Every restaurant should have a meet and greet cat. On our visit to this new bistro, Marilyn Monroe flirted by blinking at us and winding her fluffy body around our calves. We had trouble getting through the door. She either hasn’t been fed for months (all cats say that) or she wants the Three Birds all to herself.
She’s not the only one. This eatery was at capacity by 7:30pm on a Wednesday evening. It has a homely feel inside, though the decor hasn’t changed much since its former incarnation as French restaurant, Le Mouton Noir. The owner is welcoming and chatty. You feel as if you have now entered someone else’s parlour. Nice, if intense.
From the concise menu, we chose garlic soup with duck liver (£5) and the oxtail wontons (£5) that were chalked up onto the specials board. The latter was decent enough. Although the pastry was a bit chewy and dry round the edges, the contents of these parcels were sticky and beefy, with star anise accentuating the malty sweet tone.
When it came to the huge bowl of soup, we were prepped for some kind of supersonically pongy 30-clove concoction. But it was really a plain old potato potage, with plectrum-shaped garlic chips on the top, plus hunks of floating duck liver and a sprig of thyme. Don’t get me wrong, it was fab, but there was only a faint echo of this bulb, when we wanted a yodel.
The main of free-range chicken breast (£14.50) featured a puréed bird within a bird. Soft poultry was stuffed with duck paté, and surrounded with a summery, rosemary-spiked salsa mixture. A slightly eccentric combo – like a duffle coat with flip-flops – though individual elements went down well. The accompanying roast potatoes were dreamy, and a piece of bubbly crisped-up chicken skin was a pork-rind-style treat.
We both loved the spice-rubbed lamb rump (£17), which was nicely pink, and satisfyingly pan-seared and crusty on the exterior. It was served on a wooden board alongside a ramekin of yoghurt dotted with mint, and a pair of toasty flatbreads.
Our plate also boasted a fab Moroccan-style roasted aubergine and onion mixture, which featured a blast of cinnamon and was scattered with raisins and chilli seeds.
If savouries were satisfying, puddings were a bit iffy. The pineapple upside-down cake (£4.50) was billed alongside the words “have it with a cuppa”, though you’d need a bathtub of Rosie Lee to moisturise that brick of dry sponge. It was topped by a slow-melting sphere of plain ice-cream and drizzled with too little rum syrup.
Chocolate and Cointreau tart (£4.25) was better, with a dark, rich ganache and a decent shortcrust. However, it was rather mismatched alongside accessories of spicy ginger tablet, which was poked into a dollop of orange-infused whipped cream. I’ve got a feeling that someone in the kitchen isn’t that bothered about desserts. But at least they’re good at their main courses, and it’s still early days at Three Birds.
I think they’ll slot nicely into the eating scene in Bruntsfield, alongside popular hang-outs such as Cafe Grande and Bia Bistrot, both of which have a similar vibe. They just need to tweak a few things.
For example, it’d be nice to have some provenance mentioned on the menu. As things stand, that lamb could’ve been Hugh Grierson Organic’s finest, or off the shelf at Lidl, we don’t know – and same goes for the other ingredients.
Still, with saucy Marilyn working the door, they’re always going to be rammed.