I recently read a newspaper story about a woman who was found dead in her house. She was surrounded by 82 chihuahuas, all of whom were descended from an original pair.
I also feel a bit overwhelmed, though in a nicer way.
In 12 years of reviewing, there have never been as many notable Edinburgh restaurant openings.
Fishmarket, Brasserie Prince, Six by Nico, Fhior, Scotsman Grand Cafe, Mono, Borough, 83 Hanover Street and chain Hawksmoor, with loads more in the pipeline.
To paraphrase The Weather Girls; “It’s a-raining food, Hallelujah”, though I suppose this eatery might get forgotten about in the downpour.
It almost slipped under my radar, until I was scanning my notebook hieroglyphics in search of somewhere suitable for a casual lunch.
This “neighbourhood bistro” is open for both meals from Wednesday to Sunday, and they do brunch at the weekend.
There’s a nautical theme, since head chef Roberta Hall, formerly of The Kitchin and Castle Terrace restaurant, among other places, is into sailing.
She owns this place along with her partner, front of house cap’n, Shaun McCarron. Size-wise, it’s more of a dinghy than a ferry, with room for just 18 covers.
There are shipping chart artworks, by Hall’s mother, on the walls, and a petrol blue paint job.
Dishes are best shared, and I, and me hearties, ordered seven from the list of nine savouries.
They come as they’re ready, and first up was the haggis sausage roll (£4), which was a corker, with pastry as shiny as a shoe-shined clog. The peppery haggis worked beautifully with the side of lush, sweet and unusually nutty “turnip ketchup”.
Is this a thing? Did Hall invent this? Whatever, they should bottle it up.
Next was three crispy fish balls (£4) – hot and herby, though the star was another great condiment – this time a zingy and pale green “cornichon mayonnaise”.
The loosely hewn and creamy mackerel pâté (£6) came on two insole-sized slivers of treacle soda bread, along with a dollop of gooseberry jam on the side, but I preferred the open sandwich on thick and crunchy crusted sourdough (£8), topped with creamy Waldorf salad, thin leaves of ox tongue and a handful of crumbled walnuts.
The bricks of basil panisse (£4) were nice enough, though better with a slick of the oil black olive tapenade.
Our ham hock (£9) option was beautifully presented, with a drift of pretty things – chicory, slivers of apricot and flaked almonds – alongside.
But it was a bit of a hiding-light-under-a-bushel display, since we were already two thirds through the cool hammy block, thinking it was slightly under seasoned, before we found the marvellous rosemary and apricot chutney underneath all the bits. It should have been on a plinth, like the chief exhibit it was.
The appropriately flesh-coloured gnudi (£13.50) – sort of like gnocchi, though made with ricotta instead of potato – were thumb sized and fluffy middled, with Parmesan in there too.
However, the plateful, though scurvy beating, was generally slightly ascetic flavour wise, with asparagus, broccoli, a creamy sauce, courgette and crumbly nodules of buckwheat. Beautiful in its simplicity, though best enjoyed if you’ve still got every taste bud you were born with.
They were back on form with the dark chocolate tart (£7.50).
You can see another good restaurant – The Walnut – from the window here. I remember having their fantastic rosemary and sea salt version. The newer bistro’s take had a chocolatey and biscuity shell, a mouth-coating ganache and was studded with porky raspberries.
This came with a glossy raspberry sorbet – as pink as Grayson Perry’s best frock– on the side, and chocolatey crumbs. Who wins? I think The Little Chartroom might have it, though these eateries are welcome to fight it out in the middle of Leith Walk. Bare knuckle only, no kitchen utensils, keep it clean.
Anyway, that’s one down, a million chihuahua litters worth to go. If you’re also trying out some of the new places, perhaps put your anchor down on Albert Place first.
30-31 Albert Place, Edinburgh
(0131-556 6600, www.thelittlechartroom.com)