Hermit crabs are fussy. They don’t move into any old discarded shell. They prefer the most camouflaged ones, and their homes have to be perfectly snug to their soft torsos.
A Room in Leith
1c Dock Place,
(0131-554 7427, www.aroomin.co.uk)
Dinner for two, excluding drinks,
This restaurant had long outgrown its old shell – the rear of nearby pub Teuchters Landing. So, a few weeks ago, it scuttled along to the end of the cul-de-sac and made itself at home in the former premises of Skippers seafood eatery.
Good call as this is a nice space. Stacks of character, with a skylight-lit conservatory area, an outside deck and a cottagey indoor space, with a bookshelf and candlelight, for when winter rolls around.
The lengthy booze menu has also migrated, as has the signature Scottish French bistro fare they also serve in their sister restaurants, A Room in the West End and A Room in the Town.
Our starter – the prettily presented Peterhead smoked mackerel and lemon cream cheese mousse (£5.95) – was more of a pâté, as it wasn’t even vaguely aerated. Still, it tasted decent, with loads of dill in the fishy blend. It came with two smallish blocks of fox-brown brioche, a dappled silver sliver of warm mackerel and some microscopically diced and peppy pickled tomato, red onion and chervil salsa. Happy.
Not so sure about the cauliflower and pecorino risotto (£5.25). Even alongside a sprinkling of garlic croutons, this option was rather too bland and milky. Even the colourful tarragon, pine-nut and chilli dressing that was dribbled across the top failed to add much pizazz.
My main – the Highland lamb plate (£16.95) – featured a sheepy showcase of confit belly, slow roasted leg and three fat leaves of seared loin. The latter two cuts were the best, but the former was a little dry. Each of these meaty pieces was placed on a thin, disc-shaped plinth of fondant sweet potato, and drizzled with plenty of port jus that was pretty low on the booze. I enjoyed this dish, though I’m not a massive fan of a bowl of unseasoned veg – slippery halved new potatoes, broccoli, carrot tiddlywinks and untrimmed green beans – presented alongside your main.
I would rather have one additional piece of beautifully prepared vegetation on my plate, than a tombola mix of school dinner sides.
Anyway, in other news, the Scallop of the Year prize goes to the pair of creamy Shetland specimens which punctuated the dish of North Sea lemon sole (£16.95). Everything else – the three pieces of pale fish, silky celeriac purée, smoky char-grilled potatoes, and black olive, caper and lemon thyme salsa – though good, sort of paled into insignificance (the same thing would happen if I was in the same room as a Bond girl – see, totally invisible, even if I do star jumps and pull a monkey face).
“Who’s having the frenzy?” said the waitress, when she brought over my pudding. I wasn’t kicking over tables, but had, in fact, ordered the chocolate frenzy (£5).
In ascending order of preference, this pudding consisted of a square of a white chocolate and cardamom parfait, a block of brownie anointed with glossy choco sauce, and an espresso cup filled with a slick of milk chocolate and vanilla crème brûlée. Crowd-pleasing.
The lemon and poppy seed sponge (£5) was also hard to dislike, with two cubes of syrupy sponge, a dollop of gingery chantilly cream and, top of the bill, some sweetly perfumed and heart-shaped Blacketyside Farm strawberries.
It’s rather nice here and A Room in Leith has settled into its new home. I’m just not sure it’s my perfect fit.