Restaurant review: Bar Rollo, Edinburgh

Rollo, in Stockbridge. Picture: Jane Barlow
Rollo, in Stockbridge. Picture: Jane Barlow
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I’ve thought about this place a lot since I visited. If I lived nearby, I’d be a regular

Call me hen, lamb, sweetpea or poppet and I’ll be like Playdoh in your hands.

I’m a sucker for terms of endearment. They make me come over all weak and kittenish (like when a mother cat carries it by the scruff of its neck – aka total surrender).

Ailsa Rollo, fashion designer and owner of this new wine bar and restaurant in Edinburgh’s Stockbridge, had us at “lovelies” and “darlings”. She’s that kind of person – warm and welcoming, but then, this is a family establishment, so you feel as if you’re in her living room. Owned by Rollo Jr, her sculptor mother, Alison (who has carved the stone heads that adorn this place), and her architect father, George, this narrow space is creatively designed, with warming hues and squashy sit-bone-friendly fabrics.

There’s an open kitchen, so you can see the chef at work. And, if you get tired of that, you can also enjoy the view into the kitchen at Tom Kitchin’s gastropub Scran & Scallie, directly opposite.

The first section of the menu features a selection of snacky Bites. We went for a double helping of that ubiquitous Noughties kickback – bon-bons – a Mull crab version (£5) and a goat’s cheese (£4). These were of a Ricky Martin Shake Your Bon-Bon standard (ie pelvis quakingly great) – crispy-coated, uniformly gobstopper-shaped and squishy inside. Our quartet of crabby ones featured finely chopped chilli and spring onion, with a dip on the side that, mercifully, didn’t taste like the “passionfruit” version as billed, but more like a hot and tangy tamarind.

Our vegetarian versions were stuffed with hot feral cheese, diced kalamata olives and nibs of sun-dried tomato, with a thick beetroot purée on the side. Nice.

Main courses are split House of Fraser crockery department-style, into Plates, Bowls and Sides.

I NEVER get proper crackling when ordering crispy pork belly (£8), as it’s always topped with something that’s more like silicone bath sealant. But, lo, I was presented with a Plate featuring five neat cubes of soft piggy meat, each sprinkled with five-spice and featuring a perfectly salty and crispy lid. The happiest day of my life, especially as the sweet quince aioli on the side was a nice alternative to apple sauce.

The menu’s most pricey Plate – the pepper roast Borders venison (£14) – was worth the mark-up. The slices of meat were rare enough that we’re pretty sure it attempted to rut with us, and there were whole blackcurrants lolling around in the jus, which was tart enough to sidestep any Ribena associations.

Beware, though, as these dishes aren’t served with your regular two veg, as you choose the latter from the list of sides. We went for some good chips with aioli (£3) and some lively looking broccoli that was anointed with anchovy butter (£3).

The most exciting of the rather prosaic dessert list was probably the sticky toffee and ginger pudding (£6). But, no matter, as this was a boring choice made lovely, with a fag packet-sized block of sponge, dotted with dates and surrounded by a deep moat of fox-coloured sauce. I want it again, but supersized.

The lemon tart (£6) was, “Not available, as we’ve just put it in the oven”. So, our only other option, bar the IJ Mellis cheese plate or affogato (£6 each) was the vanilla ice-cream with fruit compote (£6). This was fine, with a mound of decent ice-cream, topped with berries, shards of plum, and cherries.

I’ve thought about this place a lot since I visited and, if I lived nearby, I’d be a regular (after all, I can’t afford Scran & Scallie).

The food is casual but quality, and the vibe is slightly smarter than bistro, so you feel you’re getting a bit of twinkle for your money.

Rollo – you are a sweetie.

THE VERDICT

How much?

Lunch for two, excluding drinks, £49

FOOD

8/10

AMBIENCE

9/10

TOTAL

17/20

Bar Rollo

108 Raeburn Place,

Edinburgh

(0131-332 1232)

barrollo.com