The Tour de France kicks off today. All that distance, all those mountains. No wonder that, when the inaugural race was dreamt up as a publicity stunt to sell copies of the newspaper L’Auto, back in 1903, it was considered completely and utterly bonkers.
Dinner for two, excluding drinks,
To unwittingly compound the challenge, back then they imagined that drinking water would dilute one’s energy. In the heat, dehydrated cyclists would fall to the ground like crumpled-up energy bar wrappers.
Crazy indeed, and my cue to visit this ten-year-old French restaurant – La P’tite Folie (aka the little madness), which has two branches in Edinburgh, the other of which is on Frederick Street.
And the medium-level madness? That would be cycling there, despite the west-end roadworks, potholes and marauding taxi drivers, who bend round corners at high speeds, with their black chassis hoisted up like kirtles.
But at least I was well-hydrated.
My bike was locked up outside the mock Tudor building, which was designed by Thomas Duncan Rhind and built around 1900. This venue is tres chocolat box charmant, outside and in.
Especially upstairs, where we were, with the wooden-clad walls and ship-related souvenirs (not sure what the nautical connection is, but it IS galley-shaped and like being on the Mary Rose in here). Almost all of the other diners had that tanned, South of France, pink shirted, Melvyn Bragg-esque look.
The menu is relatively pricey at dinner, although they do a two-course lunch menu for £10.50. It’s also sort of old-fashioned in parts. You wouldn’t feel shocked to see an avocado fan on there. I think I did.
I went for the roulade (£5.25) as a starter. Like a very posh canapé, it featured three tightly swaddled and sticky-centred pin-wheels of courgette, aubergine, artichoke and cream cheese, alongside a strip of a chunky and garlicky gazpacho sauce. There was also a lightly-dressed lemony salad, with frisée and those purple-headed micro-herbs that resemble spent matchsticks.
It was six bites of enjoyable-ness (or 23 mouthfuls in total if you were to count the salad).
The tuna carpaccio was good too (£6.50). Four petals of cool meat were peppered on the outside and presented alongside a zig-zag of sweet red pepper coulis and a bank of more salad.
All fine, but our mains were the yellow jersey winners.
The butter! The cream! The note-to-self about being good tomorrow!
Especially when it came to the chunky piece of monkfish (£17.95), which was doused in a champagne-coloured and nutty lemon beurre noisette. There was also a little clutch of blistered tomatoes, well pummelled mash, a pile of crisp green beans and a wedge of lemon. It wasn’t trendy (I mean, there are chives sprinkled everywhere, as if it were the 1980s) but it was simple and special.
Same goes for the ballotine of corn-fed chicken (£14.95). This was sliced into chunky crispy-skinned discs, each of which was packed with pine-nuts and chopped apricots. They’d been generous with the frothy soubise sauce too, which made me happy, as it was so balsamic-y and dreamy. On the side – more mash and green beans.
Sometimes I dread a chocolate torte (£4.95). The texture is so often just plain weird – claggy, gluey or granulated, and it camps out in your oesophagus and refuses to budge. Not this one. It was a pile of rich gooey ganache on a crumbly and almondy pastry base. Lovely.
The lemon and vanilla cheesecake (£4.95) was a pile of zesty fluff. So innocent looking. “I’m not a lifetime on the hips, honest”, it said. We noshed it.
I really like it here. It’s the sort of place you go to when you’ve been pedalling uphill all day. You stuff yourself with buttery goodies until you feel as if you’re on the downhill straight, high on Lucozade, feet off the pedals, butter round your mouth, weeeeee.