Finally reconciled to ploughing a lonely Gallic furrow without the excellent MJ, I took myself down to Broughton Street, today, for a spot of lunch at L’Escargot Bleu. I’d bumped in to my friend Julian, the other day, when we’d just finished our quest with Jemma, in Cafe St Honore, and we’d made a plan to meet for lunch, soon. This was the plan coming to fruition.
The place comes highly recommended by my friend Andrew, whose other previous recommendation, Castle Terrace, turned out very nicely, so it was with an optimistic gait that I toddled down the road.
L’Escargot Bleu is another example of “Auld Alliance” cuisine: solid French principles coupled with the best of local produce. It has three outlets across Edinburgh (L’Escargots Bleu and Blanc, along with L’Epicerie, which offers high-quality ingredients for the keen home cook).
It was a gloriously sunny day, and I walked in to the restaurant to find it bathed in light and looking the picture of Parisian charm. I was soon joined by Julian, who heralded the arrival of many other patrons, to make it a busy lunchtime service.
Menu options included an a la carte, served all day, and a lunch/pre-theatre menu on the specials board. A couple of dishes were missing, due to the fresh, local ingredients not having arrived yet (!), but we had an excellent array from which to make our choices.
Is it boring that I chose soup? Possibly not, but it was boring for Julian, because he chose not to have a starter, meaning that the elapsed time between his arrival and his main course arriving totalled an hour. I’m getting things a touch out of order. There were a few reasons why things took so long.
My soup arrived. It came in a very similar bowl to how I’d been served celeriac soup, quite the autumnal favourite, in both Rogano and The Mulroy. That is where the similarity ended. This soup was of a thin, milky consistency, and utterly without discernible flavour. To compound matters, the shape of the spoon made it incredibly difficult to get the soup out of the bowl, once you’d dealt with the top few spoonfuls. It was an abject failure – a thoroughly ghastly farrago. The spoon-bowl-shape situation meant that I left some soup in the dish. I was not sorry to have to do so, as I was really struggling to stay interested in the contents.
Thankfully, the main courses took a moment or two to appear, but when they did they fared considerably better. Julian was delighted with his chicken, which looked like good hearty fare.
The roasted pumpkin, full of caramel cinnamon notes, that accompanied it, was probably the highlight of the whole meal. I could have happily munched my way through a hundredweight of that before all my teeth fell out from the attack of sweetness.
Many places that offer specific lunch menus are used to business lunches being served quickly to accommodate those fitting lunch into their working day. This was firmly not the case for L’Escargot Bleu. The patrons were very much at their leisure, and the service fit in around that model. I mention it more as an observation, than a criticism. Perhaps the sun just inspired a relaxed approach to life, today.
Good coffees rounded out what had been a decidedly mixed bag of an experience. It’s hard to think how I would have responded to the place had I ordered differently for my starter, but that’s something we’ll simply never know.
Overall, a place that serves me soup as bad as what L’Escargot Bleu had to offer is on a hiding to nothing. I left a bowl of soup unfinished. The only time this has previously happened was when I was nine years old and first introduced to oxtail soup via of the Knorr packet variety. I tried hard to let its other obvious charms win me over, but unforgivable sins are by their very nature unforgivable. Go sample the place for yourself, as it’s stylish and has good principles at its heart. Just steer well clear of the soup.
Blythe scores L’Escargot Bleu:
2/5 for food
3/5 for presentation
3/5 for service
4/5 for setting
giving an overall 12/20
Julian scores L’Escargot Bleu:
4.5/5 for food
4/5 for presentation
3.5/5 for service
4/5 for setting
giving an overall 16/20
Today’s late Lunch Questers were: Julian, Blythe
We wore: simple blue suit, complicated brown suit
We ate: celeriac soup, chicken breast with wild mushrooms and thyme, veal shoulder casserole, petits pois and carrots, roasted pumpkin
We drank: sparkly water, still water, coffees
Total bill: c.£40