There are unwritten rules in the capital, when it comes to choosing the name for a food business. Go for something poetic-sounding – Ondine, The Plumed Horse, Earthy. Or, opt for the descriptive and perfunctory – Restaurant Martin Wishart, Wedgwood or Castle Terrace.
Deviate from those strict parameters, and you might end up with a title like The Roamin’ Nose. I know, it’s a humdinger. Not sure who came up with that at the brainstorming meeting, but they were no Don Draper.
Anyway, this neighbourhood bistro-esque place is in the former premises of La Garrigue in the New Town. They’ve divided the floor space nicely. There’s a casual lounging area, complete with papers and squishy seating, a dining area with plenty of wiggle gaps between tables, and a single table-a-deux in an alcove by the window, where I’d like to sit and watch the Canonmills dog walkers go by.
The decor is non-offensive chalky white, and the walls are currently hung with portraits of actor Bill Murray, by local artist Megan Lindsay.
The lunch menu is simple, with a Mediterranean slant. In the Small Bites section, there are nibbly tapas style dishes, with options including Sardinian artichoke hearts or nutmeg and Parmigiano mash.
Our group of four shared three of these (£6.50) – the shredded beef fried with sage, green lentil hotpot, and beetroot relish and feta. Served in red cocottes, these were fine, but basic. The corkscrew-shaped beefy offerings, which were encased in batter that had been fried to a deep conker brown, were rather oozingly greasy, but chompable, with a herby edge.
While, our soupy and moss-coloured lentils were soft, gently spiced and meaty tasting, if a bit baby-food-ish.
The third option was pretty prosaic – a large pile of rocket topped by a blob of tangy beetroot relish and a thimbleful of crumbled feta, plus a single white onion ring and a sliced tomato.
Not bad. However, one mustn’t forget the retro prices, especially as these offerings had come with a communal basket of very decent bread.
Amongst other things, mains include casual sarnies, antipasti and pasta plates.
I went for the penne alla Spanish carbonara (£6.15), which featured firm pasta straws topped with a flurry of creamy rich scrambled eggs and fat crumbs of chorizo. Comforting and coddling.
We all took a shine to the venison stew (£9.50), as there were plenty of soft meaty cubes, every hue of olive (stones in, so mind your molars) and marble-sized silverskin onions, all in a buttery jus.
On the side – a slick pile of mash, as smooth and edible as Daniel Craig, and some more of those green lentils.
The sautéed prawn option (£7.50) was decent, with a fish tank’s worth of plump pink sea beasties, as well as coddy hunks, all of which were drenched in a simple lemon, garlic and parsley reduction.
These came with a separate ramekin, which contained flat leaves of aubergine and courgette in a sea salt-sprinkled and crispy batter.
Like the lava on a victim of Pompeii, batter also encased an A4-sized and amorphous pork schnitzel (£7.50), accompanied by skin-on potato wedges, a spinachy salad and three dips (mayo, ketchup and relish).
For pud, peruse the cakes under glass cloches at the counter.
A triangular slice of chocolate cream with almond shortcake (£3) was a high-octane injection of sugar, but too metallically sweet even for this tablet fan.
While tarte au citron (£3.50) was decently zesty, with buttercup yellow goo in a crispy case.
I preferred the crumbly apple and hazelnut cake (£2.50), which would be the ideal companion to a cup of tea.
Unfortunately, I’d ordered a rather weak cappuccino (£2.20).
OK, the food at this place isn’t thrilling. It’s simple home-cooking and nothing to get excited about.
But the prices. THE PRICES. Apart from at a low-cost taxidermist, where else can four people get stuffed for under £50? Surely it deserves a good name for that alone.
The Roamin’ Nose, 14 Eyre Place, Edinburgh