This has been an expensive summer.
After months of feeling like a greyhound in a starting box, I’ve gone YOLO, which has involved splurging on stuff I don’t really need.
My current weaknesses: jumpsuits, books and marmalade. I’ve turned into a romper-wearing bookworm who eats a lot of toast.
I needed to avoid temptation, so we swerved the St James Quarter shops, and visited the new Bonnie & Wild market via the street-level escalator.
Although this 16,600 sq ft place is officially part of the new shopping quarter, it can also exist as an entirely separate (almost) retail-free entity.
Since they’re not taking bookings at the moment, we arrived mid-week at 11.57am.
We were met at the door and taken to Creel Caught, though you can also wander and decide where you want to eat once you’re inside.
At the front of this horseshoe-shaped space you’ll find, among others, the butcher, Macduff, and their glass lockers full of fresh haunches, vegan restaurant, Erpingham House, fried chicken purveyors, Chix, and Rico’s Pasta Bar.
It’s casual and buzzy, like its European counterpart food markets, with wooden tables and bar-style seating.
Round the sides, you’ll find our destination, as well as Salt & Chilli Oriental and The Gannet. They have more of a restaurant feel, with comfortable BoConcept-ish chairs and non-clattery acoustics. Creel Caught also looks out onto the side of the W Hotel, with one end of the golden steel “ribbon” appearing to crash into the earth, sending Minecraft-esque breezeblocks scattering.
The drinks menu is printed on the paper placemats on each table.You scan the QR code, order and pay online.
We went for a summery pair - the mocktail, Garden and Tonic (£6), with Seedlip Garden 108, tonic water and sugar-snap peas, as well as chunks of lime, and the pre-bottled Black Lines Elderflower Collins (£8.50).They came quickly, presumably from The Hauf & Howff, which is the main bar.
Food is ordered up at the open kitchen of your restaurant of choice, where you pay and are given a pager-like device. When it buzzes and jumps around, like an electrocuted hedgehog, you collect. We picked our lunch up directly from Masterchef: The Professionals 2016 winner, and National Chef of Scotland, Gary Maclean. Although Creel Caught is his first restaurant, I’m not sure I expected him to be here in person, since he’s also senior chef lecturer at City of Glasgow College. Still, it’s the summer holidays, and I enjoyed watching the chilled camaraderie between him and three young chefs.
I’d already given the menu a whirl at the launch event, so I know the Peterhead landed fish and chips (£14.95) and the hot-smoked Loch Etive sea trout (£9.95), from the menu of sustainable Scottish seafood, are great. Now I can also vouch for the Creel Caught platter (£12.95).
It’s a neat portion, with half a cold langoustine, its single coral claw stretching out like a selfie stick. The rest of the archipelago included a dollop of prawns in Barbie pink Marie Rose-ish sauce, a quenelle of creamy smoked mackerel pate, four triangles of nutty rye bread, celeriac slaw, laced with Arran wholegrain mustard, and flakes of hot smoked trout. Lovely, though I think the hero dish is the Spink Arbroath Smokie (£12.95).
I wanted to stick my face into the foil wrapper, and inhale the woody smoke like I was at a sweat lodge.
This Scottish icon of a fish was buttery and rich, and there was more of that slick and suitable acidic celeriac remoulade on the side, as well as skinny fries.
How excellent, to be able to get this dish in what’s essentially a shopping centre.
For dessert, we visited two-year-old Perthshire gelato business, Joelato. It’s £2.95 for a single scoop, £4.25 for a double (our choice) or £5.25 for a triple, and you can have yours in a pot or one of their industrial-looking cones, including ones that have been dipped in chocolate.
I’m not sure what possessed me to choose rum and raisin, from a selection including stracciatella, Snickers and mojito, but it’s a retro guilty pleasure that I file alongside Arctic Roll with Ice Magic. This was light on the sugar and booze, with fat raisins suspended in the cream, and a second scoop of chocolate and sea salt sorbet was equally balmy. We also tried the blackcurrant and mascarpone, with a natural and sophisticated flavour, rather than a Ribena-esque blast, and a huge helping of malted milk chocolate.
Seafood and gelato, what a combo.
If you don’t need any more jumpsuits, I’d suggest skipping the retail therapy.
Take the escalator and spend your money on Bonnie & Wild instead.
Bonnie & Wild
St James Quarter
415-417 St James Crescent
How much? Lunch for two, excluding drinks, £34.40
Places to try Nearby
Brasserie Prince, The Balmoral, 1 Princes Street, Edinburgh (0131 557 5000, www.roccofortehotels.com)
Every Saturday, from noon until 4pm, this place offers a Champagne brunch, with dishes including brioche French toast, caramelised banana and crème fraîche, as well as Champers from £10 a glass and cocktails.
House of Gods, 233 Cowgate, Edinburgh (0131 230 0445, www.houseofgodshotel.com)
They’ll soon be opening a restaurant, the Casablanca Cocktail Club, at this Cowgate hotel. Expect “late night dining, dancing and decadence”, with a menu that includes a gold leaf wagyu burger.
Head to this new cafe for takeaway bread and cakes, or you can sit in for French toast, pancakes, quiche or patisserie.