THE worst makeover I ever had was when I was eight years old. I had recently contracted nits, so, one weekend, my mum took me along to the local hairdresser.
110-114 Rose Street,
(0131-225 3297, elementedinburgh.co.uk)
Lunch for two, excluding drinks,
After she whispered in his ear conspiratorially, he set to work, and I left the salon with a prize mullet in the style of David Bowie in Labyrinth. I’m not sure why they thought this style might help to slay the lice, but, with some additional chemical persuasion, the critters did pack up and move out a week or so later. I think they were upwardly mobile.
This place, with a busy pub area out front, has had a recent make-over, but I can’t say whether it’s been successful. I didn’t see the Before, though the After seems nice enough. We were seated beside a Gerald Scarfe-ish inky-looking mural, with Greyfriars Bobby balancing on an Irn Bru can, a checkered Heart of Midlothian and what looked like the tower blocks at Dumbiedykes.
I had to sample the gentleman’s pickle (£4) – a shot of Gentleman Jack’s US whiskey and pickle brine – from its new brunch menu, which is served from 11am to 5pm.
“Sounds weird, tastes delicious” said the menu, when describing this shot, which was topped by a cocktail stick-impaled weenie gherkin. It tasted a bit like being engulfed by a wave halfway through swigging from a hip flask. I was slightly repulsed, but couldn’t stop quaffing.
Starters weren’t quite as compulsive. The spiced cauliflower, potato and pea spring rolls (£5) were straw-coloured cigars full of a mild and bright yellow garam masala-ish paste, with a raita dip on the side. They were wholesome, if forgettable.
Our haggis bon-bons (£5) were pretty good as far as these offal pom-poms are concerned.
Their rough golden jackets encased a decently feral haggis, and there was a “curried cauliflower puree” on the side, as well as a few parsnip crisps for that uber desirable texture of freshly hewn pencil sharpenings.
My roasted fillet of hake (£11.50) was decent – lemony and well seasoned. It was served on a heap of crushed waxy yellow potatoes and topped by spears of samphire. Sadly, the latter, way out of season, was fibrous, and I kept having to fish this trendy sea vegetable’s woody bones out of my mouth.
Also, the helping of accompanying sauce vierge was so small that I guess they must have had only a Victorian ear spoon to hand when it came to serving it up.
The description of our other main on the menu could potentially lead to disappointment. When choosing “roasted haunch of venison” (£13.50), not everyone would anticipate a stew. My dining partner made a good show of not crying into his pot of rustic meaty globules, with carrot, celery and his salty tears in the mix. It was, oddly, presented in a cocotte on a wooden board, alongside another pot containing mash and parsnip crisps. Ergonomically, this worked about as well as a single tined fork.
I don’t want to be a total pedant, but the “gingernut crème brûlée” (£5.50) was just a crème brûlée with ground ginger in it. It came with wheels of raspberry shortbread. The Granny Smith parfait (£5) was very sweet, creamy and lacking in the astringent bite of this green apple. Its accompanying roasted plums were nice though, and the almond tuille in the shape of an E was cute.
I’ve been a bit mean to this place, as it’s essentially rather nice.
The food is hearty, fairly priced and everything was reasonably well executed. I just think as part of its re-branding, it has contemporised the menu so that it promises slightly more than it can deliver.
Still, it has had a better makeover than mine, circa 1983.