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Review: West End Thrills – The Edinburgh Larder Bistro

Beetroot Soup
Beetroot and chard soup.

I have been inspired to go west. Following my recent visit to the excellent Slow Food event at Edinburgh’s Summerhall, I’ve realised I need to venture outside my east Edinburgh eatery comfort zone more often. My resolve to dine more widely stems from the realisation that Edinburgh has some great restaurants that follow the slow food ethos which I have yet to visit. So on Friday, I put my resolution into action when JML and I booked ourselves a table at The Edinburgh Larder Bistro (1a Alva Street, EH2 4PH) for dinner.

I had heard of this restaurant before, but it really popped onto my culinary radar when I had the opportunity to taste some great nibbles prepared by the establishment’s Chef – Finlay Nicol – at the Summerhall event. Nicol is a member of Slow Food’s The Chef Alliance, so it’s unsurprising to learn that the bistro serves a menu comprising of seasonal dishes, and works with local food and drink suppliers to ensure that these feature the best local, Scottish produce.

The Edinburgh Larder Bistro, occupies an expansive, slightly labyrinthine basement in Edinburgh’s West End. Unexpectedly, the venue also sports a bright conservatory area to its rear, which is where we were seated. Whilst the restaurant offers an impressive a la carte menu, we had taken advantage of a offer and therefore chose our dishes from the slightly smaller, but no less impressive, pre-theatre menu.

Smoked Haddock Pate
Smoked haddock pâté.

To start, I went for the beetroot and chard soup. This was invitingly bright purpley-pink and packed with delicious flavours of earthy sweetness from the beetroot, married with the slightly astringent kick of the chard. A generous blob of crème fraiche placed in the centre of the bowl also added a nice creamy note when mixed into the rest of the liquid, and the only slight quibble I had with the dish was that I had to use a fork to help the lengthy shreds of shard leaves onto my spoon. JML’s opening dish was the pâté of the day, which smoked haddock and spring onion. He was served two generous quenelles of pâté, accompanied by an inviting, flower-adorned organic salad and slices of wholemeal toast. The pâté was obviously made with quality ingredients, and tasted of rich, yet subtle, smokey fishiness, which was complemented by a zing from the spring onion. The speed with which it was consumed certainly suggested it was a hit.

Pork Belly
Roast pork belly.

For my main course, I was initially tempted to order the beef cheeks. I’m a big fan of under-utilised cuts of meat, and beef cheeks – and for that matter, their piggy counterparts – are delicious when slow braised. I was a little disappointed, therefore, when our waitress informed us that in this instance the cheeks had been substituted with a pork belly alternative. Any disappointment soon evaporated however, when I was presented with a beautifully succulent and tender slice of pork adorned with crispy crackling and resting on a bed of sautéed new potatoes, greens and peas., all surrounded by a light, meaty broth. The meat was perfectly cooked and worked well with the rest of dish’s ingredients. To accompany my main, I also ordered a side of seasonal vegetables, which in this case consisted of sautéed lettuce and chard. This was nice enough, but having already consumed chard in my soup, there was a wee danger of overloading on this particular veg.

Tomato Tart
Roast tomato tart.

My dining companion’s main was a roasted tomato tart, with puy lentil salad and crowdie cheese. The Clyde Valley Tomatoes – which are grown just a short trip down the M8 from Edinburgh – used in the tart gave it a real richness of flavour, which was complemented by the creaminess of the crowdie cheese paired with it. The puy lentil salad was also a winner, combining seasonal leaves, earthy pulses and yet more delicious toms with a perfectly seasoned dressing. As a side, JML ordered “Beef dripping chips with Hebridean sea salt”. The golden brown chunks of potato that arrived were sensational, and amongst the best chips I have ever tasted.

Chocolate Fondant
Chocolate fondant.

Even though our dining special offer consisted of two dishes each and a bottle of house wine for £35 – which certainly represents great value – we couldn’t resist availing ourselves of the dessert menu. JML is a big fan of chocolate, so I wasn’t surprised when he ordered the chocolate fondant. This was spot on, quite literally oozing chocolaty richness. It was served with an intriguing carrot ice cream and terrific beetroot granita, which tasted “…just like frozen beetroot jam”. My espresso pecan tart with vanilla ice cream was also rich and tasty, with the flavour of the coffee coming through without overpowering that of the nuts. My only gripe was that the tart’s pastry base was bordering on being overdone, which called for some heavyweight spoon action to divide the pud into consumable segments.

Pecan Pie
Pecan & espresso tart.

All in all, we had great meal at Edinburgh Larder Bistro. The venue is relaxed and welcoming, service is very pleasant, and the food is obviously prepared with passion and attention to detail. What’s more, not only can you dine on really inviting, tasty dishes at this restaurant, but in doing so you will be supporting local producers and suppliers – the menu even lists and thanks those responsible for the ingredients the restaurant uses.

I might be an east-end boy at heart, but I shall certainly be going west again, if my initial experience of the Edinburgh Larder Bistro is anything to go by.

Food 7.5/10
Atmosphere 7.5/10
Service 8/10
Value 9/10

Ambience – Expect a venue with a bistro/brasserie ambience.

Edinburgh Larder Bistro on Urbanspoon Square Meal

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  • Reply
    Chris Berry
    March 28, 2014 at 10:49 am

    Eleanor, thanks for your smashing comment. Really enjoyed myself at the Edinburgh Larder Bistro, and shall be back soon. It's great to discover new eateries that really care about what they serve and how they serve it. And you are right about the West End – lots of inviting places to dine…

  • Reply
    Eleanor Cunningham
    March 28, 2014 at 10:49 am

    Thanks for your fantastic review Chris – it's been great to hear about your experience – lovely photos too! We're very happy you enjoyed your visit to the Larder Bistro and to the West End. It's a really beautiful area and full of lovely independants. We hope you come back to visit again soon!

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