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The Outsider, Edinburgh, Restaurant review

"This is one seriously smoky-dish - the poshest cheese on toast ever." Lynn O'Rourke checks out The Outsider on Edinburgh's George IV Bridge.

Published: May 3, 2015

The other half and I have been let loose in town on a Saturday night. No sooner has the babysitter knocked on our door than we’re off. These things are best done quickly – linger and before you know it you’re a couple of Julia Donaldson books down and rashly promising an early morning trip to Toys R Us if only someone will go to sleep, all the while hoping you might catch last orders.
We deserve better than that and have booked a table in the heart of the city, The Outsider on George IV Bridge. The contemporary glazed frontage opens up to a modern interior, but not one without warmth and character. Dark grey tones, extensive glazing, stripped floors, wooden tables of varying sizes, quirky corners and cushioned bench seats are all bathed in flickering candlelight, creating a welcoming atmosphere that is the perfect backdrop to relaxed, casual dining. If you are lucky enough to secure a window seat at the back of the restaurant you will
be rewarded with dramatic views from this elevated site towards Edinburgh Castle.
The place is packed when we arrive, filled with the buzz of lively conversation. Despite being busy, staff are efficient and effortlessly friendly. The menu offers a range of modern European options, from steamed mussels to roast venison, steak and lobster, with a couple of decent sounding vegetarian choices.
The entertaining wine list has us chopping and changing our mind, finally settling on a bottle of French red, Les Oliviers Grenache, which carries the following description on the menu: “Man, being reasonable, must get drunk, the best of life is but intoxication. Glory to the grape... One sip of this wine will fill you with undiluted joy.” How could we not?
Decisions made, the other half opts for smoked Portobello mushroom with earthy Ardrahan cheese on toasted sourdough with a paprika and garlic aioli. It gets the thumbs up, but this is one seriously smoky dish – perhaps the poshest, smokiest cheese on toast ever, he decides.

The balance seems a little off kilter –
as I might have been had I managed to polish it all off.

I choose the whole baked sardine, which is served on a bed of orange and barley risotto, with fennel syrup, oats and sweet cicely. The sardine itself is perfectly cooked and tastes delicious, but it feels overwhelmed by the amount of oats and barley battling it out for digestion space. The balance seems a little off kilter – as I might have been had I managed to polish it all off.
For a main, my veggie partner decides on a CHL split (a chunky healthy line, there are several options, including chicken and fish, which can be shared as a starter or served as a main). This is sesame-crusted aubergine, chickpea falafel, peppers and halloumi, which has been chargrilled on skewers and is served with pitta bread filled with homemade apple, raisin and beetroot coleslaw. He tops this not-so-little number off with a side order of garlicky fries, because you can’t be too healthy of a Saturday night. The coleslaw and fries are spot on, but the main itself is light on falafel and heavy on the halloumi.
Staying with my fish theme, I give the saffron and paprika-infused bouillabaisse a go. Comprising hake, mussels and salmon, it is served with a slice of crab and Parmesan-topped toast. I order a side of spiced sweet potato wedges with chive crème fraîche simply because I am greedy and can’t see past them; they are a little on the crisp side and, as suspected, completely unnecessary. The bouillabaisse itself is more saucy than soupy in texture, nicely seasoned with the fish well cooked. I find the crab and Parmesan toast too much when combined with the flavours on the plate so I order some chunky bread, which does a much better job of mopping up.
Desserts are a mixed bag, split between a lemon sorbet served with frozen Russian vodka (which can be drunk straight or poured over), and a chocolate and espresso pavê with molasses ice-cream. The sorbet comes out on top, providing a pleasingly refreshing finish to the meal. Taste-wise my pavê is less impressive, although the ice-cream is very good; it, does, however, look like the kind of dessert to be shared.
And that, overall, is what this restaurant feels like – an ideal place to share and enjoy food in a vibrant, friendly atmosphere. Our food bill comes to £56.80 for three courses each, while wine brings the total to £76.30, which, for the amount of food we had, seems pretty reasonable for city-centre dining. And if you can land yourself that castle view, so much the better

Starters £5.80-£6.70
Mains £13.80-£22.60
Puddings £3.90-£5.80
Cheeseboard from £5.40

Lunch is served from 12-5pm and offers a great variety of options at decent prices ranging from soup with crusty bread (£4.40) to skirt steak ciabatta, with baby gem, mustard mayo and tomato chilli jam (£7.80).
Vegetarians also have a couple of interesting options in the shape of crispy rosemary gnocchi and pea shoot salad (£6.70), as well as tomato and sweet potato lasagne, Jerusalem artichoke and polenta panzanella salad (£6.40).

Lynn O'Rourke is atHome editor at Scotland on Sunday and a lifestyle editor for Spectrum magazine. She has been working for the magazine since 2003, editing the weekly property and interiors pages, and more recently also covering food and drink, travel and lifestyle news.

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