WEDNESDAYS always seem like a good night to venture out – who doesn’t need a little pick-me-up halfway through the week? My sister and I head to Leith’s newest eatery and wine bar, Anfora, hoping it will prove the kind of place to recharge the midweek batteries.
Anfora is sited in what was once the Vintners Rooms in the oldest commercial building in the city. We step into a dimly lit space, with a long bar down one wall and wooden tables nestled along the other. A jazz trio is playing in one corner.
The main dining area is behind me, leading off from the bar and brasserie. A large fireplace is the focal point at one end of the white painted room, a brass chandelier makes a bold statement, and an oversized mirror bounces light around. Plaster carvings adorn the walls and ceiling, white tablecloths add to the elegance and chunky candles on every table create atmosphere.
The menu offers four main courses plus a couple of specials at the weekend. We quiz our waitress about the ingredients (my sister has an allergy to fish and nuts) and she double checks everything with the chef, which is reassuring.
The wine menu offers a range of organic and biodynamic wines, and there are recommendations given to match each course. We choose a bottle of Viognier Terre des Olivettes (£20), which works with all of our choices.
I start with pan-seared scallops, served with chorizo jam, apple and kohlrabi salad (£8). Beautifully presented in three distinct sections, the scallops are soft and plump and taste as good as they look – melt-in-the mouth buttery. The tiny cubes of juicy chorizo are the perfect rich accompaniment, while the sharper edge to the kohlrabi is an excellent third strand.
Sis’s tartar of heritage tomatoes with soft boiled quail egg, buffalo mozzarella and basil (£6) is fresh and exquisite. Both starters are clearly made to be mopped up with the variety of fresh bread provided.
Main courses are more mixed, with Sis choosing rump of lamb (£17), while I keep the meat feast going with haunch of roe deer (£16).
The lamb looks perfectly presentable, but proves a little on the chewy side. Served with sautéed new potatoes, baby peas, aubergine caviar and salt-baked turnip (too bitter), it’s a decent dish, but doesn’t blow her mind.
My generous slices of roe deer on the other hand are beautifully piled up on a soft bed of polenta cake, leeks and blueberry pine nut sauce, with Barbapapa-shaped blobs of beetroot purée decorating the edge of the plate. The meat is tender and tasty, but it could have been hotter. The polenta base proves an excellent foil for the buttery leeks and beetroot. (By the time I have mopped up as much sauce as possible, it does slightly resemble a Tarantino-esque shoot-out.)
Even though it’s midweek, there is no sign of staff hurrying us up, so choosing pudding is a relaxed affair, which is just as well because the decision isn’t an easy one. Eventually I plump for the baked white chocolate tart, with cherries and vanilla ice-cream (£7), which is paired with a glass of Château La Gontrie Premières Côtes de Bordeaux (£5). The combination is divine with the light dessert wine balancing the achingly sweet white chocolate and ice-cream. The cherries seem to be more decorative than anything, nonetheless this is a pudding the sweet-toothed will savour.
As good as mine is, my sister’s elderflower cheesecake with summer berries and salted caramel ice-cream (£7) has her in raptures. I sneak a taste and, paired with the recommended Gewurztraminer Reserve (£5), which has a light finish and a slight elderflower scent itself, it’s a joy. Light as a cloud, it has a melt-in-the-mouth sweetness that is never cloying. As
good a pud as either of us have had recently.
Our food bill comes to £61 for three courses for two, which doesn’t feel too much considering the range and quality of ingredients used. There may have been one or two niggles, but there is a lot to like about Anfora – it certainly feels like the kind of place that would lift the spirits any day of the week. n
Look out for:
The Monthly Wine Flight caught our eye. An introduction to some new and slightly more unusual wines, you get 4 x 50ml glasses for £12. The most recent features sparkling rosé to start, a fruity Gewurztraminer, a New World chardonnay and a sangiovese from Tuscany. Team this with bar bites ranging from olives (£1.50), corn and chorizo fritters (£5), a cheese (£9.50) or charcuterie board (£11) and it sounds like an ideal evening.
There is also a prix fixe lunch menu from Monday-Friday, 12-3pm, with two courses for £12.50 and three for £14.50, as well as a weekend brasserie menu from 12-4pm, with everything from Caesar salad, anchovies, grated egg and Parmesan crisp (£5) to slow-cooked pork belly and mash (£14).