Restaurant review: Joseph Pearce’s, Edinburgh

Is it possible to look cool, when you’re with a small person who’s crying because they’ve left their Peppa Pig activity book at home?

Can you still have street-cred, when you haven’t slept for three nights because of someone else’s nightmares, and you’ve got scrambled egg in your hair?

The answers: yes, if you pretend you don’t know them, and no. Which is why you don’t see many parents in groovy hang-outs. Safety in numbers means they’re all at Pizza Express instead.

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But for Edinburgh-based mums and dads, there’s always the independent bar and bistro, Joseph Pearce’s, which features the sort of bohemian decor that might be described as Aged Student.

Its proprietors are Swedish couple Ann and Mike Christopherson, who also own Leith watering holes, Sofi’s, Boda and Victoria. All of their venues have a community feel, with a programme of events that include arty film nights, pop-up shops, crayfish parties, knitting clubs and their ilk.

However, Joseph Pearce’s is unique in that it’s child-friendly from 11am until 5pm (after that, there are bogeymen and a ticking crocodile on the door), and they provide a brightly-lit area on the mezzanine level where there is a play mat, toys, high-chairs and a microwave (for heating up baby food).

Which was handy, as I had my sister, Louisa, and her eight-month-old sprout, Edie, with me on our recent visit.

While the latter applied sweet potato compote to her face, we perused the menus, which are slotted into the hardback covers of vintage fairy-tale books.

The food here is simple, affordable, and vaguely Swedish. According to their website, there will always be “meatballs and pancakes”.

For starters, I went for the haggis on apple purée and brioche (£6.20) and my dining partner chose melted goats cheese on fig halves (£6.90).

Quick service is their forte, as these arrived tout suite. My option was decent, with a thick disc of peppery haggis on top of a toasted brioche saucer. The upper lid of this sandwich was a lily pad-shaped wafer of Granny Smith, with a smear of vaguely tart pomme gel, around the outskirts of the plate.

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Good, and Louisa’s assemblage was pleasant too, though she would have liked a little more of the nanny goat gruff fromage, as it was in rather short supply. Still, the warm fig chunks were soft, fragrant and sticky, with a crunchy topping of walnut crumbs.

Unfortunately, when it came to main courses, I wasn’t particularly won over by my bright-orange sweet potato rosti (£7.10), topped with a sautéed leek and melted Stilton mulch, and surrounded by minuscule broccoli florets.

It wasn’t bad, it’s just that the flavour combination was a little cloying after a few bites. I’m usually quite happy with a vegetarian option, but this made me crave meat.

Across the table, and junior was testing out their signature meatballs (£9.90).

There were seven of these baby-pink, sage-spiked porky bonbons, which hit the savoury spot, despite a few of them being rather chilly. They were accompanied by a decorative bloom of scarlet-coloured beetroot crisps, apple purée and a Swedish speciality, Hasselback potatoes – ie roasted tatties with skin that’s been scored, leaving them resembling baby hedgepigs. However, although plentiful, these beasts were a little underseasoned.

Never mind, as the chocolate mascarpone cheesecake (£3.90) was consolation, with a smooth topping of ganache, a burnished brown oaty biccie base, and a pom pom of Luca’s vanilla ice-cream on the top.

Our other choice, a mink-coloured wad of lingonberry and cardamom cake (£3.90) was nicely flavoured, but a bit dry.

Ach, to be honest, the grub isn’t mind-blowing here, although, I’ve heard that the snackier options, such as pancakes and brunches, are reliable. Still, it should be pointed out that this place is about much more than the food.

When the kids try to cramp our style, you’ll find us at Joseph Pearce’s (with scrambled egg in our hair).