“SORRY, we’re full, you’ll have to queue,” said a staff member at Peter’s Yard’s new pizza joint. Amazing. We thought it was gallus and over-optimistic when this independent business opened right next door to a branch of Pizza Express in Edinburgh. It was thin crusts at dawn in Stockbridge.
3 Deanhaugh Street, Edinburgh 0131-332 2901, www.petersyard.com
How much? Lunch for three, excluding drinks, £46.65
However, there were plenty of empty seats in the adjacent chain restaurant, but this Swedish cafe, take-away and bakery, which currently doesn’t take bookings, was at capacity.
Mind you, it is rather incomplete, as they haven’t yet opened the other half of the space, down in the basement. “Ventilation issues,” explained a waiter. I’m sure they’ll eventually fill that too, as their simple formula is working.
They offer only three varieties of pizza – Vegetarian (roasted peppers, artichokes, basil, feta, mozzarella and spring onion), Meat (Ventricina salami or Parma ham, plus roasted peppers, kalamata olives, mozzarella, feta and basil) or Anchovies (anchovies, kalamata olives, capers, mozzarella and basil), all £10 each.
Plus, there is loads of extraneous stuff – open sandwiches, quiche, Japanese teas and artisan baked goodies (including their award-winning crispbreads), based on the recipes of partner and master baker, Jan Hedh.
It was torture to wait, silently nagging other customers, while trays of chocolate muffins, pistachio horns and vanilla buns stared at me, all squishy and come-hither. But it didn’t take long before we managed to bag three seats (be prepared to squeeze on the end of a communal table).
To start, we shared carrot, fennel and nigella soup (£5.10) and the ras-el-hanout salad (£5.20).
The former tasted very healthy, like imbibing the sprightly, Tinkerbell-like lifeforce of a carrot. However, the accompanying bread was the star turn, with one slice of yeasty white, another of sourdough and plenty of proper butter (hence, I suppose, the comparatively inflated price of this option).
Our salady offering, which contained aubergine, lentils, spring onions, tomatoes, chickpeas and other jumbly bits, could’ve done with a bit more of the traditional spiced seasoning that its moniker suggested.
However, it tasted virtuous and there was enough interest to keep one grazing on the shrubbery, like a diplodocus. Again the crunchy crispbread discs on the side really shone.
For mains, we went for all three pizza varieties. There is no pizzaiolo-style dough flinging here, but they could do a PhD in the subject. They describe it as “no-compromise”, as it took them months to develop the recipe, source the right durum wheat and flour, and settle on a base made from naturally fermented sourdough.
If Pizza Express is all about the toppings, this place is all about the, well, bottomings. These were bubble-edged, whisker thin and crispy, with a fresh tang. I’ll not go into too many digestional details, but, post swallow, it didn’t feel as if it had formed a heavy, glutinous bolus in one’s stomach.
The additional ingredients were good too, we all had a favourite.
I liked anchovy, with robust salty fishies, whole basil leaves and tangy olives. But the other two were just as good, with, amongst other things, spicy salami on one, and milky feta on the other.
Each came with a bowl of clean-tasting surkal, a Nordic take on sauerkraut, which contains white cabbage, vinegar and chilli.
When it came to dessert, I did a lap of the cake and bun counter about five times. There is, after all, a lot to choose from, not to mention ice-cream, with varieties including Valrhona chocolate and pistachio.
We settled on parsnip cake (£2.70), which we’ve had at Peter’s Yard’s other Edinburgh cafe (27 Simpson Loan). It was as good as before, with a glossy, buttery icing and a shreddy sponge. A sliver of passionfruit tart (£1.95) was intensely zesty, while, a beige semolina and almond cake (£1.70) was rather dry and ascetic, like an edible Gregorian chant, but not bad with one of this place’s very good flat whites (£2.40).
This restaurant is good. Go, but prepare to queue.
And, if you can’t get a seat, there’s always Pizza Express, just next door. I hear that they’re quite quiet these days.
• Peter’s Yard, 3 Deanhaugh Street, Edinburgh 0131-332 2901, www.petersyard.com