Today was not my first trip to the Bon Vivant. It wasn’t even my first review of the place, as a few months ago I reviewed their cocktails for Social and Cocktail. But it was the first time I’d eaten there, so it was with considerable Friday vigour motivating my stride that I journeyed towards its welcoming confines.


I have waxed lyrical on many occasions about the joys of Thistle Street. I’d say along with The Shore and Broughton Street, it forms my top three food and drink thoroughfares in Edinburgh. Along with the Thistle Bar, the Bon Vivant represents the main place to stop for a drink, but also serves a nicely varied all-day menu.

The starters can all be served as “bites” which is a neat little concept. For a pound a pop, you can order a range of nibble-sized sample dish, in the tapas style. This is a lovely idea for a more refined approach to bar snacking, and also serves to allow diners to explore the range of the chef’s cooking expertise.

Having said all of this, I still opted to start with leek and potato soup! I chose to follow this with John Dory, served with steamed clams and chive risotto.


My starter took a little moment to arrive, but I was looked after very nicely by the friendly and chatty waitress. It also gave me time to take in the stylish wood and leather interior. The dim lighting and wine-bottle candles give the place a nice tucked-away bistro look, but the place still retains quite a strong pub feel to it.

When the soup arrived, it was towards the vichyssoise end of the leek and potato spectrum, and was extremely tasty. The seasoning was perfectly judged, and the texture light. It was a beautifully summery interpretation of the dish, which although at odds with the prevailing overcast conditions, was completely delightful.

The main course was very good, although it had a couple of technical mistakes. Firstly, the fish wasn’t the most uniformly cooked fishy I’ve ever eaten and the skin should have been crispier. The risotto could have been a trifle looser, but perhaps that’s personal preference. Finally, the dish needed a big squeeze of citrus, or actually a light, refreshing glass of white wine to accompany it would probably have worked equally well.

John Dory, clams and risotto

With these items resolved and the execution nailed, this would be a 5/5 exceptional dish, as the balance of flavours was just lovely. Even with the errors it was still very good and a highly satisfying plate of goodness.

So overall, the Bon Vivant serves really impressive food, in lovely surroundings. The service couldn’t be friendlier, but could be a trifle speedier. But for a relaxed lunch in a smart pub setting, there are few better places in our fair city. Bravo, chaps – I enjoyed my visit very much.

Blythe scores the Bon Vivant
4/5 for food
4/5 for presentation
4/5 for service
4/5 for setting
giving an overall 16/20

Today’s quester was: Blythe

I ate: leek & potato soup, John Dory with steamed clams and chive risotto

I drank: water

I wore: dashing new tie

Total bill: c.£20

Square Meal

The Bon Vivant on Urbanspoon

Written by BKR