Restaurant review: Circle Cafe, Brandon Terrace, Edinburgh

Circle Cafe. Picture: Esme Allen/TSPL
Circle Cafe. Picture: Esme Allen/TSPL
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I have been circling Circle for a while. After all, there are a lot of things I like and need that are nearby.

Circle Cafe

1 Brandon Terrace, Edinburgh 
(0131- 624 4666,

How much?

Dinner for two, 
excluding drinks, £37.45

Earthy cafe and shop, for example, as well as the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, a particularly handy cashline, the number 27 bus stop, and a ceramics class that I attended when I was in my brief New Age phase/having a mid-life crisis.

It was only when I spotted the evening menu sign in the window of this 12-year-old eatery that my axis became smaller. In fact, I went zipping round the diameter, along the radius and through the door, like a bit of bellybutton fluff going down the plughole.

This place is well known for its brunches and lunches, but they’ve only relatively recently begun offering night time feeds, from Thursday to Saturday.

Though narrow, like a stable for a Trojan horse, it’s a rather cool space. The waitress thinks it used to be a bakery. You could rig up a trapeze on its ridiculously high ceiling, and the wall-sized window at the back looks out onto spookily undulating mounds of privet.

On a Saturday night, it was pretty dead. Which normally would have made me feel self-conscious, but the talkative and laid-back staff could turn a morgue into a jumping hang-out.

The menu is simple, with two courses for just £15.

I kicked off proceedings with the smoked salmon and pickled cucumber salad, which was a clean-tasting assemblage of vegetation.

There were leaves galore, as well as crimson-edged radish discs, carrot straws, acetic shavings of what the BFG would call snozzcumber and strips of oaky fish, all of which were laminated by a dilly and zesty crème fraîche dressing.

We were also satisfied by a starter of three minty, hot and sweet lamb koftas nestling on a bed of gently cinnamony couscous.

For a touch of heat, there was a drizzle of mild and tomatoey chilli sauce on the side, along with a topping of the fire-retardant in foodie form that is tzatziki.

As far as mains are concerned, I have become so resigned to flobby-skinned fish in restaurants that I no longer deem this worth a mention.

With my glum face on, I just peel the sad and grey, gaffer tape-like covering off, and fold it on the side of my plate.

So maximum kudos to Circle for producing a piece of sea bream with a beautifully crispified skin, which was plastered in deglazed pan bits. Nothing less than a miracle. I also liked its accompaniments – a buttery potato rosti and a fennel purée that was a bit porridgy in texture, but tasted good. I could have done without the additional salad of rocket, carrot and tomato, but, still, lovely jubbly.

We’d also ordered the special of duck breast. It was nicely seared on the outside, with a medium pink interior, and was teamed with two sentry-like and non-delicate potato fondants, which were as filthily butter-saturated as the rosti had been. There was also a rich meaty-sweet jus and shredded savoy cabbage that contained little pieces of chorizo.

Considering the bargain-basement price, this is impressive bistro fare.

For pudding, you could opt for one of their daily cakes, or their flapjacks, which are the size of paving slabs and, thus, beyond pretending to be anything vaguely healthy.

However, from the dessert list, we shared a chilli chocolate cheesecake (£3.95) and the pannacotta (£3.50).

The former was rather lethal. There was a thick wedge of ganache, with a dark spongy base and a thin topping of orange jelly that was studded with those innocent-looking chilli seeds.

So, smooth and intensely-cocoay, then – KAPOW! – hot dribbly sweats and blood-shot eyeballs. Nice.

Our other dessert had been presented with a highly concentrated speckling of vanilla seeds over the top, which was slightly reminiscent of Benson & Hedges ash. Still, this wibbly and silky mound tasted creamy, with a vibrant-coloured cherry compote blobbed onto the side.

So, no more will I circle Circle.

We have planned our future trajectory, and we will be approaching it directly in future.