Restuarant review: Stac Polly, Edinburgh

All three branches of this Edinburgh restaurant are named after Stac Pollaidh – a knobbly mountain in the northwest Highlands.

However, it’s only the original Dublin Street venue, established way back in 1990, that has a location that vaguely matches its moniker. It’s at the bottom of a particular thoroughfare that’s less of a road, more of a flume.

Legend has it that, if you cycle down here from nearby Queen Street, wearing a lightning rod on your head, you can gather enough momentum to smash through into the 22nd century. Luckily for those in the future, we visited on foot.

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Inside, and the upstairs level of this space has been completely made over, as part of a transformation into a “Scottish-style brasserie, gin and wine bar” (their downstairs, more formal restaurant, has remained unaltered).

There’s a wall-sized photo mural that features the eponymous mountain, with its artichoke-like pinnacles Tangoed by sunlight, while the dining area that seated our party of three had a crackling fire on the go, ox horns on the mantelpiece, and a ceiling-full of tastefully-hued pendant lights.

“Are you doing a set menu?” I asked the waiter.

“No, it’s just our new brasserie options up here,” he replied. “It’s supposed to be fun”.

There are choices grouped under categories including meat, fish, sharing, sides and light dishes. We shared the fish platter (£12.95) and the Shetland mussel soup (£6.95).

The latter, though pricey for a petite helping, was pretty awesome – vichyssoise-esque creamy and silky, with plenty of mussels and chopped leeks, all dunked into its curd-coloured depths.

It came with two thick and bronzed doorstoppers of onion toast.

Our other selection, served on a slate, with a huge puffball of cressy salad, seemed to be missing the “beetroot and dill-cured salmon”, as billed. However, as well as plenty of regular smoked salmon, there were beefy shards of sea trout, which were supposed to be vodka cured (though, sadly, we couldn’t taste a trace of our Russian buddy).

A ramekin of “tartare sauce” – which, we supposed, was there for pouring or dipping, as it was too watery to spread – was more of a zing-less crème fraîche and chive mixture, but okay.

We all loved the huge pot of rich mackerel mousse, which was as fluffy as a chinchilla. If only we’d known what to do with it.

We thought about smearing it on to the walls, and licking it off, but instead we asked the waiter for bread, then forgot to ask for any butter. That came eventually. Toast would’ve been better.

For mains, we opted for a couple of affordable options from the meaty list, which were priced low enough, at £7.95 a pop, that I wasn’t sure if they’d be main or starter-sized. Happily they were the former.

The venison casserole was smashing. This was rustic rather than fancy, with plenty of dark meat, carrots and onion, in a sweet, junipery jus. It was accompanied by a manly dollop of Arran Mustard-spiked mash.

Our other main of pigeon breast, featured a pair of fairly soft, vaguely pink pieces of meat, propped on top of a feral black pudding disc, with a splash of claret-red and syrupy “beetroot glaze”.

It was fine, though I wasn’t sure about its partner of caraway-seed dotted “carrot slaw”.

“I like it, because it reminds me of my holiday to Mongolia,” said my dining partner. So, there you go.

My vegetarian dish – roasted vegetable tart tatin (£7.95) – was the only honker. It consisted of a coaster-sized tile of claggy puff pastry, topped with strips of pepper, onion, eggplant and a couple of snowy blobs of nondescript goats cheese. Bit depressing really.

I was cheered by the bread and butter pudding (£4.95), which was served as one slippery, vanilla-saturated finger and drizzled with custard. Instead of raisins, this was polka-dotted by melted choccy.

The dark chocolate ganache (£4.95) wasn’t quite as nice, as it was sugary rather than cocoa-y, with an ashy texture.

However, thumbs-up to the strawberry sherbet ice-cream, which was like the distilled soul of summer.

So, I’d say it’s worth bagging this particular branch of Stac Polly, if only to check out the groovy décor and some decent dishes for under a tenner. Just remember to strap on your crampons.

Stac Polly

29-33 Dublin Street, Edinburgh 
(0131-556 2231,

How much?

Lunch for three, 
excluding drinks, £53.65