Restaurant review: La Garrigue Bistro in Leith
And now there's La Garrigue Bistro in Leith, which has taken over the premises of the 15-year-old venture that was Daniel's Bistro. However, word obviously hasn't spread about this new eatery's existence, as it was rather deserted when my trio rocked up. We might have guessed, for when I enquired about a table on a week night, the member of staff who took my booking said: "Yes please!"
In contrast to Gauffre's other branches, which are slightly more upmarket, this has an unintimidating, family friendly vibe, with prints of Pen Duick yachts on the walls and chatty waiters. Alongside the standard Languedoc-inspired food list are loads of snacky options, such as French-style pizzas, croissants and sandwiches, available from 11am.
However, as we fancied something more substantial, Rolf and I focused on the la carte list, while little sister Louisa tackled the all-day menu (available from noon to 7pm; two courses for 12.75, three for 14.50), as she had a yen for the moules au Roquefort.
Her choice was good, with a dozen indigo-shelled mussels in a faintly cheesy and opaque sauce that contained furry sprigs of thyme and chopped shallots.
While junior sooked up the bivalve gravy with a spongey sliced baguette, Rolf and I shared a casserolette of snails and confit duck gizzard (7), which consisted of soft, dense and meaty nuggets with an iron richness. These earthy bites were lifted by a rather simple, yet sweet and fragrantly herby, tomato sauce.
"I hope I haven't eaten your only gizzard," said my sister, as she finished her course, then snaffled our last piece of quacker offal. Well, it was irresistible.
For mains I chose one of the piscine options - the pav of cod (16.50). This featured a shoe-sized piece of feathery fish atop a terracotta-coloured casserole of squid rings, onion, pepper and fennel, all of which was vaguely scented with saffron and was, oddly enough, cold in some areas and hot in others.
However, it was a decent summery dish, while all around me people in T-shirts and flip-flops were eating the stew-like options you'd crave after a session of snowshoeing in the Alps.
Still, Rolf's warming main of marinated France-farmed rabbit (16.50) was rather special, if not especially la mode.
It consisted of General Woundwort's gently stewed saddle and leg, slathered in a rustic hotchpotch of meaty jus, peas, carrots, white mushrooms and crisp pearl onions. There was also a large blob of uber-buttery mashed potato. Bon.Louisa's main of baby pink Toulouse sausage was a bit more cursory, with wedges of a fennel seed-studded saucisson that had been stirred into a mixture of puy lentils, halved potatoes, a blistered whole tomato, bullets of bacon and milk tooth-sized carrot cubes. I'd say that this feast was pretty good value, as part of the cheaper all-day menu.
As was her tutti frutti-esque pudding of tooth-shiveringly sweet nougat glac, satisfyingly packed with jewel-like pieces of candied fruit and drizzled with strawberry pulp. The lavender crme brle (4) that Rolf and I shared is a La Garrigue signature. Our example had a sugary lid that was slightly overcharred but its custardy, butter-coloured undercarriage was as good as always, with a hint of edible eau de toilette.
Whether we really need a triple whammy of La Garrigue remains to be seen. Still, good things come in threes, and Gauffre's baby is currently a welcome addition to la famille.
As the diner who'd visited this place before us had written on their discarded feedback form: "Bienvenue Leith!".
• 88 Commercial Street, Leith (0131-553 5933, www.lagarrigue.co.uk)
Lunch for three, excluding drinks, 58.50
This article was originally published in The Scotsman Magazine on August 6.