YOU lot are awfully quiet. Apart from last week. The hotline was a-buzzing when we received a phone call from a reader, tipping us off about Bijou Bistro – a casual, six-year-old eatery opposite Edinburgh’s Leith Links park
“We eat out a lot, and this is one our favourites,” the anonymous caller said on their voicemail message to my editor.
I was immediately dispatched, down the fireman’s pole and into The Scotsman Magazine-mobile (a DeLorean, in case you were wondering), to try out this venue.
It’s situated on a corner in a mainly residential area and is rather basic inside, with bistro tables, potted ferns, and creamy walls punctuated by dulce de leche-coloured cornices and an oversized clock with its time-keeping innards exposed. Most of the other customers, mainly families with small children, were perusing the newspapers and stuffing themselves with brunchy items – eggs Benedict (£5.25) et al – which are available as part of this eatery’s late breakfast menu (until 2:30pm all week).
However, this place’s USP, apart from the fact that it’s fully licensed and BYOB (corkage £2.50), is that most of the foodie offerings on the menu are available in three sizes – bijou, medium or large.
We kicked off with a pair of the dinkier helpings. A chicken, leek and Gruyére florentine (£5.95) for me, and this eatery’s signature fishcakes (£4.95) for my sister, Louisa. Both were examples of unpretentious home cooking. My option featured a ramekin of slightly watery, but ultra cheesy, sauce, which contained plenty of gobbets of soft chicken, plus spinach and chopped leek, topped with a sandy-coloured, buttery crumble. On the side was a large dollop of a mayonnaise-smothered potato, radish and spring onion salad. Good, and the whole shebang was easily enough for a superscrimper’s light lunch.
My dining partner’s option featured a salmony puck, with a baby pink interior dotted with chopped chives. It came with a rockety salad, and a yoghurt-clad mixture – a fresh and tzatzikiesque blend of cucumber nibs and dill.
For mains, we supersized to medium portions. Mind you, Louisa’s helping of pork belly confit (£10.95) was mammoth, with two thick tiles of appealingly chewy meat, with a thick and crispy crackling surface.
These offerings were pressed on top of a slightly too double-creamily sweet (but pleasant enough) creamed cabbage. However, our favourite element was a brick of a supersonically garlicky potato dauphinoise.
So it was a shame that my next course – a special that I’d chosen from the blackboard – was the bluebottle in the ointment.
The vegetable curry (£9.95) contained a good selection of squelchy veg – hunks of cauliflower, broccoli, carrot discs and sweet potato, in a vaguely tomatoey ragu. But it was barely seasoned. I did discover a lonesome cardamom pod in the accompanying “lemon and cardamom rice” but, aside from that, this pile of carbohydrate was as bland as a glass of tap water. Disappointing.
Still, puddings turned my frown upside down. A steamy and top hat-shaped Baileys chocolate fondant (£3.95) was slightly blackened on its seams, but tasted good, with an overflowing dam of malty molten chocolate in its interior and a swirl of raspberry coulis on the side, as well as a scoop of fruity bramble ice-cream.
The latter made another appearance on my sister’s plate, alongside a pot of intensely sweet blackberry, raspberry and vanilla crumble (£4.50). Decent grub here. The service is friendly too – although a little bit too casual, as they do need a bit of prompting when it comes to clearing plates etc (we had to pile ours up before they were finally taken away).
I wouldn’t whizz across town in the DeLorean to visit this place again. However, if it was in my neighbourhood, I’d certainly be a regular (mine’s an eggs Benedict).
• Bijou Bistro
2 Restalrig Road, Edinburgh (0131-538 0664, www.bijoubistro.co.uk)
Lunch for two, excluding drinks, £40.25
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Sunday 19 May 2013
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