Restaurant review: (A) More Dogs
DAVID Ramsden is an acquired taste. I have friends who won't go near his restaurants and I know from my postbag that his forthright manner with customers has induced frothing apoplexy in some of our more straitlaced readers.
I, on the other hand, find Edinburgh's most androgynous, outspoken and uber-camp restaurateur a source of amusement and wonder. I've even watched with interest as the stick-thin baldy man has gradually morphed into something of a celebrity, viz his recent admission that he has struggled for years with anorexia, an affliction that's not only life-threatening but a professional liability for a man who makes his living from food.
Much more importantly, I've watched his progression through a series of Edinburgh restaurants. His late, much-lamented Rogue on Morrison Street was one of my favourite restaurants in the capital, and although he only worked as a freelance front-of-house man at Channings and Iris, he brought some much-needed levity to every place he attended. I am, in short, a fan.
Which was why, despite the annoyingly contrived name, I was looking forward to trying (A)More Dogs, his spin-off venture next door to the original. After all, I like Italian food and there has been virtually unanimous praise for The Dogs, his wildly successful eatery on Hanover Street. Yeah, yeah, I know I'm supposed to go to every restaurant with an open mind, but sometimes anticipation gets the better of us: after all, I wouldn't be going there unless I had reasonable grounds to suspect I might get a great meal which I could then recommend.
Anyway, the first bit of good news is that pudding was fantastic. Vicky's silky-smooth panna cotta with strawberries and a super-sweet, gelatinous sauce was far and away the best I've ever tasted, while my semifreddo and torrone (a sickly sweet, soft Italian nougat) was also superb, although only for those with a very sweet tooth. As a way of rounding off a meal, it was a pair of puddings you'd struggle to improve on.
The next spike on the good-news graph is that our Aussie waitress was not only lovely but very efficient. And the atmosphere was good, as was the wine list. Oh, and the bill wasn't too hefty, just breaking the 50 mark for meal and full trimmings.
So that's the good stuff out of the way. Now for the bad, but make sure you're sitting comfortably because this is going to take some time. If The Dogs was a play on what our Aussie waitress would call the mutt's nuts, then this canine relation was, on this occasion, just just a dog. As in no bloody good. Let's start at the beginning with Vicky's starter. It was described as "baked mushrooms, gorgonzola, herb crumbs". Note the plural. Instead, what she got was one smallish field mushroom with no hint of gorgonzola but plenty of herb crumbs. It was so bland, boring, undersized and overpriced we almost started wondering whether Dom Joly was going to jump out of the woodwork. I mean, 3.15 for one mushroom?
My starter was marginally more impressive, although my lukewarm fried ricotta with tomato salsa (mashed-up tomatoes with spring onions and chives) easily fitted on an oversized saucer. I cursed for not choosing the veal with tuna sauce.
If our starters were dire, our main courses marked a death spiral downwards. Vicky's salami, mushroom, spinach and ricotta calzone was little more than a huge, tasteless doughball. Is she hadn't still been so hungry after her Lilliputian starter, there's no way she'd have managed more than a mouthful; as it was, she left a large chunk of flaccid pastry sitting on the side of her plate.
We didn't talk much during our main courses because Vicky's mouth was glued shut with molten dough while I was giving my biceps a good workout as I used my blunt knife to saw apart a whole pigeon that had been cooked to within an inch of its existence. Eventually I gave up and, as we were alone on our little platform at the back of the restaurant, picked it up and gnawed at it. On the plus side, the lentils that accompanied it were fantastic, while the plate of grilled and roasted vegetables – which consisted of half a cheese-encrusted yellow pepper, strips of courgette and a slab of aubergine – was small but perfectly formed.
There you go, more good news. Perhaps it wasn't that bad after all, I said to Vicky as we left, before immediately realising that no amount of wishful thinking could disguise what was one of the least satisfying meals I've had in ages.
(A) More Dogs
104 Hanover Street, Edinburgh (0131-220 5155, www.amoredogs.co.uk)
Out of pocket
Starters 2.50-5.50; main courses 4.50-12.40; puddings 3.25-4.75
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Monday 20 May 2013
Temperature: 8 C to 21 C
Wind Speed: 8 mph
Wind direction: North west
Temperature: 7 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 10 mph
Wind direction: North west