Restaurant review: Sylvesters, West Nicolson St

Sylvesters Restaurant. Picture: Greg Macvean

Sylvesters Restaurant. Picture: Greg Macvean

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WHAT is succotash anyway? After a childhood of watching cartoon cat Sylvester persecute smug Tweetie Pie, I never understood that lisping moggy’s catchphrase, “sufferin’ succotash”.

Turns out it’s a native American dish of corn, peppers, courgette and butter beans.

Sadly, there is no Looney Tunes theme here. Instead, it’s been named after the proprietor/chef – Kieran Sylvester, whom I’m sure won’t laugh if you tell him you tawt you saw a puddy tat. He’ll be jaded and broken, as I am when it comes to any soapy reference.

This place opened a few months ago, in the former premises of Pink Olive. Its menu isn’t exactly thrilling, with fish cakes, haggis bon-bons, steak sandwich and mushroom risotto all making an appearance, but I think they’re going for a low-fi comfort food vibe.

Anyway, any lack of sparkle and jazz hands on the food list (or, for that matter, interior, which is a soupy pale grey and rather meh), the all-female front of house staff make up for with convection heater-like warmth.

I tried the affordable lunch and pre-theatre menu (three courses for £14.95, two for £11.95 and one for £8.95, available from 11:30am-2pm and 5pm-6pm), and my dining partner ordered from the pricier à-la-carte.

Turned out she was on the high road, and I was on the pot-holed bicycle lane.

I have a theory: you can melt cheese on to anything and it’ll taste good. But that didn’t apply to my camembert, fig and onion tart, possibly because its blanket of fromage was cold and claggy and there wasn’t enough of it to balance out the jammy fig and caramelised onion relish, while its walnut and Parmesan undercarriage was thick and fossilised, like a stale digestive.

On the other side of the table, the scallops (£7.50) seemed to be going down well.

There were three pillbox-sized and silky-centred bivalves, each topped with a heap of a chunky “tomato and roasted pepper chutney,” which was cayenne spiced, dotted with nutty black rice and doused in a beurre noisette. Well jel, as the kidz might say.

My green-eyed monster was to become more and more Hulk-like, as, apparently, the Jacob’s Ladder (£11.95) was the tops.

It consisted of a huge slab of slow-cooked, wet and soft short rib of beef, a tile of crispy-lidded dauphinoise potato, a whole braised carrot, and a ladleful of rich gravy.

My chorizo chicken was decent, but seemed a lot less interesting, as it was rather underseasoned and bland in comparison.

There was a breast of paprika-sprinkled crispy-skinned chook, as well as some other stuff – chopped leeks, cubes of sautéed potato, and tiny nibs of chorizo, all in a buttery sauce. It needed some pep, so Soapy took the hump.

Puddings were OK, though my melt-in-the-middle chocolate pudding, gooey side face down on the plate, appeared to be half of a chocolate fondant, dissected in the style of a victim in The Bridge. Maybe the cat ate the other half?

Anyway, there was compensation in the form of a scoop of vanilla ice-cream and a sachet’s worth of the novelty garnish that is popping candy.

The mango parfait (£5.50) was our favourite – a tile of fruity creaminess, as yellow as a big foreheaded cartoon canary, with a blob of lemon sorbet on the side.

Maybe I’m asking too much for the price, but the set menu is a bit of a let down at Sylvesters.

If you want Technicolor, then spend an extra tenner on the à la carte, and don’t ask for a thide of succotash (he won’t laugh).

VERDICT

How much? Lunch for two, excluding drinks, £39.90

FOOD

7/10

AMBIENCE

8/10

TOTAL

15/20

Sylvesters

55-57 West Nicolson Street,

Edinburgh

(0131-662 4493, www.sylvesters edinburgh.co.uk)

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