Textures include: exposed brick, stainless steel, slate, Carrara marble and tiles.”
When it came to visiting this new cafe, restaurant and deli, the above extract from the press release sold it to me.
Their description did make it sound rather swanky, as did the brasserie-style menu of modern British food.
We caught the train (fuzzy upholstery, plywood, grainy plastic) to Glasgow, then wandered through its Merchant City (sandstone, glassy iced pavement, oily pigeons).
“What’s the name please?” asked a waiter. “Catherine,” I replied.
Unfortunately, sound likes to bounce off a particular variety of texture, and that’s evidently what Soutar had sounded like to whoever had taken my booking in this cacophonous space. I had stopped correcting them after the third try.
We were led up a corrugated iron staircase (“clang, clang, clang”) to a vertiginous top-deck mezzanine level. It overlooks the main space, which includes an oyster bar, ivy-clad pillars and a huge antique mirror with their breakfast offerings scribbled on it in orange pen.
The good-looking selection of starters includes steak tartare (£7) and steamed mussels in Kelpie ale and thyme (£5.50). I went for a vegetarian option of baked shallot (£5) and my dining partner fancied the crispy beef brisket salad (£6).
Service was a little slow, but they were under the cosh with a lunchtime rush.
When it arrived, the latter dish was a gem, with panko-crusted, sea-salted snakes of biltong-esque beef, accompanied by acidic strips of pickled carrot, knobbly and nutty Anya potatoes, cress and an English mustardy dressing.
It was an inspired combination, and a happy time was had with each bite.
My salady option featured wedges of roasted balsamic vinegar-drizzled shallots, as well as golden and magenta beetroot segments, crispy petals of the aforementioned veg, a lemony dressing, and fat dollops of goats curd. The cheese was mild and milky; I would have liked something more feral alongside all the sweetness, but aside from that gripe, this option wasn’t far off perfection.
Which is why my main course was an especially nasty surprise, like a Kinder egg with a badly-behaved spider inside.
When I had ordered the ox cheek stew (£9), I had fantasised about something rich and melty, sump-like and sweet.
But, as befits Christmastide, what arrived was Dickensian.
There was a grim bowlful of watery gravy, which tasted like the tears of a chef. Its contents included gobbets of tight meat, celery, carrot, turnip, parsley and a few more Anya potatoes. On the side – breeze blocks of stale sourdough that stubbornly refused to absorb any jus.
It was as boring as sitting though a triple-bill of silent movies.
Thankfully, our other main of roast ling (£12) was way more appealing, although perhaps they should have peeled off its grey rubbery pelt, as this fish doesn’t have the sort of tasty skin that crisps up. However, the pale flesh underneath was meaty and sweet. It was presented on a frilly blanket of whole kale leaves, and surrounded by a rabble of butterfly-like cockles, which were drying their wings under this brasserie’s low-slung lights.
This dish only featured a few dabs of the accompanying salty seaweed butter, but it was just enough to moisturise and season. Good stuff.
For afters, the orange and poppyseed cake (£5), which resembled a graveyard for full stops, jots and polka dots, was a syrupy tea-time dream, and you could taste every single clot in the accompanying clotted cream (I jest). However, our buttercup-hued custard tart (£5) hadn’t been out of the icebox for long enough, so had a chilly middle, but boasted a thick and eggy filling and soft pastry. We liked the cinnamon-dusted syrup on the side, too.
So, how would my alter ego, Catherine, sum up her Central Market experience in textures?
Silky smooth in most parts, but slightly rough in others.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Saturday 25 May 2013
Temperature: 6 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 13 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 9 C to 16 C
Wind Speed: 14 mph
Wind direction: South west