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l'escargot bleu Wine Bar, Edinburgh, review - does a retro soundtrack, wine and fondue make for a good dinner?

This is a new addition to Broughton Street

Published: April 2, 2022
Categories:
Food: 
8/10
Ambience: 
8/10

My primary school disco, circa 1986.

The DJ announced a dance competition, then spun Irene Cara’s Flashdance.

I took my spot in front of the booth, and whirled around until I was almost ready to regurgitate my Fruit Salads and Space Raiders, but couldn’t grab his attention.

Cue my little sister, stage left, with blonde hair, blue eyes and ten times as cute. She copied my signature dance move, just once, and won the prize, which was this seven inch single.

I’m not bitter, honestly, though that vinyl should’ve been mine.

“All alone, I have cried, silent tears, full of pride. In a world, made of steel, made of stone”.

Indeed. However, I’m over it now, apart from the occasional Flashdance flashback.

I had one when they played this tune at restaurant l’escargot bleu’s new downstairs wine bar. And this wasn’t the only retro track. We also had Dancing on the Ceiling, a bit of Tina Turner and that Huey Lewis and the News song from Back to the Future.

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It was a happy Eighties-fest of school disco music, though if you want a quiet spot, they also have a couple of tables underneath the Broughton Street pavement, in what presumably used to be the coal holes. We’d commandeered a banquette near the fire, and beside the illustrations taken from a French children’s book on colour and food. “Les girolles sont des petits champignons jaunes” said one, and “les coqs ont une crete rouge”. My standard grade French did me proud. Thank you Miss Ure. (That really was her name).

They opened this basement addition to the established and well loved Gallic restaurant at the end of last year. Chef patron Fred Berkmiller has cut the amount of covers in his place upstairs, so he can give his staff a four day working week, and this presumably helps to cope with any disappointed walk-ups. This business has also recently become the first Pasture for Life accredited restaurant, thanks to his commitment to using farms, like Peelham and Grierson, who graze their livestock.

Alongside French wine, the food menu is chalked up on a board and casual, with snails in garlic butter, terrine, tapenade, anchovies on bread and sardines. There’s nothing too complex, and the staff have a neat galley area behind the bar.

Anyway, did somebody say fondue (£11)? We ordered one to share, and dipped the accompanying chunks of baguette into the sticky and balmy pool of fromage, which was studded with whole garlic cloves. As someone who is allergic to housework, I put a lot of elbow grease into mopping up every last clinging micro-layer of cheese.

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My inner souris was sated. We had this along with a couple of glasses of their apple-y Cremant d’Alsace, Blanc de Blancs, Domain Schwach (£9 each).

The lovely Spanish server had also recommended their special of pork and apple ragout (£11). It featured soft clods of pork belly, and blush skinned hunks of apple, as well as garlic and parsley, all served in a casserole dish. There wasn’t much to it, but this simple mixture tasted like a holiday along with a glass of the flinty chardonnay from Domaine du Mont-Epin, Burgundy (£8).

Our third shareable savoury option was the smoked and marinated herring tartare (£9), served in a glass sundae dish. It was a refreshing Will-Smith-esque slap in the face of flavour that included crunchy bits of carrot, red onions and lemon juice alongside the tiny squishy baubles of fish.

Herring tartare

There aren’t really puddings as such, though you can choose from a couple of sweet things. On our visit, there were griottine cherries in kirsch (£8) and orange confit chocolate (£8). We did both, and since my other half isn’t big on boozy fruit, I ended up eating the equivalent of a whole jar’s worth. These alcoholic pops of sugar were compulsive. As they are digestifs, my system was purring like an expensive motor. We ate a couple of the dark chocolate covered worms of chewy orange too, though had to secrete the rest of them in a napkin.

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It wasn’t just the sugar that made us feel quite high after our trip here.

Apart from the Flashdance flashback, the wine, jolly music, a relaxed vibe and casual food made for a happy old time.

“What a feeling”, to paraphrase Irene Cara.

l’escargot bleu Restaurant and Wine Bar

56 Broughton Street

Edinburgh

(0131 557 1600, www.leescargotbleu.co.uk)

Places to try Nearby

Rollo, 14 Broughton Street, Edinburgh (0131 556 5333, www.barrollo.com)

Although the Stockbridge branch of this restaurant is still closed, you can still get your fix on Broughton Street. They’ve just launched a spring menu that includes slow cooked pork belly, balsamic onion tartlet, Olivier salad and red wine jus.

Pickles, 60 Broughton Street, Edinburgh, www.getpickled.co.uk

This place also serves a menu of wine and casual sharing plates. Its food focus is mainly on meat and cheese platters, though they also offer nibbles including Edinburgh Preserves pate, including chicken liver and Armagnac or wild boar, olives and even a cheeky single pickled egg or bowl of cheesy puffs should you so desire.

Fhior, 36 Broughton Street, Edinburgh (0131 477 5000, www.fhior.com)

The ten course tasting menu at this place has just been lightened up for spring, with new dishes that include the raw scallop marinated in citrus and fermented chilli, scallop roe emulsion and chilled wild garlic broth.

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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