Scotsman Review
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August 7, 2019

Victor Hugo Deli, Edinburgh, restaurant review

If you want to sample Victor Hugo Deli's tasty cafe grub, you don't have to be near the Meadows, says Gaby Soutar


They’re thinking of opening another branch of Edinburgh Castle, but on Portobello Beach.


There will also be a second Scott Monument beside Ikea at Straiton, and a Greyfriars Bobby puppy at a new spot on Seafield Road (a sanctuary from tourists rubbing his snout).


I was very confused when I heard Victor Hugo was opening an outpost on the corner of George Street and Castle Street.


It’s such a Meadows institution.


People love it because it’s been doing the same continental deli thing – more or less – from its urban yet leafy venue on Melville Terrace since 1969 (though it was established in 1955 in a different location). For me, it will always be associated with the Nineties, when students wealthier than me would do breakfast there and I’d go home, cry and have a Pop Tart.

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And, FYI, it has nothing to do with the author of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, but is named after the buddies who first opened the business, Victor and Hugo. (If they’d named it in the age of celebrity portmanteaus, it could have been called Hutors, and I would be Soutar at Hutors).


The menu is extensive, with their signature lunchtime stuff – baguettes, frittata, quiches, salads, waffles, lasagne, pastries and patisserie.


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Then there are their sandwiches, wadded with fillings, cut straight across their stuffed middles so the contents are inches from the deli counter glass. With strata of ham and pastrami, like book pages, and gingham wrapping, they remind me of my school jotters covered with Seventies wallpaper.


Tempting, but I fancied something hot, so tried the house special of croque monsieur (£5.55), This pale and salty sarnie featured ham and a little comte cheese inside a mustard-slicked thick and springy white bread clad in a frilly and crispy bechamel sauce. It came with their signature Russian salad (otherwise known as Olivier salad) – a retro sticky and mayo-clad potato mixture with carrots, pickles and peas, and there was a huge dollop of red cabbage coleslaw.


Another house special is the pastrami on rye (£5.50). I tried to count the meaty layers, and there must have been at least 15 in there, along with sweet pickled gherkins halves, a scratching of emmental and some mustard-y house dressing.

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Their lasagne (£8.50) was excellent. The best I’ve had is “yesterday’s lasagne” from Glasgow’s Eusebi deli. This block was in a similar vein – a rich baritone version of this pasta dish. It was a cure for any mid-summer ennui.


This came with more Russian salad, which also re-appeared with the Victor’s burger (£8.45). That was a bit sad, since a burger without chips is like Hugo without Victor. Still, we liked this stack, served in a puffy sesame bun, with melted cheese sagging over a well done 6oz meat patty, loads of crispy pancetta, squished avocado, tomato, lettuce and not-quite-enough of their devilish tomato chutney.


The service is friendly but clunky, perhaps because the waiting staff are having to serve takeaway customers as well as sit-in covers, and queues were building up. Although it was a bit like herding ferrets, we eventually managed to order some cake, get our tables cleared and have our leftover Russian salads boxed up.


Choose your dessert from the line-up at the counter. We went for the pretty looking chocolate macaron-topped pear and caramel entremet (£4.30), with a spongy platform and a gelatinous and buff-coloured sugary dome that was filled with liquid caramel.



They also do a thick triangle of raspberry coulis and almond tart (£3.45), which was paved with flaked almonds and icing sugar dusted, and we also ordered an excellent millionaire’s shortbread (£2.60), with a thick ganache-like topping, gummy centre and crumbly shortbread undercarriage.


Good cakes (though the coffee isn’t great, even if it is a hand roasted house blend, sorry), so even though this location may feel discombobulating to Edinburgers, I’m sure it’ll thrive. Perhaps they will name their third branch Hutors. n




104 George Street, Edinburgh (0131-667 1827,

Gaby Soutar is a lifestyle editor at The Scotsman. She has been reviewing restaurants for The Scotsman Magazine since 2007 and edits the weekly food pages.
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