pale green jus that contained tiny nibs of celery and celeriac, with a horseradish bite. I used the spoon provided to scoop up every drop.
The smoked haddock croquettes (£7) were the comforting option. There were three of them, so I could’ve put one in each sock, and a single glove, to use as hand and foot warmers. They featured crispy russet shells and were suitably fluffy inside, with a blob of lush lovage mayo for dipping.
The next course was mine, all mine, since my dining partner isn’t bothered about scallops. He’s always been a strange boy. This example was a single fat hand-dived Skye stub (£7) that I’d chosen from the specials board. It was toasted on top and came with a rich slosh of melted gochujang butter, for a mouth-coating taste of Korea. I plan to eat a dozen while watching the latest installments of Squid Game: The Challenge.
The only non-fishy savoury course we’d chosen could easily hold its own. It was an assemblage of muhammara (£11), which was topped with tiddlywinks of feral lamb merguez sausage, chopped up crinkles of barbecued hispi cabbage and crumbled walnuts. Another dish that was right up my street.
I have to also mention the fries here (£5) for they are good. I’m usually more of a fat chip person, but something to do with the extreme straight-out-of-the-fryer heat, salty coating and generous helping of mayo on the side, converted me to their skinny-Minnie ways. If you’re a fish restaurant, your chips have to be on point. These absolutely are.
Although we’ve recently converted to a one pudding between two sort of healthy lifestyle, we had a little space left, so went for both choices on this occasion. Hooray for living our best lives.
The tonka bean pannacotta (£7), had upmarket breakfast vibes, with its oaty topping, salty miso and stewed apple additions. Loved it, as well as the dark chocolate mousse (£7), which came with a quenelle of yoghurt, a hidden heart of soft sponge, and crumbly bits of buckwheat.
I’m glad to have rediscovered this place and sorry that I always forget about it, in favour of all the overrated venues in the centre of town.
It’s not hidden, but it is certainly a gem.