Scotsman Review
Our criteria 
  • Ambience - It's important that a restaurant is inviting. We rate the decor, comfort and atmosphere.
  • Drink - Is the wine or cocktail list as exciting as the food, or does it fall short? Same goes for soft drinks. 
  • Food - We judge dishes on flavour, but also use of produce, cooking skill and presentation
  • Service - The staff and pace of a meal can make or break a meal out.
  • Value - From the food on the plate to service and surroundings, we check that you get what you're paying for.
September 25, 2021

Restaurant Review: Earls Sandwich Co, Edinburgh

This is Stockbridge's newest and hippest sandwich joint

There have been many sandwich experiments in our household.

The home office means we’ve been able to go wild, without having to worry about how the butty will travel.

We can go quadruple-decker, use stinky or hot ingredients, and tomatoes, which used to make the bread soggy by lunchtime.

Fish finger butties have become a staple, along with kimchi and cheese toasties. I’ve always loved smoked salmon, capers and cream cheese, and I never get tired of brie and apple. Egg mayo will do, and my inner child will always love a squashed peanut butter.

The bread is bagels, pittas or sourdough, and the butter is thickly spread.

They are all eaten in front of Bargain Hunt, which he always grumbles about.

However, our sandwich lab does have limitations. Sometimes we are severely lacking in inspiration.

They don’t have that problem at the new “Brooklyn-inspired sandwich shop”, Earls, where their menu features nine piece offerings, with pretty wild fillings, from pakora scraps to shatta hot sauce.

This hip new place is owned by the people behind a well-established nearby cafe, The Pantry. They’ve presumably named their new venture after John Montagu, the 4th Earl of Sandwich, who gets the credit for inventing this foodstuff, even though poor people had probably been making them since a loaf was invented.

You’ll find it on the main drag of Stockbridge. There’s bright blue livery, and a youthful Nineties-ish pop culture vibe inside, with posters (including one of Dolph Lundgren, and another advertising Breaking Bad’s Pollos Hermanos) and sandwiches served in sort-of logo-emblazoned shoe boxes.

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There was no sitting in when we visited, and a bit of an excitable queue.

They obviously already have a best-seller, as lots of customers were asking for the Dirks Diggler (£11), which contains “Earls’ 11 secret herb and spices crispy fried chicken thighs, frickles, Japanese mayo and gherkin ketchup”, but it was sold out. Frickles, in-case you’re wondering, are deep-fried pickles.

We put our order in and, as instructed, waited for about 15 minutes. I was transfixed by the smooth sandwich-making team, who were working behind the counter, calmly and methodically crafting lunches.

We took our spoils to nearby Inverleith Park, where we bagged a bench by the pond. Under the watchful gaze of a baby seagull, we performed the ceremonial unboxing. My bench mate had gone for the Corriewurst (£10), which was neatly wrapped in grease-proof paper and served alongside a large handful of ready salted crisps. We wished we’d picked up some napkins, because this was going to be unavoidably messy.

It contained a “coronation spiced pork banger, tarragon and celeriac slaw, pakora scraps, mint and chilli sauce, raisins and madras mayo”, all book-ended by two slabs of focaccia. Unfortunately, the sausages had thick rubbery skins. He initially tried to valiantly and manfully chew through them, like a shark eating a swimmer in a wet-suit. However, he soon admitted defeat and unsheathed the remainder of his sausies, getting turmeric-coloured mayo all over his fingers.

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I tried to hide these rejected bits from the infant seagull, because I’ve never done a Heimlich maneuver on a bird, and it probably wouldn’t end well.

After the rubbery skin was gone, the mixture wasn’t bad. Slightly lacking in seasoning and oomph, but decent, with lots of the coleslaw.

My Big Mackerel (£11) was another six filling number. There was “smoked mackerel, oat and hazelnut dukkah, shatta hot sauce, chip shop pickled onions, salted McCoys and umami mayo”. The chunky fish was pleasant enough, but I wasn’t getting or finding the onions, crisps, or shatta. Maybe one or two of those things were there in microscopic proportions, but I couldn’t detect them. It was like a mackerel salad sarnie.

We also had a side of salty and crispy chips (£4), and I loved the peach and passionfruit iced tea (£3.50, or an additional £2.50 if you want to add Pimm’s). He also tried the zingy fruity Lo Bros CBD Blueberry Lemonade (£3.50). The medicinal ingredient seemed to chill him out, so I prescribed some more in the future, preferably just before any episode of Bargain Hunt.

Anyway, maybe this place needs a bit longer to get over any teething issues. 

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It’s definitely not the new Bross Bagels or Alby’s yet.

At least we have been provided with some sandwich inspiration. Crisps on the side. Yes indeed.

74 Raeburn Place, Edinburgh

Places to try Nearby

The Pastry Section, 86 Raeburn Place, Edinburgh,

This bakery and cafe is looking very autumnal, with its new Peace in the Neighbourhood installation in the window. Its cakes include a chocolate, Ovaltine and meringue sponge, or pumpkin plant pots with cream cheese frosting. Currently open for takeaway from the window server.

The Pantry, 1 North West Circus Place, Edinburgh,

This family-friendly space does breakfast, brunch and lunch, and has more indoor and outdoor seating than most Stockbridge cafes. The brunch menu includes sunshine on Stockbridge with roasted sweet potato rosti, smoked paprika tomato, grilled courgette, smashed avo, sriracha, free range poached eggs and poblano pepper.

Bross Bagels, 72 St Stephen Street, Edinburgh,

It’s very predictable, but the last trillion times we’ve been to this bagel shop, we’ve ordered the Montreal. It contains smoked salmon, cream cheese, pickled pink onions, capers and dill. Hard to beat, though we also like the Mama Bross Club with chicken salad, streaky bacon, dilli pickles and their buffamayo.

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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