|Henrick’s Edinburgh: ginger glazed pork belly – no crackling…|
Henrick’s, Edinburgh review – “My peppered mackerel mousse consisted of a couple of quenelles of creamy fishy pâté, atop dollops of grapefruit salsa, with ‘rustic’ oatcakes. It was nice enough, but I would maybe expect a little more citrus zing from the salsa as a counterpoint to the rich, smoked-peppery fish flavour from the mousse.”
I’ve often maintained that eating is as much a cultural experience as it is about sustenance. After all, few things can be as social as sharing a meal with friends or family. Likewise, a particular regional, or national cuisine can be highly representative of the culture from whence it originates. Given the cultural resonance of food, it’s probably unsurprising then that JML and I quite often like to combine going out for a meal with a visit to a comedy show, the cinema, or the theatre.
This was recently the case when we decided to travel across town to take in Anita and Me at Edinburgh’s King’s Theatre. If only JML had realised the production wasn’t in fact a play but a musical before he booked the tickets. Somewhat surprisingly, he can’t abide musicals…
So, before taking our seats in the stalls, we decided to also take in an early dinner. Now there is no shortage of eateries in the Tollcross / Bruntsfield districts of Edinburgh – quite the reverse in fact – but having read a favourable write up in the press, JML suggested we try Henrick’s Bar and Bistro, not least because it was a couple of minutes’ walk from the venue, and therefore well used to catering for the pre-theatre dining crowd. With recollections of having had a decent meal there years ago, I agreed this seemed like a good call.
Occupying double fronted premises on the ground floor of a Victorian tenement, the interior of Henrick’s is quite architecturally impressive, sporting high, corniced ceilings, a handsomely imposing bar, and dark, wood-panelled walls. All nicely balanced by neutral paint shades, complimentary dark leather furniture, and stripped wooden floors. Welcomingly alluring. “But enough with the World of Interiors, what’s the scran and swallie like?”, I hear you ask.
|Tasty broccoli and goats’ cheese tart.|
Now, whilst the venue offers a two-course pre-theatre menu – pretty good value at £12.50 – we decided to go for the new, Spring al a carte option. First course arrived in quick time, just after bottles of sparkling water and very quaffable Rioja found their way to our table. I was sorely tempted by the goats’ cheese tart, but was pipped to that post by JML. It transpired to be a solid choice, with the (just) crisp pastry base being filled with an appealing combination of greenery in the form of tender broccoli and spring onion, and a richly flavoured caramelised onion and chilli jam. The fresh, yet savoury, goat’s cheese that wasn’t too overpowering, and the dish came dressed with a pleasant Balsamic glaze. A decent curtain-up effort.
My peppered mackerel mousse consisted of a couple of quenelles of creamy fishy pâté, atop dollops of grapefruit salsa, with ‘rustic’ oatcakes. It was nice enough, but I would maybe expect a little more citrus zing from the salsa as a counterpoint to the rich, smoked-peppery fish flavour from the mousse. Plus, fine as the oatcakes were – and I stand to be corrected here – they seemed to be more mass-produced than rustic. And I am not sure that the limp rocket garnish brought much to the dish.
|Peppered mackerel mousse.|
Now much as I love hake – pan fried with an oriental twist on Henrick’s Spring menu – I adore pork belly in equal measure. There is something utterly irresistible about a slab of slow cooked porcine loveliness, all crisp on top and meltingly unctuous beneath. So I was salivating with anticipation at the arrival of a main course of slow cooked pork belly in a ginger glaze. Did my eager anticipation turn out to be well placed?
The accompanying mashed potato was smooth-ish and creamy, and the spring greens – though I don’t think mange tout is locally seasonal – were cooked just to point with a nice basting of salty soy sauce. The pork belly was “fine”, to coin an adjective again. The meat was tender enough but, where there should have been a layer of crackling, there was no crispness present whatsoever. The sticky ginger glaze, whilst flavoursome, was maybe a little too sweet and lacking in astringency to properly balance the richness of the meat. Rightly or wrongly, memories of my father’s pressure-cooked pork belly in Homepride Cook-in-Sauce sprang to mind – Dad, if you’re reading this, it was pretty cutting edge for 1976, honest…
Always one for a nice steak, JML struck lucky when he spied an 8oz fillet of prime Scottish beef on the menu. “Cooked to your preference” – which in JML’s case is medium rare. A suitably enticing-looking slab of meat was served, together with nicely crispy/fluffy chips, juicy roast tomatoes, and a creamily rich sauce laden with citrusy-spicy pink peppercorns. It scored a tick as decent pub grub, except for the fact that the steak wasn’t quite as JML preferred. It was much more medium than medium rare.
To draw the review of our pre-theatre dining to a close, I’d love to tell you about our pudding choices of JML’s chocolate brownie and – one of my particular favourites – rhubarb and apple crumble. Alas, this isn’t possible. Despite the fact we ordered our desserts 35 minutes before curtain up, we had to leave empty mouthed after half an hour, or risk missing the start of the first act. To be fair our splendid glasses of tawny Port did arrive promptly, and the very amenable front of house staff were effusively apologetic and knocked the puds off the bill as soon as we said we needed to pay.
|Nice fillet steak – more medium than m-rare.|
So, to draw on the theatrical theme, the plot summary for Henrick’s: Despite the flash bar, its more cosy than cutting edge. It’s a venue that is obviously popular – by 6.45pm on a Friday every cover was taken, which is maybe why the kitchen had a bit of a (lack of) pudding moment to itself. It serves decent enough pub grub, though by our experience I think the inclusion of “bistro” in its title might be pushing it a wee bit. And whilst I recognise that every restaurant can have a bit of an off night, if one of your key customer bases is the pre-theatre crowd, you must be able to get your – certainly not cooked to order from scratch – puds out to punters before the curtain goes up.
Food – 6.5/10
Service – 6/10 (N.B. generally very good service, bar the missing puddings)
Value – 7/10
Ambience – expect a pleasant bar/restaurant serving decent pub grub fare.