January 27, 2012 New Town, seafood, soup 4 Comments

Outside

MJ’s Verdict
I wasn’t feeling 100% on Thursday when I tottered along to Stockbridge after a long night of true Burns-esque celebrating that was hosted by my Scottish flat mate. This party included all the classics: cullen skink, smoked salmon, a man in a kilt, a haggis big enough to feed 16 from Crombies, veggie haggises (haggi?), everyone reading Burns poetry in their own native accents, cranacan, and a cheeseboard that would put many of the restaurants to visit to shame.

So something less, er…stodgy? Was needed on Thursday. After walking past Purslane on St. Stephen’s street and then walking past it again, I resorted to Carson (my iphone) to direct me. I was a few minutes early and was welcomed most warmly and placed in a recessed seat that looked out over the room.

Interior

The restaurant was elegant, tiny, and perfectly formed. There was only one other table that came in while B and I were there, but I can imagine the buzz that would roll through the air and bounce off the stylish wall paper during an evening service.

The menu is not long; it is compact, elegant, and reflects the ‘casual fine dining’ ethos. There is no 2/3 course choice for lunch time, and this was explained later to be because they want this place to be accessible for those in offices on a lunch break who don’t have time for a long meal in the middle of the day. Good thinking, I’d say.

Bread and Butter

I opted to skip the starter and munched on some good quality brown bread that had a taste that was moreish, while B devoured the soup of the day, which was complex in design and a lovely green colour with a wee egg (!).

The mains arrived in good time. I ordered the Roast Pheasant with Root Vegetable Ecrasse, served with a rosemary cream sauce. But, as always, I asked for something else aside from the cream sauce. The server recommended a red wine jus and he was spot on with the taste! The plate arrived and it looked as delicate as many of the meals I’ve had at much more expensive, stuffy restaurants. The root vegetable crush was wonderful, with a slight sweetness from a bit of sweet potato, which complimented the jus and the pheasant. This was the first time I’ve had this wee bird, and I’d happily have it again if it were served like this.

Roast Pheasant

Overall, this is a charming place. I now understand the phrase ‘casual fine dining’ and for the money, I’d say you’d be hard pressed to mix quality and quantity as well.

Blythe’s Verdict
It was in one of the many reviews of Edinburgh restaurant highlights of 2011 that I first spied the Purslane, which has now been open for around three months. Much like The Mulroy, it’s one of those places that you wouldn’t immediately spot, unless you know it’s there, and I have to admit that I must have walked past it at least twice, over the past couple of months. It’s aim is to provide “casual fine dining”.

I was in ridiculously good spirits, today, not least because I’m off for a little visit to Istanbul, tomorrow. My last minute decision to jet-off for Bosphorusian merriment is something of a sore point with MJ, so I was not surprised that a little of withering envy greeted me, once I had settled in my seat.

Our friendly and attentive waiter had already left menus, so we soon began perusing a short and focussed set of dishes.

Soup

Today’s soup was leek and potato, so I was happy to opt for that. Eschewing starters, MJ opted for the pheasant, so I went with the sea bream.

My soup promptly arrived, and looked very bonnie indeed. It had a little quail egg in the centre, which I soon discovered was balanced on a bed of leeks. The soup was first class, with a lovely smooth texture, deep flavour and pleasing warmth. It made me happy.

Main courses were soon with us, with both neatly presented. My fish had a perfectly crispy skin encasing moist, flaky flesh. The medley of crushed vegetables on which it sat were rich and creamy, but with a nice amount of rusticity. The dish was well-judged, smart and stylish.

Sea bream

Casual fine dining is a slightly tricky concept, for me. I’m not 100% clear what it means, but I think I get what the Purslane is about. They want to make their food accessible and approachable, but to a high standard. It’s cloth napkins, but with a relaxed, welcoming air.

I don’t think their food is quite at the fine dining standards of places that might more traditionally adopt that monicker (Mark Greenaway, The Mulroy, The Bonham, to name but a few), so I have a feeling they might run in to some customers who come with slightly too lofty a set of expectations, but for me, this is exactly the kind of place I can see myself revisiting, frequently. I’d suggest you do the same, at your earliest convenience.

Coffee

Update – August 2013
Since time of writing, we’ve been back to the Purslane on many occasions. Indeed, when MJ completed her PhD, this is where we came to celebrate, so that’s a fair indication of the esteem in which we hold the place. They now offer an excellent tasting menu, with beautifully matched wines. It’s our favourite “casual fine dining” place in the city.

Scores
MJ scores the Purslane:
4/5 for food
4/5 for presentation
4/5 for service
3.5/5 for setting
giving an overall 15.5/20

Blythe scores the Purslane:
4/5 for food
4/5 for presentation
4/5 for service
3.5/5 for setting
giving an overall 15.5/20

Today’s questers were: Miriam, Blythe

We ate: leek and potato soup, roast pheasant, pan-fried sea bream

We drank: water, espresso

We wore: red, black and grey tie by www.tieclub.co.uk, a withering look that would chill the bones of man at a distance of thirty paces or more (B totally deserved it! 1 word: Bebek)

Total bill: c.£30

Purslane Restaurant
33a St. Stephen Street
Stockbridge, Edinburgh
EH3 5AH
T: +44 (0)131 226 3500
E: contact@purslanerestaurant.co.uk

Providers of ties to Lunchquest

Written by BKR