WHEN I WAS small, I had a guinea pig called Pickle (and my sister had one called Patch, which got mauled by a moggy, RIP).
116 Lothian Road, Edinburgh
(0131-229 2406, pickleandcustard.co.uk
Lunch for three, excluding drinks,
Also, like every other child of the Seventies, I was a fan of cartoon cat and dog duo Roobarb & Custard. If I was eight, I would have loved the name of this new cafe bistro. As a grown-up, however, you could argue that it’s putridly twee and self-consciously kooky. I could forgive them if there were gherkins or Bird’s on the menu, but there ain’t.
Owned by the people behind Edinburgh’s Priory Bar & Kitchen, it’s in a premises with a Victorian shop front, on the corner of Lothian Road and Morrison Street. I think it used to be a funeral directors back in the Nineties, and was Espresso Mondo after that.
The menu consists of plenty of sharing options and a selection of imaginatively topped tartines.
We tried the turla turla and hummus sharing board (£12.95). Decent, though the ratios were way out.
Served fancily on a slate, there was a tortoise-sized mound of porridgey textured hummus, matchstick thin celery and carrot crudites, and a dish of turla turla, which they described as the “Turkish version of ratatouille” – a pleasant mixture of mini potato wedges, finely chopped roasted veg, chickpeas and yoghurt.
A shame they’d been tight with the bread. There was only a single sliced up pitta – not enough for a sharing board.
Same goes with the smoked mackerel pâté (£5.50). It was OK – served in a Kilner jar, with bits of black olive in the fishy paste – but there were only two small triangles of toasted granary loaf.
I felt like a brickie with too much cement.
The chicken souvlaki (£5.95) – aka two skewers of chicken marinated in lemon and garlic – was served with a third of a pitta bread (whoop, whoop, you’re spoiling us), a ramekin of tzatziki, and a pile of nondescript leaves. Pleasant, if pedestrian.
Two lamb koftas (£6.50) also served on sticks, were soft, minty and garlic-y, but the dough drought had struck again and there wasn’t quite enough on the plate for the price.
Still ravenous, we ordered an emergency antipasti board (£6.95).
The anchovies and sundried tomatoes, as billed, were awol, but there was as follows: two small bits of toast, four discs of roasted courgette, two green olives and one and three-quarter shrivelled black ones, two tiny shreds of roasted pepper, three blobs of mozzarella – each the size of the amount of toothpaste the average person squirts on to their brush – and a couple of slices of chorizo, as well as salami and Parma ham. Apart from the passable charcuterie contingent, it felt a bit grudging.
Our pudding of chocolate brownie (£3.50, including a coffee) was a sugary titch, only slightly bigger than a cracker joke, but they threw in an OK flat white so we’ll let them off. A decent sized portion of white chocolate and vanilla cheesecake (£3.50, plus coffee) was un-sophisticatedly pleasurable, with a foamy sweet topping and a base that tasted unusually of Crunchy Nut Cornflakes.
Anyway, I’m sure that Pickle & Custard will up its game, as it’s early days and its Twitter and Facebook pages indicate that it has got big ideas and plans. The busy location will surely keep it afloat, and the food is certainly edible, if unexciting and small of portion.
In the meantime, perhaps they should multitask and re-introduce the funeral service that was once offered on this premises, as, sadly, their customers are starved to death.