There are many things I’d bring back from the Nineties – my youth, Tamagotchi, pre-boom house prices and Rowntree Secret bars.
The Tapas Tree, a Spanish eatery that opened in 1996 on Edinburgh’s Forth Street and closed in the Noughties, wasn’t ever one of those things. Until I saw that it had reopened on Queen Charlotte Street in Leith.
Then I thought, yes, it was well respected at the time, maybe this will be a good thing. They haven’t yet stamped their signature on the double-level interior, but it’s not long since the former occupier – restaurant ESI – moved out.
As well as tomato-hued sunscapes, there’s a green spotty Flamenco dress tacked to the wall at an angle, like the ghost of a dancer who imploded in the middle of a too-speedy palmas.
We sat at a rustic wooden table. Bread landed. Unfortunately, it seemed to be the same spongy white tiger bread loaf that I’d recently seen, in supermarket carrier bags, being unloaded from the back of a car and carried into the eatery. But, hey, it was gratis.
Service was good – smiley and chatty. However, when our orders started arriving, they weren’t exactly mindblowing.
Decent stuff included the mussels alinados (£7.50). Bloated, cream- coloured and cool crustaceans were scattered with a chopped pepper, tomato and white onion salsa, with a drizzle of lemon juice over the top. If you could handle the inevitable halitosis, this was a clean-tasting combination.
Pinchos de pescado (£6) featured skewered chunks of miscellaneous fish, including soft pieces of salmon and haddock, propped up by a salad of shredded iceberg. Seasoned with sea salt and lemon (according to the menu, at least), this offering was inoffensive.
Same goes for the pinchos de venado (£7.50) – a mandible workout provided by tanorexic-coloured venison basted with a rather artificially smoky tasting jus (the “port sauce”, I guess), with a couple of cherry toms and yellow peppers skewered alongside them for much-needed lubrication. Again, these wren-sized blobs of meat were, depressingly, roosting on a cosy iceberg nest.
We only ate half of the cerdo en salsa (£3.90) – aka a terracotta dish of pale pork bits in a watery jus.
The fabada Asturiana (£5.65), or bean stew with chorizo, morcilla and tocino, was hearty and beany enough, but didn’t seem to contain any of the latter two meats (only chorizo discs and carrot).
Vegetarian options include champinones rellenos (£3.80) – a pair of chilly and oily Portobello mushrooms, each cupping the same cold salsa that topped our mussel mixture, and semi-dissolved threads of fromage (it had been described as “melting cheese”, so I suppose this is an accurate description).
The bright orange croquetas de pollo (£4) were filled with a smooth paste that tasted strangely like egg mayonnaise.
One of our puddings was OK – the flan (£4.50) was a creme-caramel turret, with lots of sugary syrup. Two tarts – an almond tarta de Santiago (£4.50), accompanied by squirty cream, and an appley tarta demanzana (£4.50) – were as good as shop-bought. Not a compliment.
This place isn’t nearly the worst restaurant in the capital. The food is reasonably fresh, but it’s rather nondescript.
Unless they up their game, that’s not enough for them to hold their own against nearby competition such as Spanish eatery Tapa www.tapaedinburgh.co.uk. I don’t want to be snooty about the past, but (apart from the Tamagotchi) you can keep the Nineties.
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Wednesday 22 May 2013
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