88 Bruntsfield Place is haunted by the ghost of a bad meal.
I went there to review former occupant TriBeCa, a year or so ago. One of us had macaroni cheese, which was streaked with brown fibres that weren’t listed. “What are these?,” we asked. “Don’t know,” said the waitress, and the chef didn’t have a clue either.
Anyway, the whole experience was rotten, and since they didn’t charge us, I shelved my review.
Now we’re back, with our proton packs, though number 88 has been reincarnated into something much more promising. As part of Edinburgh’s Chop House empire, it has their signature look – copper accents, orange banquettes – and matching hipster clientele, plus a similar menu to the venues on Market Street and in Leith.
The people behind this place also own Edinburgh’s Monteiths and their White Horse Oyster & Seafood Bar opened back in January, so they’re expanding fast. We had high hopes of banishing any residual paranormal activity, hopefully without speaking in tongues or with our heads turning all the way round, because that really hurt last time.
I thought the mussels (£9.50) from their à la carte might do it. These creamy fleshed beasts came in a rich, Bovril-esque, essential and salty bone marrow broth, which was dotted with lardons. If you watered the garden with this brew, you’d probably be able to grow Venus fly-traps, titan arum and other carnivorous botanicals. I just wished that it was a bit clingier, as it didn’t stick to the mussels’ wobbly bods. I should have ordered some bread.
Our other starter of sesame squid (£8.50) was nice enough, though the flavours were a little single note. There were four pipes of brandy snap sized cephalopod, speckled like a starling, but with sesame seeds, and some cabbage and carrot slaw on the side. Fresh, if underseasoned.
Beside our basement level table, there’s a board that features special cuts and weights, with chateaubriand (from £63 for 600g), porterhouse (from £46 for 600g), bone-in rib (from £64 for 800g), dry aged (available soon) and the guest breed (on our visit, Glenarm Estate, though it had been scored out, since they’d sold it all the night before).
We went for the 350g rib-eye on the menu (£29), cooked medium rare and with a pot of bearnaise. It was a hefty slab of meat – yielding, charred and smoky. We guzzled it faster than a newly discovered enzyme eats through a plastic bottle.
Their blackened tuna (£22) was similarly pink centred and griddle lined. It came with green beans doused in a chilli seed dotted butter.
Our other sides were a mixed bag. I was a bit sad about the chips (£3.50). The beef dripping ones in their original branch were the don. These were ordinary – dense rather than fluffy. Chips to sink ships.
The straw fries (£3.50) – a skinny take on the genre, were about the same. They need to re-examine their potato game.
However, we did like the beef dripping mushrooms (£3.50). They’d absorbed loads of the jus, so the buttons were saturated with beefy goodness. Our final side of gem lettuce (£3.50) featured bouncy leaves coated in a Caesar-ish dressing, with crumbles of a zingy stilton-y blue cheese.
Perhaps I should have also tried their mac cheese (£4), since lightning never strikes twice.
“I just want a titchy scoop of ice-cream after all that,” said my dining partner.
So, I’m still not sure how we ended up with an orange sponge pudding (£7) and the coal roasted pineapple sundae (£7).
The tropical number, served in a metal coupe bowl, featured four chunks of fruit with a scoop of coconut ice-cream, pecans and some toffee sauce. Not sure if it was a seven quid dessert.
While, our citrus pud consisted of a syrup-saturated sponge with a blob of vanilla ice-cream.
Good, and the final mouthful banished any echoes of trauma that might still linger at number 88.
Thanks to Chop House, I ain’t afraid of no ghost. n
88 Bruntsfield Place, Edinburgh (0131-629 6565, www.chophousesteak.co.uk)