MJ’s Verdict

Outside, you'd almost miss it

I was SO very excited to get to see my B again after he had gone to Istanbul without me, that I was game to meet him wherever he said, but he made mistake of giving me a choice and I changed my allegiance at the last moment and ended up sitting in Hamilton’s in Stockbridge sorting out designy things.

After he showed up, it became apparent that I should never be allowed to go for long periods of time without eating because I get cranky. Those of you who know me know this. Anyway, after B picked up on this and wisely decided not to rub my face in the fact that I didn’t get to gorge on meat for a solid week like he did  until after we had some food. But for the life of me I couldn’t get the attention of a server. Eventually I managed to do so and the cheerful girl came and took our orders.

B asked for sparkling water for us…he was brought a wee bottle, and I was left to the cold dregs of the coffee (which was good and strong when it was fresh, I should add) which was supposed to suffice.

One of the things I like about Hamilton’s is the option of turning sandwiches into salads, but by then charging you an extra £2.95 for parsnip fries, you pay end up paying well…extra for less food, since the sandwich comes with the fries included, Hamilton’s are just being silly by charging extra for feeding their diners less. Since I was hungry, I also opted to order the cup of the day’s soup, which was carrot, ginger, and honey.

After a short wait, B’s mussel starter arrived with a HUGE chunk of bread. It looked fresh and tasty, though swimming in milk, and could have been a meal itself. But, in true lunchquest form, B powered through! My soup, however, never arrived, nor did the server return to ask if we needed anything, whereupon I could have asked what had happened to said soup.

Steak Salad

Nonetheless, after another wait (during which I was getting more irritable) our mains arrived. My salad was, well…I trust it served as a sandwich much better. It was a bit of thin frying steak that was well done and laid over some leaves, onions, and a few bits of roasted red pepper, which were sweet and tasty, but not in enough supply. I was not offered any dressing, nor breads to accompany my salad. But, as I was pretty ravenous at this point, I dug in and ate it all.

B’s main was a mix of unusual things. The veggie cottage pie looked quite potato heavy and dry, and it was served with a wee jar of piccalilli, which must have consisted of loads of American mustard mixed with a tad of mayo and some pickles. While it was overpowering on its own, I can see how it would complement something with a bit of oomph, like a steak sandwich, but cannot, in any way see how it went with the veggie pie filled with mushrooms and such.

Overall, I ate my steak and lettuce. But next time. I’ll definitely think twice before switching my pub choice last minute, and I will not plan to return to Hamilton’s at any point in the foreseeable future.

Blythe’s Verdict
Returned to the welcoming arms of Edinburgh’s Stockbridge district, after my sojourn to Istanbul, I was delighted to be reunited with MJ after an enforced separation that was entirely the fault of those turds lovely people at the visa office.

We had a fair amount to catch up on, not least all the little last minute changes to Issue 1 of The Istanbul Review, the literary journal that MJ and our friends in Istanbul are just about to publish. Exciting times, for sure. The relaxed confines of a pub seemed like a good spot for this work/pleasure afternoon to take place, so we settled upon meeting in Hamilton’s.


Once I finally arrived (I was late!), we quickly contemplated the menus, then settled in for a good wait while the staff failed to notice that we were ready to order. MJ is a placid creature, but was getting decidedly testy by the time our lovely waitress finally reappeared.

From their menu of starters, sandwiches (which could helpfully be deconstructed in to salads), and main courses, MJ opted for a salad of steak and red peppers, to which she added a cup of the soup of the day, which turned out to be carrot, ginger and honey. I opted for mussels, followed by an intriguing sounding vegetable cottage pie, served with piccalilli.

Mussel starter

The mussels arrived promptly, but there was no sign of MJ’s soup. We presumed it was scheduled to arrive with her salad, so I proceeded with the mussels, which were served with one of the largest hunks of bread I’ve been served. This was the small, starter portion that I’d ordered. Presumably the large came with an entire loaf.

Lots of bread (never a bad thing)

The mussels, swimming in a rich, creamy sauce were very tasty. The bread, although plentiful, had slightly too loose a crumb for effectively soaking up the creamy sauce. A lot of it disintegrated and ended up in the bowl, which was a trifle sad. Nevertheless, I was pleased with the dish, which could easily sufficed as a full meal.

Main courses followed, but sadly MJ’s soup continued to prove elusive. We try to keep relatively low-profile, to ensure that our reviews retain a sense of “this is what your experience will be like in this restaurant,” rather than “this is how this restaurant treats critics/bloggers.” We don’t stick slavishly to this, not least because places often either ask us to visit, or clock what we’re up to, and ask us if we’re reviewing. When places screw up soup when we’re there, sometimes I wish I wore a sign round my neck saying “I’m the soup guy – fuck up everything else, if you like, but please not the soup”.

Not delivering soup that we’ve ordered is probably slightly better than delivering soup that’s awful, but failing to get the order right means we have to mark down on service, and given the service for the rest of meal, although very pleasant and cheery, was incredibly slow, the mark for service is going to end up looking like a nasty blot.

Anyhoo, MJ’s main course looked pretty good, although not the most inspiring thing in history. My dish was an odd mix. The cottage pie was filled with a mix of mushrooms, chestnuts and savoy cabbage. The chestnuts were decidely dry and chewy, but the rest of the filling was pretty good. The topping potatoes were a touch too floury. The piccalilli, served in abundance in its own little jar, was nice, full of zing, but how it was supposed to match with the pie was anyone’s guess. Essentially, they were two completely separate dishes; both good in their own way, but not a match or complement for each other.

Veggie cottage pie

So overall, Hamilton’s didn’t really do it for me. Service was really sloppy, and the elements of my main course need a complete rethink. The starter was good, though, so it’s not all doom and gloom. But there are so many better places to visit in Edinburgh, so as things stand a visit to Hamilton’s wouldn’t be something that I could recommend.


MJ scores Hamilton’s:
2/5 for food
2/5 for presentation
1.5/5 for service
2/5 for setting
giving an overall 7.5/20

Blythe scores Hamilton’s:
3/5 for food
3.5/5 for presentation
1.5/5 for service
3/5 for setting
giving an overall 11/20

Today’s questers were: Miriam, Blythe

We ate: mussels, steak and red pepper salad, soup of the day (if it had arrived, which it didn’t), vegetable cottage pie with homemade piccalilli

We drank: water, sparkly water, espresso (2)

We wore: sheepy jumper, casual pinstripes

Total bill: c.£30

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Written by BKR