|Goats’ cheese tart, with a rocket bonnet.|
Edinburgh is blessed with a plethora of great places to eat. Not only that, but – like pretty weeds poking through cracks in a garden path – new gastro-pubs, bistros and restaurants seem to appear in my home town on a monthly basis. With this constantly emerging choice it’s perhaps unsurprising that favoured old haunts sometimes fall by the wayside.
I must admit that I do feel a wee bit regretful when circumstances change, and visits to oft-frequented stomping grounds begin to tail off. On the flip side, re-acquaintance with a now neglected eatery or hostelry can be joyous, when their present offerings live up to rose-tinted memories of meals past (see my review of The Shore, as a case in point). With this in mind, when JML and I met a couple of friends for lunch the other weekend, I was both intrigued and a little trepidations when one of them suggested dining at The Doric.
|Lovely lamb & Madeira sauce. As for the veg…|
Situated just behind Edinburgh’s Waverley railway station (in Market Street), The Doric is housed in an architecturally-impressive 17th century tenement building, and bills itself as “Edinburgh’s oldest gastro-pub”. The bistro section of the establishment, located above a separate bar, is accessed via stairs that would not be out of place in an instalment of Harry Potter. Walking into the restaurant it seemed little had changed from the last time I dined there over four years ago – still the same primrose yellow walls punctuated with an eclectic array of prints, and dark wood floors and furniture. Except, maybe things looked a bit more down at heel than I remembered.
We joined one of our – already ensconced – lunching partners and placed our drinks order with the Maitre d’, just as the final member of our party arrived. Service was friendly and courteous. But when we were handed the menus, my immediate thought was these had seen better days – both physically and in terms of contents. And while we perused the, somewhat dog-eared and grubby, menu cards the bottles of wine and water we had ordered were literally plonked – unopened and unannounced – on our table by another member of waiting staff. The portents, to be frank, were not good…
Now I must admit, I sometimes struggle to do a review justice when there are more than two of us dining, as there are maybe too many viewpoints to take into consideration – tastes and preferences often seem to get a bit complicated. This restaurant’s menu is not short on choice either, even if many of the dishes might be considered “pub grub stalwarts”. Add to this mix the fact that one of our party was gluten intolerant – which, to give The Doric its due, it did its utmost to accommodate –I thought we might be in for some mixed opinions. However, by the time it came to don our coats, consensus reigned amongst our party that our dining experience was a bit hit and miss.
|Rich chicken & chorizo with butter beans.|
My starter of mussels in a white wine and cream sauce was tasty enough. The shellfish were plump, but the white granular substance covering them indicated the cream had split from the sauce during cooking. Plus, the accompanying chunk of bread was a tad dry, as if it had been cut for a while. JML’s goats’ cheese tart was nicely presented and appetising, but was somewhat dominated by the inclusion of a whole round of baked cheese. The dishes of smoked duck, and smoked salmon seemed to be eagerly consumed across the table from us – the later accompanied by a gluten-free toast which was surprisingly tasty.
Another bottle of wine arrived – thankfully, this time opened and poured – at the same time as our mains. To be honest, my chargrilled rump of lamb was lovely. It possessed just the right level of rareness and its Madeira sauce matched it well. The accompanying Boulangère potatoes were adequate enough – though they would have benefited from some crispness to their surface, but the whole roast pepper and turned artichoke didn’t contrast the richness of the meat as much as I had hoped.
|Pork two ways, with a zippy pepper sauce.|
JML decided on the “home made” shepherd’s pie, which was – as the menu description suggested –homely rather than tantalisingly tasty. Our friends variously plumbed for chicken with chorizo, and the pork belly and loin. The chicken was moist and nicely accompanied by butter beans and chunks of spicy sausage, but in combination with a cream sauce maybe the sum of the dish was a little over rich. In relation to the pork-fest, the belly was very nicely cooked with a deep flavour, but the loin was slightly underwhelming, and whilst the sweet pepper coulis added tasty zippiness this highlighted that the accompanying fondant potato and honeyed carrots were a bit insipid, by comparison.
This being a lunch-time get together, we decided to forgo puddings, choosing instead to share a plate of “fine Scottish cheeses” with biscuits and home-made chutney, whilst we drank our coffees. The cheeses were nice enough, but I don’t recall any indication being given of what they were, or where in Scotland they hailed from. It could be that we were all a bit too busy chatting, however…
All in all, I think my re-acquaintance with The Doric left me a bit flat. It wasn’t an awful experience by any means, but in the intervening years since I regularly crossed its threshold I think the venue and its cooking has become a wee bit tired. And with the prices of some of the mains roughly comparable with those served by such trendy and celebrated newcomers as Kitchin’s The Scran and Scally and Greenaway’s Bistro Moderene, it might be high time for The Doric to contemplate a bit of a refresh.
Food – 6/10
Value – 5.5/10
Ambience – Expect a bistro/gastro-pub experience.