Restaurant review: Rascals, South Bridge

Rascals Restaurant on Edinburgh's South Bridge. Picture: Toby Williams
Rascals Restaurant on Edinburgh's South Bridge. Picture: Toby Williams
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What do you win if you manage to finish it?” we ask the man who’s hunched in front of The Baby Poppa – a sweaty-looking tower consisting of three 6oz burgers, double bacon, cheese and pulled pork, not to mention fixings of chips, coleslaw, relish and a squirty cream-topped milkshake.

“Nothing,” he says, before breaking his nine-minute-something record, and punctuating this achievement with a pained burp.

It’s man vs food at this place.

Perhaps a couple of years ago, I wouldn’t have bothered reviewing a burger joint, but now they’re hard to ignore. Glasgow does it best, with hipster hang-outs like Burger Meats Bun and The Meat Bar, both of which serve patties and sides that have been lovingly tweaked to perfection.

We’re lagging behind, ironically, in Edinburger (though The Huxley and Wannaburger are pretty good).

Rascals, which boasts an established branch in St Andrews, has only been open a couple of months, yet manages to look as if it needs a refurb. Murkily lit inside, the gaps between tables are as tight as the Baby Poppa eater’s artery walls, and Orwellian televisions flicker and pixelate beside each table, before flashing up various offers and discounts. The signs on the walls encourage diners to Tweet about the place, using the creepy hashtag #Rascalslovesyou.

We shared some chicken wings as a starter (10 for £6.95). These dinky flappers didn’t have a lot of meat on them, but I enjoyed the jammily sweet BBQ sauce that was plastered to their occasionally crispy skin. Oddly, they came with a huge pot of blue cheese sauce and three matchsticks of celery.

For mains, one of us manned up to the Mexican Mouth Melter (£8.95), which featured a rose pink and burly puck of meat. This was topped with a soggy mixture of chopped jalapeños, sour cream and hot sauce, all sandwiched into a brioche bun. It was OK, though the pickled chillies were leaky, so the mixture became a bit acidic and soggy.

When you’ve got a burger joint, good chips are essential. Sadly, it seems that Rascals is where potatoes go to die, as their wet and anaemic frites were a bit like cigarette filters that had been fished out of a puddle. Still, the other accompaniments – a pot of gummy coleslaw and a tomatoey jalapeño relish – were fine.

All burgers and dogs come with the latter trio of sides, so we were to meet again when I ordered The Belly Filler (£9.95). It reminded me of when coats are piled onto the spare room bed at a party, with the burger as the mattress, then a layer of applewood smoked cheese, a dense furry wedge of black pudding, thick leathery bacon and bright red hot pepper sauce. Not bad.

The pulled pork topped hot dog (£8.95) was another über calorific Gillian McKeith-baiting creation. The eight inch long frankfurter tasted great – smoky and rich – with a blobby topping of pulled pork and melted cheddar. I’d go back for this, if I could order it on its own and not with another wasteful nest of peely-wally frites.

Puddings – a warm chocolate fudge cake (£3.95) and a chocolate and raspberry cheesecake (£3.95) – were forgettable wads of sugary squelch, both with a strong waft of vanilla that was as authentic as a Magic Tree scent.

Still, there are good things about Rascals – the burgers, buns and dogs are decent. However, in the end, volume trumps flavour and challenge becomes a chore. My mouth was melted and my belly was filled, but I won’t ever be ordering a Baby Poppa.

How much? Lunch for three, excluding drinks, £42.70

Food 5.5/10

Ambience 6/10

Total 11.5/20

65-67 South Bridge, Edinburgh (0131-556 7387)