It’s nearly Valentine’s Day, so I decided to take my ex work wife out for lunch.
Alongside more conventional relationships, many people have an office spouse. It’s that colleague you’ve spent more time with than you ever will with your actual partner, though you’ll never “put a ring on it”, as Beyoncé might say.
For nearly ten years, Claire and I went for a cup of tea every day at 11am and a canteen lunch at 12:30pm. I’d have a baked potato, she’d have mackerel salad.
Sometimes we’d even chuck in a walk round the block together.
Now she has a new job. I sit at my desk, alone, reminiscing about happy times gone by, and all we have left is the occasional lunch or coffee.
Taisteal made for our most recent date.
It’s a name that I’m already tired of mentioning, since every time you say it the reply will be, “What? Spell that.” It’s T-A-I-S-T-E-A-L, and it means journey in Gaelic, apparently. Formerly Field Grill House, it’s been rebranded, repainted and taken over by one of the chefs, Gordon Craig, who has worked in Michelin-starred restaurants including the now defunct Plumed Horse.
The menu is quite similar to before, except they’ve ramped up the global influences to reference Craig’s travels. With starter options such as sweet and sour sweetbreads (£7) and Thai red curry fish soup (£6), my choice of goat’s cheese panna cotta (£6) probably isn’t the most representative of what they’re trying to do, but they had me at “apple, walnuts and truffled honey”.
It was insanely good. There were two wibbly planks of cheesy-ness, fine crisp and acidic struts of red apple, crumbled nuts, micro coriander, two lakes of fungi-infused golden honey and a breadcrumbed bollard of melted cheese. It made me want to do some Gospel style singing along the lines of Oh Happy Day.
Claire’s option was equally good – a pretty speckled bowlful of half battered and half naked tangled tentacles of Singapore squid (£6), all sprinkled with five spice and served on top of a warm and umami tasting squid ink risotto. It was spume-endous, tide-y and wave-licious – all the oceanic superlatives. Things continued in a happy vein with the main courses. So much work had gone into both, this place must have the peppiest prep kitchen in town.
My sliced maple and five spice Gressingham duck breast (£17) was perfectly pink and soft, with a suitably sweet and rich jus on the top. Its accessories included a clutch of Skittle-coloured and slippery edamame beans, a burnish-leafed pak choi, with papery edges and a smoky charred flavour, as well as the delicate little origami envelope that was the shiitake samosa.
Fab, as was our other busy plateful of hake (£16). This featured a piece of beautifully seasoned and nut-sprinkled fish on top of mustardy creamed leeks. It was flanked by four neat little UFO style discs of herby mashed crab sandwiched by wafer thin discs of pickled and baked kohlrabi, and smudges of a bright green herby chlorophyll-ish emulsion.
I am so happy to see imaginative and pimped up renditions of the usual favourites you find on a pudding menu. The chocolate and yuzu fondant (£6.50) was an oozing spongy cushion of citrus and melted cocoa joy, dusted with a pollen-like powder and teamed with a zingy orange curd sorbet that looked like an egg yolk.
My cutely monikered lycheesecake (£6.50) was a treat too, with a biscuity base and a tangy perfumed-ness that cut through the mouth-coatingly creamy topping. It came with a blob of ice-cream that was laced with studs of preserved ginger.
The food here is brilliant – brave, irreverent, fun and punchy. Although it’s not THAT different from what they served as Field, I think I like it better now.
It’s the ideal venue for rekindling your relationship with your office husband/wife. After all, you should really let them know they mean more to you than an occasional loan of a stapler (even if they do work elsewhere these days).
1-3 Raeburn Place, Edinburgh
(0131-332 9977, www.taisteal.co.uk)
Lunch for two, excluding drinks, £58