Restaurant review: The Crafters Barn, Edinburgh

I thought using a potter’s wheel would be easy. Soon I’d be like the love child of Grayson Perry and Demi Moore, knocking up a perfectly symmetrical vase while Unchained Melody played in the background. But, no, I ended up with a warped ashtray, once I discovered that this technique is actually a bit like screwing a jellyfish into a jam jar (you’ll understand if you’ve tried it).

Picture: Jon Savage

My only foray into craft didn’t work out. Kirstie Allsopp can keep her upcycling, macramé and pom-poms.

This newly opened brasserie may sound like a haberdasher’s, but I think they’re jumping onto the homespun artisanal bandwagon. The stoneware dishes, zinc pendant lights and blankets slung over the back of the leather banquettes are testament to that. Or perhaps the name has something to do with their menu of Belgian craft beers.

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The lovely waitress didn’t seem certain.

It was formerly The Scottish Burger Bistro and, apparently, is under the same ownership, but these beefy accoutrements have been banished from the menu. Perhaps the burger trend is already on its way out, in this part of town anyway. Instead, its food list is now divided into small plates, mussels, buffalo steaks from Fife’s Puddledub farm (served on hot lava stones) and pizza. The small plates seemed the most interesting, so we ordered five.

Our favourite was the blonde beer braised lamb shoulder (£5.90), which was a large patty of soft and salty shredded meat alongside cubes of roasted butternut squash and a pool of sweet parsnip purée. You could pair this with chips and it would be enough for a light lunch. In fact, most of the small plates are around this size, somewhere between a starter and a main. We’ll call it a stain.

Second best: the pan-fried octopus with marinated lemon salad (£6.50). Two burly violet-tinged tentacles, each the girth of a garden hose, came with a blend of pale green olive oil, lemongrass, parsley, red chilli snippings and chopped fennel.

The Belgian fish stew was pretty good too (£5.95), with Noah-style two-by-two pairings of mussels and prawns, as well as slivers of white fish, all in a shallot and carrot-studded soupy cream sauce. A pillowy and parsley-topped poached duck egg with five slightly over-boiled asparagus spears, cauliflower purée and white truffle oil (£5.85) was lush, though slightly overpriced for what we got, compared with the other options.

Our dark beer braised Iberico pork cheek (£6) was all right, though the combination of dense feral meat, teamed with equally earthy Portobello mushroom and a long strip of gravy-soaked pancetta, needed a bit of a lift. Perhaps the lamb option had spoiled us.

We’d also ordered one of their specialities: pizza (£10.75 for a 12in). The green Thai chicken version had sounded doolally, but turned out to be a bit pedestrian, with a base that was a tad under-fired and a topping of poultry hunks, pepper and red onion. The sauce lacked bite and there were none of the roasted peanuts, coconut and crispy noodle ingredients, as billed. Maybe that’s for the best.

From the choice of three puddings, we went for chocolate fondant (£4.70) and lemon posset (£3.95).

The latter was luscious and curdy, with a thick slab of shortbread on the side. The fondant, served with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream, was 
a filthily unorthodox take on its genre, with almost a pint of gloop 
in its middle, and a ladleful more 
on top.

Some of the prices are only slightly less steep than Edinburgh’s Mound, with a bowl of mussels at £12 something and a flat white at £2.85.

Still, this place is decent and the chef is obviously more of a craftsperson than I’ll ever be.



Lunch for two, excluding drinks,