Restaurant review: The Salisbury Arms, Edinburgh

Fancy a series of traffic-light coloured chasers, followed by a game of giant Jenga? Well, you won't be able to scratch that itch any longer at The Salisbury Arms, formerly The Crags, which was part of the Scream Pubs chain of student-friendly bars.

That's because this place, directly opposite Edinburgh's Commonwealth Pool, has been taken over by restaurant and pub company Mitchells & Butlers, which also own All Bar One, Toby Carvery and Browns restaurants.

They've done a pretty good job of refurbishing the Georgian building. The lintels have been painted a heritage shade of green, the brickwork looks freshly laundered and the beer garden features smart picnic tables. Presumably this is to fit in with the new vibe, what the literature describes as, a "village pub" feel.

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To hammer this home, the blurbs on its new website are a bit Jamie Oliver-esque (or the nice folk who do the benign marketing for Innocent smoothies). I'll give you an example: "Our latest menu is brimming with warm, seasonal flavours that'll blow your socks off." Cheesy.

However, the food list (which explains: "Chef doesn't do nasties. Says it's not proper cooking") does look tempting – if ambitiously lengthy.

The Cornish sardines on toast (5.95), which I munched to the strains of Died in Your Arms Tonight by Air Supply (loud pop music seems to be the only concession to this pub's previous incarnation), weren't bad. These silvery and soft filleted fish were layered over a thick slice of white toast and a dollop of caramelised roasted peppers, raisins, onions and fennel. It was fine – fresh and simple.

My dining partner, Rolf, opted for the smooth potted duck parfait (6.25), which was teamed with slices of toasted brioche and sealed into its ramekin with clarified butter.

This offering was adequately meaty, if lacking depth. However, they'd forgotten to include the fig chutney that had been billed and by the time our flustered young waiter (the place was absolutely rammed) had brought it over, my culinary compadre was 15 bites in, with only three mouthfuls to go.

My pricey main – the medallions of venison (16.95) – wasn't very "seasonal", despite their aforementioned schtick. In fact, I almost expected to see Santa Claus trudging through the snow outside as I tucked into this offering. It consisted of slices of deer, some of which were juicily pink, while others seemed to have been over-seared on the chargrill, leaving them with a bitter aftertaste. Its accompanying Madeira-spiked jus, with ingredients including thyme and chopped chestnut mushroom, was also rather tart. Thankfully, then, there were strips of honey-roasted parsnip and carrot, as well as butternut squash cubes, to provide some contrastingly mellow sweetness.

When it came to Rolf's winning main, I had food envy. His choice included a block of Polo-mint white, crunchy-skinned baked cod (14.50), which had the oversized proportions of an Eighties mobile phone. This was doused in a creamy white wine sauce that had turned paprika pink, thanks to a scattering of spicy chorizo discs. There were also loads of fluttery-shelled, ozone- flavoured clams, as well as blanched spinach and new potatoes. Lovely.

Now, I'm a bit of a lemon meringue pie fan (4.95), as I crave the crispy crunchy texture of the topping, with the chewy middle. So, I was rendered glum when this otherwise adequate option turned out to feature a far-too-runny lid of vaguely toasted Italian meringue. Disappointing, and I think the menu should have been slightly more specific, for the sake of other crumbly egg white traditionalists (I know you're out there).

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Thankfully, the treacle and ginger tart (4.95), with a blob of clotted cream and some macerated orange segments on the side, was better. A bit light on the ginger, thought Rolf, but fine overall.

However, I would say the occasionally overpriced food here, while decent, wouldn't have the potential to "blow your socks off". I've checked, and mine are still firmly attached to my feet.

The Salisbury Arms

58 Dalkeith Road, Edinburgh (0131-667 4518,

How much?

Dinner for two, excluding drinks, 53.55

• This article was first published in The Scotsman on June 18, 2011