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Pier Brasserie, Edinburgh, restaurant review

For decent grub, follow the gulls to Newhaven's Pier Brasserie, says Gaby Soutar.

Published: October 2, 2020

One of my favourite online videos features a seagull strolling into an Aberdeen branch of RS McColl’s and shoplifting a bag of cheese Doritos.

Down at the Newhaven end of town, these birds were pestering people who were sitting on the benches, trying to eat their fish suppers.

Still, one must remember, in a seafaring part of town, that though it might be tempting to punch a feathered nuisance in the beak, it’s extremely unlucky to kill one.

In Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner, an albatross’s murder prompts the “silence of the sea”. If you’ve watched the horror film, The Lighthouse, you’re doubly warned.

Indoors is the safest place to be, though you can also sit on the boardwalk (not under the boardwalk, unless you’re Bruce Willis) outside this place. It launched just before lockdown, and, thanks in part to offering takeaway, has scraped through, despite being too new to qualify for covid grants and furlough schemes.

It’s owned by Mark Patonyi, the former general manager of Steak restaurant, which used to be on Picardy Place.

The decor is vaguely similar, in that it has a theatrical thing going on, with dark wood and spotlights.

As far as covid protocol goes, the staff are all appropriately masked up, they take your details on booking and there is hand gel on entrance and a one-way system.

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On the menu, there’s a focus on steak, fish and chips and burgers, though we tried to make more interesting choices.

Tricky, as there’s no attempt to be mod-ish, but we swerved tomato and red pepper soup and steamed mussels.

The duck liver pâté option (£8) was a smooth, pale and chilly cement-coloured wedge, with a fascinator of “frisee lettuce” and a large dollop of fruity raisin-laden chutney. We weren’t sure about the accompanying curiosity – a dehydrated pistachio sponge. It looked a bit like a toothpaste-coloured deep sea coral, or the interior of a mint Aero. However, this vaguely nutty and aerated sea biscuit dissolved into nothing, so we soon ran out of a vehicle and had to eat most of the pâté neat.

Although we hadn’t been thrilled by the sound of the pan-fried king prawns (£9.50), this half dozen, lined up shoulder to shoulder, were plump and life-belt-bouncy critters. They were scattered with sesame seeds, and came with a gluey sweet chilli sauce and a “fresh vegetable salad” of lettuce, mange tout and grated carrot and beetroot.

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My main course – the “slow braised beef cheek, bourguignon sauce” (£17) – was a homely number. Something to eat while you’re slow-roasting your chilblains by the fire and lamenting our lost summer. The meat was squishy, and there was a soupy quantity of salty sauce. There were also silverskin onions and carrots in its fathoms, as well as a smooth island of mash and a huge piece of wishbone-shaped broccoli laid over the top.

Although the pan-fried chicken breast (£15) was a little too sweet in parts, thanks to the custardy charred sweetcorn purée, they’d balanced the sugaryness with two stiff sails of crispy Parma ham, upright like Stegosaurus scutes, and the salty and crisped-up poultry skin. This came with more mash, but also truffled leeks. It went down very easy.

Their dessert list features the usual faves – vanilla panna cotta, sticky toffee, ice-cream.

Yum, or yawn, depending on your perspective. We shared some chocolate sponge (£6.50), since it came with balsamic strawberries and they sounded a tad fancy. Unfortunately, the brick of cold sponge was a little solid, so we concentrated on fondue-ing its accompaniment of warm melted chocolate sauce using our pair of strawberries and chalky shards of pale green meringue.

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If only we could go back in time, Tenet-style, we would have ordered the sticky toffee pudding and eaten it (or uneaten it, for a more appropriate Christopher Nolan storyline) instead.

Anyway, we didn’t really need anything else, not even a shoplifted cheesy Dorito.

Well done to Pier Brasserie for making it safely to the other side of lockdown.

They must have been very kind to an albatross.

25b Pier Place, Edinburgh (0131-552 5278,

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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