TO PARAPHRASE Marks & Spencer, The Scran & Scallie is no ordinary pub, it’s a Tom Kitchin gastro-pub.
The Scran & Scallie
1 Comely Bank Road, Edinburgh (0131-332 6281, www.scranandscallie.com)
Lunch for two, incluing drinks, £56
With its recent opening, it seems the chef’s transmogrification into a brand is complete. It’s deserved, of course – his food is great, and he works like a dog, what with the books, Scotland on Sunday column, TV appearances, Michelin-starred restaurant The Kitchin and projects with chef Dominic Jack – Castle Terrace Restaurant (also Michelin-starred) and, now, this place.
It’s in the former premises of Italian restaurant San Marco and I imagine that it’s bumped up the house prices in Edinburgh’s Comely Bank/Stockbridge postcode by a couple of thousand. On our visit the other diners were of a certain demographic not seen in a bog-standard boozer. Expensive hair and shoes, for one thing. I felt split-ended and scuffed.
Along with the tartany-thistly decor, the all-day menu sounds slightly contrived, with Brigadoon-like phrases such as “Oor Menu”, “Sit ye down yer welcome” and, at the very bottom, “Aifter that there’s naething but coffee, a wee dram an’ lurk in the bar...”
Apparently this was inspired by 19th and early 20th-century Scottish menus, discovered in the National Library of Scotland. A photocopied version of these is hanging in the corridor that leads to the washrooms (aka the cludgies, ma muckle pal).
Each option is also described concisely. I had no clue how my tripe and ox tongue starter (£8) would be prepared, and I began to imagine a plateful of steaming entrails, until I remembered that this is a Tom Kitchin gastropub.
In the end, the word “offal” seemed rather obscene when applied to this refined dish. It featured slow-cooked and shredded tripe in an intensely tomatoey and red-peppery sort of ragu, with soft onions and a bouncy topping of rocket leaves and brunoise-sized croutons. In the mix were dainty cubes of pan- frazzled tongue (that cow will forever haud its wheesht). So good. Mmf.
Our other choice from the Yer Starters list – sheep’s heid broth (£5.50) – was a prize ram of a portion. As a luxe version of a rustic broth, it was opaquely stocky, with tons of pleasingly chewy mutton, carrots, celeriac and potato hunks, parsley and beads of pearl barley, and slices of sour-dough on the side.
When it came to our second course, we didn’t really need to be up-sold a helping of chips (£3.50) – “You’ll need a side dish with that, especially as you’re a man”, the waiter told my dining partner – as the size of our hake portion (£15) was perfectly adequate. Dreamy too, with a meaty piece of fish on top of a Post-it-yellow aniseedy artichoke barigoule, as well as long slippery bits of carrot, black olive flecks, tarragon leaves and a lemon and white winey reduction.
Fresh, summery and as clean-tasting as Listerine.
My main (£15) was just as impressive in its subtle, breathy layering of flavours and textures. The protein was provided by chunks of guinea fowl breast, perched on a pool of haricot beans. These were slathered in a grassy green “basil butter”, and it tasted as if there was also pea purée and mint in the mix, as well as the coiling tendrils of watercress and tiny ashen nibs of cocoa bean.
I totally appreciated the artistry in this dish, but it really could have done with a sprinkling of salt.
According to the waiter, Alison Jack’s syrup sponge (£4.50) is named after Dominic Jack’s mum, who provided the recipe. She must be a clever one, because this was a pudding of childhood fantasies. An ice-cream-topped dome of sponge featured an under carriage of sticky syrupy goodness.
Our other pud – warm chocolate chip cookie (£4.50) – was served in a little metal pan. The biccy itself was doughy soft inside, crunchy-bottomed and treacle-sweet, with a chevron stripe of dark chocolate sauce and a pompom of plain ice-cream. And, while we were sooking up every last bite, Tom came out of the kitchen and worked the dining room.
Other diners looked on, enthralled, but they should have expected an appearance, as this is no ordinary restaurant, it’s a....(well, you get the picture).