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Cafe Ink, Edinburgh, restaurant review

Apart from excellent cheese scones, the food at Edinburgh Printmakers' Cafe Ink is lacklustre, says Gaby Soutar

Published: July 5, 2019
Food: 
6.5/10
Ambience: 
7.5/10

I don’t know anyone who’s had a face lift.

However, I imagine that a Simon Cowell/Jocelyn Wildenstein-esque transformation comes as a shock.
This now beautiful restored building – once the North British Rubber Company headquarters – has had an £11 million nip and tuck, but it’s been a very protracted makeover.

I cycle past every day, and have seen dust sheets, scaffolding, lorries, and the installation of their first exhibit, The Politics of Heritage vs. the Heritage of Politics by Thomas Kilpper.

It took for-eve-r, so there was no big reveal for me. However, I hadn’t seen their new cafe, run by Heritage Portfolio, who also look after the grub at the Scottish Galleries of Modern Art, Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Hopetoun House and the Signet Library.

This impressive space is at the back, with floor to ceiling windows that look onto a courtyard and garden.
Exciting, especially as there isn’t that much else in Fountainbridge, apart from Loudons, Hula and my other new discovery, Urban Grow (93 per cent houseplants, 7 per cent tasty delicacies).

We sat at Cafe Ink’s biggest table, which is made from an upcycled door sandwiched in glass.
The menu sounds trendier than Heritage Portfolio’s other venues.

Perhaps they hope to attract a younger clientele than the grey-haired cheese scone crew (of which I am a proud member) that inhabit the other gallery cafes.

Anyway, onto those scones (£3). They were the bomb – bright orange, craggy, herby and salty.
“Best ever,” said mum, spreading her half with butter. As the grand high priestess of this genre, her praise bestows earth-shattering kudos.

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I was slightly later to my savoury scone addiction, and would say these examples were in my top five, alongside the ones from Edinburgh cafe Love Crumbs and The Old Pier Tearoom in Arran.

Apart from this, we ordered mainly from the Brunch Menu (10am-3pm), since it seemed more interesting.

We tried the avocado and edamame smash (£9.95) with a side of four thick cut bacon slices. It really needed that salty meaty addition as this was super sweet, with a huge green heap of the billed ingredients doused in a sap-like chilli maple syrup and a sprinkling of pumpkin seeds, all served on a yellow spongy raft of cornbread.

Sickly, but not bad, and the stuffed aubergine (£8.50) was OK too. There was half a blistered eggplant with a ladleful of tomatoey chorizo and black bean stew, a splotch of yogurt, a poached egg on top and coils of pea shoots. Nice enough, but it would only tickle the sides of a chunky appetite. Thus, oops, we ordered another cheese scone.

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It had to be shared, since the power bowl (£8.50) was also a bit low on carbs. It featured asparagus tips, globs of poached salmon, a pale broccoli pesto (hidden at the bottom and, thus, not excavated until the last minute), flower petals, more pea shoots and another poached egg.

Their soup of the day – cream of courgette and asparagus (£4.50) – was vibrant and lovely, with rivulets of olive oil suspended on its surface.

However, one of their “loaded sandwiches” (£4.50), consisted of a stale bap and a claggy filling of salami, dribbly kimchi mayo and a couple of cheese slices. We only managed a couple of bites. Nobody asked if it was alright and our plates weren’t cleared away.

In the end, we did that passive aggressive thing of moving our dishes onto another table, so we wouldn’t have to stare at our scraps and could go ahead and order cake.

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These took an eternity to arrive and were a little lame. The chocolate and beetroot sponge (£3.50) had a strange burnt aftertaste, and the caramel shortbread (£3.50) was very odd, like the base was made of compressed crackers.

We did, however, semi-enjoy the slightly ascetic chocolate and coconut slice (£3.50), and they do a good flat white (£2.60).

So, yeah, amazing makeover, but looks aren’t everything. The food and service need work.

At least the high priestess of cheese scones was happy. (This year, she can skip the human sacrifice).

Cafe Ink Edinburgh

Edinburgh Printmakers, 1 Dundee Street, Edinburgh

(0131-557 2479, www.edinburghprintmakers.co.uk)

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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