By the time you read this, someone in the capital will have won dinner with Leonardo DiCaprio.
Not me. I didn’t enter the competition. Although I liked him in Django Unchained, Critters 3 and The Revenant, I won’t get the three hours of my life back that I spent watching The Wolf of Wall Street. And, I wouldn’t want to have to ask him to keek through a fish tank with me, à la Romeo + Juliet, or re-create the Jack and Rose moment on The Royal Yacht Britannia, which whoever won will surely have felt obliged to do.
Still, big kudos to the Hollywood star, who, in the footsteps of last year’s celebrity guest George Clooney, volunteered to help raise funds for Edinburgh charity Social Bite. However, getting the attention of A-listers isn’t the only way this charity has raised funds to help the homeless.
Along with their five sarnie shops in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen, there’s this new not-for-profit restaurant, aptly named Home. It’s operated by Dean Gassabi of Edinburgh’s Maison Bleue eateries, with the support of Martin Wishart.
As well as training socially disadvantaged people to work in their venue and ploughing all their profits into the charity, with every meal you have the option to Pay it Forward, which involves forking out a little extra to buy someone in need a coffee (£2), lunch (£5) or dinner (£10). Then, every Monday from 3pm-5pm, homeless people can visit to get warm and have something proper to eat. Kindness in a rather cold climate, politically and seasonally.
As far as the menu goes, at lunchtime there are three courses for £15 (one for £8.50, two for £12.50), or you can go à la carte. From the latter menu, we went for the scary sounding “surprise calamari!” (£4.50) and the goat’s cheese boulettes (£4.90). “Is the surprise that it’s chicken?,” one of my dining partners said to the waiter. He did a polite laugh. It turned out to be a sort of squid fajita offering, and was good, sweet with peppers, chopped parsley and loads of paprika spiced hoops. Not sure if it warranted the first exclamation mark I’ve seen on a menu, but still.
My cheese offering was satisfying too, with three perfectly uniform bollards of breadcrumbed milky and mild fromage, which were pressed onto a splodge of guacamole and accessorised by three dormouse-ear-shaped blobs of deep fried jalapeño.
From the set menu, the daintily presented poached quail eggs consisted of three stoppers of rich boudin noir flanked by a pair of sun-dried tomato wedges and two perfect oeufs. Like a fry-up for a Borrower.
The main course of merguez frites with chakchouka ratatouille (£8.50) is one of the signature dishes at Maison Bleue’s branches. It would be hard not to like it – three spicy sausages, a thatch of skinny fries and some of the billed tomato, onion and pepper mix. De-icer for the soul.
I really enjoyed the equally cockle-warming helping of chicken tagine (£9.50), with plenty of meat, green olives, nuggets of preserved lemon, artichoke and herbs, a gravy plungepool, and a helping of their mousseline mash (£3.25) on the side.
The dish of rabbit saddle felt too special for the low-price menu. It was a really good bunny stew, with a dijon mustard sauce plus a large island of mash, carrots and mushrooms. Ask the waiter if you’ve still got room for pudding. We tried the key lime pie (£4) and the vanilla cheesecake (£4), both of which were sweet and silky with well-packed biscuity bases.
The food here is suitably homely, perfect for winter, and the low pricing means that even the tightwaddiest diner will find it easy to tick the £10 box, as we did, to pay for someone deserving’s dinner. Maison Bleue already does really well in the city, but I feel this place is a step up (maybe that’s Wishart’s influence), and I’m not just saying that because they’re nice.
Put down that Wolf of Wall Street DVD and spend three hours of your life at this restaurant instead.
Lunch for three, excluding drinks, but including £10 Pay it Forward, £61.15