What’s pate-tempura?” said one of my dining partners, “And what’s a bon bon-whisky?” When you’re visiting Rollo’s second Edinburgh branch, read the menu carefully.
Owner Ailsa Rollo and her crew have gone a bit mad with the hyphens, using them instead of commas, which has resulted in some genetically modified hybrid creations such as the prawn-beetroot-pickle. The kitchen at this stylishly-decorated bistro must be like a science lab, what with all the splicing and DNA cutting and pasting.
"The tart was dreamy, with the ideal ratio of salt to sticky caramel"
Anyway, despite the grammatical confusion, we ordered two things from their Bites menu, which turned out to be massive shareable starters rather than the dainty tongue tickling amuse bouche that the title might suggest.
“Rollo’s crispy gyoza-king prawn-slow roast pork-chilli-honey-coriander” (£7), did not feature a prawn-slow. This option consisted of an assortment of three rough and rather heavy deep-fried pork gyoza and another trio of prawn stuffed and sesame seed-clad dumplings.
The seafood ones were best – more flavour, with chives through the mix. And there was a clear, sweet and vinegary dip on the side.
Our second Bite was the “smoked salmon pate-tempura prawn-beetroot-pickle cucumber-toast” (£7). It featured four fat triangles of sourdough, a quenelle of beetroot chutney, neat rolls of pickled cucumber ribbons and a large scoop of a very good and creamy smoked salmon pâté, plus two prawns in a thick batter cladding that was a bit heavy and solid to be described as tempura.
Both offerings worked as satisfying food to have alongside drinkies, which is apt as the smart new wine bar is a focus at this place.
As far as mains – or Plates and Bowls – go, you’ll probably be needing a side dish. My pan-seared “tuna fillet-mango” (£11.50) was a rare hunk of fish topped with a glossy and fruity heap of the titular fruit, diced, with a bit of red onion, rocket and chilli in the mix. I’d gone for a side of dauphinoise potato (£5), which was a mammoth bowlful topped with half an inch of melted gruyere.
The “crispy skinned duck breast-black cherry-red apple slaw” (£11.90) featured five fat slices of medium rare quacker, with a stack of tart green apple matchsticks on the top and a smear of lipstick red cherry sauce underneath. Good, and those who aren’t fussed about carbs could maybe even do without a side, though we’d gone for a stack of roasted baby potatoes dotted with prosciutto and roasted garlic (£4.50).
So, our only disappointing dish was from the Bowl section, and was billed as a “red snapper-chorizo-crispy noodle-rocket-red onion-chilli-lime-paprika coulis”(£9). Am I the only one whose heart sinks when I’m presented with a dish that’s 80 per cent leaf? Amongst the NASA garage’s worth of rocket was lots of tomato, red onion, some rather flavourless nibs of chorizo and a few slivers of fish. Twiddly noodle wires, like the BFG’s grey hairs, added crunchy texture, but the lime was MIA.
Puddings were a return to form, especially the “salted caramel chocolate tart-clotted cream ice-cream” (£6.50). (I think I can look a bit tart-clotted, when I put on too much make-up). It was dreamy, with a perfect pale shortcrust pastry, and the ideal ratio of salt to sticky caramel and chocolate. The rather dense banana-toffee bread and butter pudding (£6.50) was a close second, but mainly by virtue of the accompanying peanut ice-cream.
So, if you can get your head round the menu, ignore the rocket, and not get too excited about the potential of a pate-tempura that does not exist (unless the chippie across the road, Cafe Piccante, decides to put it into production alongside the deep-fried Mars Bar) this place is rather lovely.
Go and make sure to order yourself a bon bon-whisky, because punctuation is overrated anyway.
Dinner for three, excluding drinks, £68.90
Broughton Street, Edinburgh
(0131 556 5333, www.facebook.com/barrolloedinburgh)