There was a time when Lunchquest was dominated by a carefully crafted plan of attack, which often involved restaurant reservations made months in advance. These days, for one reason or another, we’re taking things as they come, a little more. This often leads us to interesting new places, and this was how things went with our trip to Bistro du Festivale.
This smart, minimalist place has sprung up in an old shoe shop just next to Hewat’s (the stethoscope guys, not the restaurant) on Teviot Place. MJ had spotted it on her travels, and so once we were done with a rather curious poetry reading, it was to there that we headed.
Many of the other places in the district were full to the brim with festival revellers seeking important sustenance in between shows. Our chosen venue was more lightly populated. It’s new and maybe word hasn’t got around, yet. Based on our visit, the folks who wandered by and dined elsewhere were missing out on an unexpected treat.
The menu is kept simple. The dishes are somewhere in the neighbourhood of classic French rustic cuisine. Dishes are individually priced, but for £15.99, you get two courses. We opted to take up this good value deal.
We were joined this evening by highly entertaining Yorkshireman, Joe. He was considerably exasperated by our indecisiveness, but we soon settled upon our choice of dishes. Joe opened with goat’s cheese to start, then a chicken fricassee to follow. MJ opted for scallops then a lamb shank. I chose a confit duck leg to follow my lentil and bacon soup.
Dishes arrived consecutively, in short order, and looked rather good. My soup was topped with a good amount of bacon, which I stirred in to the thick and hearty lentils. It was grand, and just the kind of restorative dish that served very nicely to reawaken my spirits after they had been dulled by the odd poetics.
The main course was similarly wholesome fare. The duck was fall-off-the-bone goodness, with nice accompaniment from mash and a little caponata. I was richly satisfying and thoroughly pleasing.
So Bistro du Festivale was a great find. The dishes are not elegance incarnate, but they are smart choices, well executed, and flavour packed. The restaurant is essentially a pop-up, at least for now. The sweet-toothed among you will be aghast to hear that they have no dessert menu, quite yet, for example. If they do good business during the Festival, which there’s no reason to think they won’t, they may make things more permanent. I’d certainly welcome this, as I was impressed by their unfussy, non-nonsense commitment to gutsy flavour.
I love August. I love Edinburgh. I ESPECIALLY love Edinburgh in August. I get to meet friends who are drawn to the city by its magical artsy pull, I only go to my house to sleep and change clothes, and I get to wander around the city in a haze of overwhelming buzz of busyness. What’s not to love? (That being said, I also still love to ride at the top of the double decker busses, and find the Royal Mile charming when I am not in a huge hurry).
It was in this mindset that a few friends and B and I wandered from a poetry reading at Word Power Books to find some food. The general direction was towards the book festival (it is my beacon in the city at the moment), and I mentioned the new restaurant that had opened up on Bristo Place. The place itself was clean and well designed, using nice greens against the exposed stone walls with high ceilings and large, windowed front made it feel welcoming. The menu, at £15.99 for 2 courses, in that location, in the Fringe, is good and though we decided against the £11.00 bottles of house wine and went around the corner to grab a few bottles of our own (at a £3.00 corkage charge) we returned and took a seat by the front window.
The menu is simple, French fare served in a choice of starters and mains…there are no desserts as of yet. I was terribly torn in my choices. I either wanted the smoked salmon starter and the lamb to follow, or the scallops to start and the grilled salmon to follow.
After much hemming and hawing, I asked our waitress and she said to go for the scallops, and I trusted her opinion, and ordered them and the salmon, and then, at the last moment, changed my order to the lamb, since we had 2 bottles of red.
I apologise to the lovely woman for putting up with me.
The kitchen is in the back of the main restaurant and the smells that filled the room were thick and delicious. We started in on our wine and soon our starters arrived. My scallops were not the largest I’ve ever seen, but they were well seasoned and cooked just about right (the smaller ones might have been a tad over done, but the big ones were perfect) and the hit of lemon livened the dish. Joe’s goat’s cheese was rolled into two balls and deep fried, and he said that they were really very good, but a bit too hard on the outside and might should have been cooked a touch less.
After a suitable wait, our main courses arrived, and I was feeling smug well before they did, as a few dishes of lamb passed us by and I was very pleased with the way it looked and smelled.
My lamb was served on the bone, sitting on a bed of mashed sweet and white potatoes, with a red wine jus over the top. The lamb was as tender as possible and had cooked so long that the fat had disappeared and I was left with meat that was sumptuous. The red wine jus was that perfect mix of sweetness from the reduced wine, which coated my fork nicely, but didn’t leave the cloying feeling that some overly thick jus can. And the potatoes were good, mixing well and setting off the dish admirably.
I hope this place stays. It is a good, honest restaurant, serving tasty, effectively priced French food in a part of the city where this sort of thing hasn’t been before. It’s the sort of place I would go back to when I had friends in town, not least of which because the welcoming atmosphere and lack of pretension.
Blythe scores Bistro du Festivale
4/5 for food
3.5/5 for presentation
3.5/5 for setting
3.5/5 for service
giving an overall 14.5/20
MJ scores Bistro du Festivale
4/5 for food
3.5/5 for presentation
4/5 for setting
4/5 for service
giving an overall 15.5/20
Today’s questers were: Miriam, Joe, Blythe
We ate: Lentil and bacon soup, seared scallops, fried goats cheese, confit duck leg, chicken fricasse, lamb shank
We drank: BYOB (£3 corkage) red wine, water, espresso, tea
We wore: poetic festival wear
Total bill: £60
Bistro du Festivale