We had a family birthday conference on Zoom recently.
As it wrapped up, the subject inevitably turned to what everyone was going to have for dinner.
The others’ teas all turned out to be all mince-based – lasagne, burgers, spaghetti bolognese and chilli.
After we’d worked round all the video boxes, like a dull episode of Celebrity Squares, I was the only remaining contestant in the meal reporting audit.
“So. What are you having tonight, Gaby?” my sister asked.
“Um, just fish”, I said, vaguely.
“Ooooh, wow,” said everyone in unison, looking slightly peeved, yet they didn’t know the half of it.
We were getting our dinner from the three-year-old LeftField bistro in Edinburgh’s Bruntsfield.
They’re currently offering Friday and Saturday collections, between 5pm and 7pm, of seafood platters, sides and wine, available through their website. Each week, as well as some other stuff, there’s a piscine theme, and they sell out quickly, with orders for the coming weekend opening on a Monday.
They’ve done a Galician platter, Amalfi and Mexico, but our order had a French vibe.
“We’re thinking herbs, rosé, sunshine and twinkling Cote d’Azur...ooh la la,” they had announced on Instagram.
When it came to the collection, the owner, Rachel (at least, I think it was her), had her mask on and there was a table of pre-ordered goodies set up, so their wares can be dispatched quickly and efficiently.
Everything is cold, so there’s no thundering home in a panic, as the heat ebbs from your food like the air in a leaky balloon. All we had to do was de-lid our trays to reveal a diorama of fishy joy (£50).
The star of the show was that whole lobster thermidor, with a sandy coloured Parmesan crust on its perfectly cleaved cross-section and claws that were cracked and ready to be unsheathed like stookies. Same goes for the ladybird-red pair of crabby arms, which came with a tangy aioli dip in a cardboard ramekin.
Leonard the lobster and Carol the crab’s limbs were surrounded by other Atlantis residents, all equally ABC1 demographic.
There were a dozen moules marinière, which slipped out of their coal coloured castanets all slathered in white wine, parsley and garlic. Other shelled creatures included the set of four brine-y and spume-fresh oysters and their intense shot of bright red and acidic black pepper and shallot dressing.
I was transported by the beautiful octopus Provençale, with burly tentacles fragrant with cognac, thyme and saffron, and pads of toasted bread and chopped tomatoes underneath. Our set of six crevettes were spooning each other, and had been dolloped with a mossy green and piquant tapenade of olives, capers and herbs.
There were also summery sides, including a brown box full of lipstick red chopped watermelon, lettuce and crumbled feta (£5), all scooshed with a cologne splash of lime. We also had a helping of new potatoes with spring onion, olive oil and parsley (£5), and chargrilled tenderstem broccoli with chilli and lemon (£5).
There are also puddings to share, and we’d passed on the pavlova and had two triangles of flourless chocolate cake (£9 for two).
These slabs were subtly sweet, richly dark and dense, with a blob of crème fraîche on top and a couple of shards of smoky golden cinder toffee.
At this point, we were lolling about on the couch like a pair of beached mermaids, with plates that were clattering with empty shells, as if our bikinis had unravelled.
Even without the option of delivery, this has been one of my favourite – and lowest maintenance for the diner – lockdown transitions that a restaurant has made into takeaway. I hope it’s not temporary and they continue offering it into Phase 4 and beyond.
I’d say there’s no better reason to shelve a mince-based dinner. n
12 Barclay Terrace, Edinburgh (0131-229 1394, www.leftfieldedinburgh.co.uk)