During the lovely walk on Sunday, we popped in for lunch in Portobello at Butternut Squash. Steph and I had the same meal and though my omelet could have used a touch more seasoning, the whole experience was well-priced and great. And I want to return to try their extensive and really nice-sounding fish dishes.
Who am I kidding. I saw the dog and made a bee line for the dog, er…door. Though, dear readers, you will be pleased to know that I managed to keep myself from stealing him as we left.
Walking down Portobello High Street on a sunny Sunday afternoon, my fellow comrades and I were uncertain whether we should step into what I assume was a traditional pub, serving traditional food, or cross a dangerously silent street to dine at the yellow cafe with the dog outside (an actual dog), called Butternut Squash (the cafe, not the dog, though the dog could have been called Butternut Squash. I didn’t ask him). The presence of the dog drew us like a magnet towards the yellow cafe.
Inside, it was a strange mix of stylish bistro and greasy spoon, with large black leather chairs, but also with chalk board menus boasting delicacies such as Haggis & Mash, Baked Potatoes, and other predictable offerings. We had menus brought to our table, as well. Two menus, actually. One offered a two course lunch for £6, which included the usual soup starters, then main course suggestions of hamburgers, omelettes, fish cakes, and other greasy spoon standards. Then there was a separate menu which contained something like ten different lunchtime mains. All fish. Pan Grilled Salmon with Pesto Sauce and Fancy Special Rice. Seasoned Haddock Fish Cakes with Other Fancy Special Stuff. These actually looked pretty good. These meals averaged between £7-£8. However, I figured that the two courses for £6 was too good of a bargain to pass up, so I ordered a cup of coffee, the lentil soup, and omelette, specifying vegetarian fillings. He made a joke about filling it with sausage and bacon, I laughed a little, and then he left. He brought back my coffee, which was a generous size, but also came with a large milk jug – filled with hot frothy milk – that was almost equal in size to the coffee. I could just keep adding milk to the coffee as I drank it and get something like: Black Coffee, White Coffee, Cafe Au Lait, and finally a Latte. Brilliant!
The server brought our soups, and my lentil soup was pretty good, though I was disappointed to find that it had meat stock in it after I had eaten about half of it. It also came with a large floury bap which was probably bigger than my brain.
My omelette, which was blessedly free of animal parts and had yummy veggies and mushrooms, came with probably the best chips this side of the Mississippi, or at least this side of the Water of Leith. It also had a delicious fresh salad with beetroot, carrots, greens, and red onions. Unfortunately, it also had a pretty average coleslaw. Almost worth it for the chips alone. I really like chips. Chips are good.
For both courses, the server was slow to remove our plates when we were obviously finished with them, though he was friendly and apologetic both times. However, one of the strangest things about the whole experiences was the music. Earlier in the day, we had stopped at a restaurant/bar near the Portobello Promenade and heard some ridiculous and sentimental bellowing over the wireless. Then, at Butternut Squash, we were serenaded to almost the entire B-Side of the Lion King soundtrack, also over what I presume to be some sort of local PORTOBELLO FM. You know which songs I mean. Elton John does “Can You Feel the Love Tonight”, variations on “I Just Can’t Wait to be King” and “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” (Viva Solomon Linda!). If you were conscious in the 90s, you remember these songs well and were well thankful when the following decade left them behind.
There are some things though, that no bad music can ruin, and that’s good solid food at a good price, and Butternut Squash definitely has that. And at least the strange radio station made for good conversation.
It was good to get back to what has become our Sunday ritual, today, with a good walk followed by a restorative lunch. Our joyous ambulation took us to Portobello, so our first impulse was to try the Earthy Foods on Windsor Place, but that branch doesn’t yet have a cafe as part of the set-up, to showcase their top-quality ingredients.
We called in to The Espy for a coffee, which was good, but the place was booked up for the lunchtime. We pondered the new branch of Victor Hugo, on the High Street, but soon found that it was closed on Sundays. Would we ever find a place to meet our simple need for sustenance?
We needn’t have worried, as we soon spotted a very happily wagging dog outside a little place called Butternut Squash. We crossed the threshold and made ourselves comfortable at one of their half a dozen tables.
We were joined today by Stephanie, questing for the first time. As first quests go, she picked a really good one.
The style of the place is smartly simple. The welcome is perfectly pitched, avuncular jocularity very much to the fore. Service is there when you want it, and refreshingly absent when you don’t. Relaxed yet attentive, it was right up there with the finest welcomes we’ve had.
We had four menus to choose from: all-day breakfast; seafood; regular a la carte; and a lunch deal offering two courses for £6. We all opted for the latter.
From four soup options, I was recommended the chicken and sweetcorn. The lovely ladies opted for lentil. Two omelettes were ordered to follow, while I opted for my childhood Sunday favourite of mince and tatties.
The soups arrived accompanied by lovely floury morning rolls. I was delighted with my soup, as it was fresh and flavour packed. It was certainly very good, and came damnably close to breaking in to the “exceptional” soup quest category.
My mince and tatties were really good, too. They had a nice punch of Worcestershire sauce and were full of meaty goodness. It was a dish that took me back to childhood, where it was my Sunday afternoon staple. I was very glad to be reacquainted with it.
So, Butternut Squash was an excellent find. Their lunch deal is excellent value, and I feel we barely scratched the surface of what they have to offer, as their seafood menu contained some lovely sounding dishes. It’s a completely unpretentious wee place, and was a real winner with me. I’ll be back, for sure, and would heartily recommend that you try it, too.
MJ scores Butternut Squash
3.5/5 for food
3/5 for presentation
4/5 for service
3/5 for setting
giving an overall 13.5/20
Stephanie scores Butternut Squash
4/5 for food
3/5 for presentation
3/5 for service
5/5 for setting
giving an overall 15/20
Blythe scores Butternut Squash
4/5 for food
3.5/5 for presentation
4.5/5 for service
3.5/5 for setting
giving an overall 15.5/20
Today’s questers were: MJ, Stephanie, Blythe
We ate: lentil soup (2), chicken and sweetcorn soup, mushroom and pepper omelette (2), mince and tatties
We drank: coffee, water, sparkly water
We wore: New Balance action shoes (4), bijou backpack
Total bill: £20.80