Thistle Street is one of my favourite stretches in Edinburgh, as it’s packed with lovely places to eat, drink and be merry. Fishers in the City has long been at heart of the street, serving hoards of seafood lovers, for many years. I would list myself in that number (seafood lovers, that is), so expectantly crossed their threshold, and was welcomed in to their dark wood, marble and softly lit establishment.
The space they have at their disposal is extensive. I guess they could handle something around 100 covers. But the room is curiously partitioned, feeling oddly cramped. You have a good view of the chefs at work in the kitchen, but it almost feels like they’re right on top of you, at times. There’s a curious split-level thing going on, too. The level I was on had a fish tank, which made me feel more like I was in a Naked Gun movie (or the Luhrmann Romeo & Juliet, perhaps), rather than enhancing the maritime theme.
My fellow diners seemed strange, yet oddly familiar. They felt curiously like old friends, but where did I know them from? I pondered for a moment and then it came to me: they were tourists; all of them! It genuinely never occurred to me that this place was a tourist trap, but it surely is. I must remember that for when MJ’s family come visiting from Alabama, in a few short months, so we don’t end up here, by mistake.
Anyhoo, the menu comes in two halves: you have the “Fishers Favourites”; and a comprehensive a la carte. On the favourites, I found two soup options to chose from: a seafood; and an intriguing sounding spinach, wild garlic and nettle, which had me hook, line and sinker. To follow I asked for a recommendation. The charming waitress offered me the choice of hake or lemon sole, from which I chose the latter.
Service was lightning quick, with my soup arriving in a matter of moments. I’d opted for the large bowl, and it was an extremely generous portion. The soup itself was green, smooth in texture, and delightfully light. The punch of garlic came more from the hazlenut pesto than the subtle wild garlic, but the overall effect was all very pleasing. An additional texture could have elevated things, but that may have over-burdened what was a very good dish.
The lemon sole to follow was a lovely whole fish, winking up at me from the plate. It was beautifully cooked with outstandingly tasty flakes of sweetly firm flesh. It was let down by its accompaniments, though. The fennel and walnut salad was light on the fennel and heavy on the rocket. This was no bad thing, as the overall effect was good enough, but it didn’t match the description, and a stronger aniseed hit of fennel would have worked well with the dish.
But it was the crushed potatoes that were the more damaging disappointment. The problem was two fold: firstly, they had too much mustard on them; secondly, why did they have any mustard on them, at all?
The mustard aroma was the first thing that hit my nostrils when the dish was put down. This would be fine if I’d ordered a roast beef sandwich, or perhaps something with tasty merguez sausage. But lemon sole? Perhaps as a sauce, but having to fight against walnuts and (albeit absent) fennel? It didn’t make much sense to me.
As they were a side dish to the main lemon sole feature, there seemed little point to make a ceremony of sending them back, but I mentioned to the waitress that they were totally wrong, when she was collecting the finished plates. Simple buttered potatoes were what was required, and hopefully that’s what the dish will be served with in the future.
I rounded things out with an espresso, and finished my glass of (very good) viognier, as the bill arrived.
So overall, Fishers in the City serves pretty good dishes, with good local ingredients, but somehow doesn’t quite hit the mark, for me. I enjoyed the soup, muchly, and the lemon sole was lovely, but a little clearer thought needs applied to the construction of the dishes, to ensure that the best is made from the star ingredients. The business is making its money from tourist trade, and more power to its elbow for that, so my quibbles are less relevant to how they shape their service than those of their international clientele. I think there’s room for improvement, but that improvement needs to ensure that it capitalises upon their current broad appeal.
Blythe scores Fishers in the City:
3.5/5 for food
3.5/5 for presentation
3/5 for setting
4/5 for service
giving an overall 14/20
Today’s quester was: Blythe
I wore: Immaculate tweeds
I ate: spinach, wild garlic and nettle soup, served with hazlenut pesto; lemon sole, fennel and walnut salad, crushed new potatoes
I drank: water, viognier, espresso
Total bill: c.£30