The Tremeloes were right, silence IS golden, I thought, when visiting this new bar and restaurant.
Fair enough, it was a Friday night on Lothian Road, but the roar from the interior was almost like a physical forcefield that I had to push my way through. The length of the bar was layered with drinkers, spilling off its end and out the door on to the pavement, and there was a DJ spinning Nineties tunes. Acoustics-wise, visiting this place is like climbing inside a bass drum and letting Animal from The Muppets let rip.
“IT’S PRETTY LOUD IN HERE,” I said to my dining partner. “EH?” And so continued our conversation for the rest of the meal.
This street, with all its associated stag party-esque lairyness (this venue used to be a strip club) seems like an odd fit for boutique-y craft beer brand Innis & Gunn. Their sweet framed illustrations cover one Farrow & Ball painted wall – perhaps not a look that’ll necessarily be appreciated by those who want to neck rather than relish a craft beer. Still, the ever popular Hanging Bat does a similar thing up the road and it seems to manage. Build it, and the hipsters will come.
There’s a lengthy drinks list featuring beers from this brand and others, all of which are categorised according to flavour, from Crisp and Light to Dark and Roasted. Much of the food is beer-injected too, and the menu features “Innis & Gunn” quite a lot, so you don’t start thinking this is the Sweetheart Stout Kitchen or something.
I went for the “Scotch egg – Innis & Gunn sausage, free range egg, Innis & Gunn Original brewn sauce” (£4.50).
"They're not shy when it comes to flavours in here. It's biff baff boff all the way"
It’s an awful thought, but if Tamworth pigs laid eggs, they might look a bit like this. There was a runny-yolked bumper oeuf, which was swaddled in coarse pork sausage meat (couldn’t really taste the beer in that) and rolled in a rough and chewy oaty coating that made the concoction even more burly. The accompanying brown sauce was like an Edinburgh chip shop sauce, except sweeter, yeasty and very vinegary. Addictive.
Our trio of sea-salted cauliflower croquettes (£5) were squidgy breadcrumbed morsels, each filled with a white pulp of the eponymous veg and melted Isle of Mull cheddar and served on top of a punchy sweet chilli jam.
They’re not shy when it comes to flavours in here. It’s biff baff boff all the way.
Same goes for the pork belly (£10), which was served on a ceramic square that resembled a cistern lid. There was a large mound of fibrous “pulled and rolled pork belly”, a plank of pancetta and a rustic tile of over-salted “black pudding and apple rosti”. It came with a pale yellow lake of wholegrain mustard sauce. Heavy and feral overall, but OK.
My main of lamb (£14.50) was a bit of a mish-mash of warm and cold elements. There were leaves of tepid rump of lamb, a couple of coasters of underdone griddled aubergine, peas, watercress, and a blob of cold mint and cucumber yoghurt.
“It’s quite pleasant”. “I SAID IT’S QUITE PLEASANT”.
Four decent courses down, and the only real dud was a side – “veggie fries cooked in a light tempura batter” (£3).
The word light should be erased from that sentence. These were vegetables as deep-fried Mars Bars, with thin strips of what may have once been courgette or carrot that were clad in an inch-thick sleeping bag of seeping batter. With every bite, the inside of my mouth and gullet was coated with a fatty film.
Puddings are also a weak spot. My treacle and rum tart (£5) was burnt, with a rough topping like singed sand. It couldn’t be redeemed by the scoop of marmalade and raisin ice-cream (from which any shrivelled grapes had gone awol).
The baked vanilla and black crowdie cheesecake (£5.50) was better, with a claggy sweet topping and a load of gunky stewed apple on the side.
Not brilliant, but this is a satisfyingly savoury kind of place. Salt. Meat. Fried carbs.
“THE SORT OF FOOD THAT PUT HAIRS ON YOUR CHEST,”
Silence is golden, golden.
Dinner for two excluding drinks - £47.50