Life could be easier if restaurant names doubled as map co-ordinates. My current favourite eatery would be called On the Hill Opposite an Eighties Office Block, closely followed by In a Park by the Pet Shop (Grid Reference: NT 26381 74460).
This new gastropub has got the idea. Drop-kick your satnav and stamp on it for good measure, as there is no satnav required to track down this place. Yes, you may argue that there are four corners at the eponymous crossroads, but once your orienteering skills come into play, you’ll realise that there is a sign above the door.
Owned by the Shilling Group – the people behind six other popular Edinburgh watering holes, including Bar Kohl, the Fountain and the Golden Rule – they’ve done a decent job fitting out this place, which opened back in July and was formerly McLachlan Ale House.
Its décor seems to be self-consciously trying to resemble an independent business, and could be described as Victorian barber shop meets Fifties café, via the set of Open All Hours. However, beyond the trendy-ness, they have paid attention to the finer details – water and tumblers on the tables, posh soap in the lavs and, for families, toys and books and enough space between tables to park a buggy. Very civilised.
The food? Don’t expect anything fancy, that’s not their schtick.
Our lunch kicked off with the pie-and-a-pint-style starters of sausage roll (£5) and Scotch egg (£4.50).
The latter – the size of a pool ball and served on a chintzy vintage plate – came with a puddle of tamarindy brown sauce. It was decent enough, if rather cold and under-seasoned, with a russet crumbed shell of roughly hewn pork and a heart of luminescent yolked egg.
Same goes for the other option, which featured a thick case of flaky pastry and more of the slightly pale and flavourless piggy meat in its middle. A little pot of spiced baked beans was helpful for adding a mild chilli-hot dimension.
Mains are equally simple and redolent of home-cooking.
Underneath a cloud of rocket, my bowlful of gnocchi tasted fresh, wholesome and pretty healthy (if you discounted the Parmesan), with spinach, chunks of roasted tomato and pepper, a sweet tomato ragu, and a clutch of fat little dumplings. And all for £7. I can’t remember the last time I saw a number that small on a menu (apparently, at dinnertime their selection of more sophisticated main courses come in at around the £12 mark).
That appealingly low number cropped up again when it came to the rather flappily soft skinned, but decent enough, portion of hake (£7). It was served on a cassoulet beanbag of tomato-sauce clad haricots, which were drizzled with basil oil. There was supposed to be chorizo in the mix somewhere, but, if there was, we couldn’t dig it out.
It was hard to get excited about the pear and coconut panna cotta (£5), which didn’t taste of anything really, apart from milk. It came, unusually, as two thin and wobbly discs, served on top of crunchy and caramelised almond biscuits (the best bit). On the side was a summery fruit salad, which consisted of a bank of pomegranate seeds, with shredded bits of orange and mint. Edible enough, though a rather confused dish overall.
A retro chocolate and raspberry roulade (£5) was better, but it’s hard not to like a wad of light chocolate sponge, coiled tightly like an ammonite and plastered with cream. It came with its natural partners – a bunch of chubby rasps and a drizzle of their essential juices.
Which all made for proper pub food and the smallest bill I’ve had this year (the accounts department will LOVE me), and the coffee (£2.50 for a flat white) ain’t bad either. Go track down the Cross & Corner, no postcode required.