Is the phrase “after the Lord Mayor’s show” still culturally relevant? If it is, it very accurately described the feeling in Edinburgh, this evening. I know that the International Festival is still on the go, but the end of the Fringe and the Book Festival tend to mark an end to the palpable sense of buzz pervading the city.
After the first meeting proper of our new book group, which exceeded expectations in no small way, we were in need of some fortifying sustenance. We’re both in a little bit of a funk of indecisiveness, at the moment, so it was after an amount of aimless wandering that we settled upon B’est, on Drummond Street.
The place has been doing excellent festival business, featuring a Fawlty Towers-style show. It was a quiet post-festival night for them, tonight, so we had our choice of tables.
Our accommodating, charming and efficient waiter brought menus, and answered questions on exactly how the prix fixe and a la carte interacted. Essentially, the menu was very reasonably priced, with the ability to swap in and out, with the odd supplement to factor in for steaks and such.
From the selections, MJ opted for haggis followed by cod, while I chose soup then calves liver, on the waiter’s recommendation.
As we waited for starters, we had a moment to contemplate the place, which is stylishly appointed in the bistro style. We barely had a moment to drink this in, before starters arrived.
MJ’s haggis tower looked rather good, but I was pleased with my choice as the soup looked good and was certainly abundant.
The soup, a cauliflower, broccoli and blue cheese creation, was very good. Topped with a little herb oil, it had excellent depth of flavour, with punchy chunks of cheese offsetting the vegetable goodness of the smoothly textured broth. I was entirely pleased with it.
The main course was not quite as good, but it still showcased lots of flavour and good, accurate cooking. The liver had moments of dryness, and the sauce was one of those slightly generic brown meat gravies, but the dish was hearty and filling, and the accompanying veg was fresh and herby.
I had a little cheese to round things out, where MJ and I discussed the merits and demerits of putting butter on crackers (apparently this is some sort of curious form of Alabamian heresy), before good espresso rounded out a rather enjoyable meal.
I’m not sure what my expectations were of B’est. Whatever they were, I think they were exceeded. I found the place charming, the welcome warm, and the food of a good quality. It was remarkably good value, too, so I can imagine bringing people here who are looking for a good “Auld Alliance” approach to cooking, that’s kind on the wallet.
B’est somehow, in my mind morphs into “Be, our guest, be our guest…” I won’t bore you with the rest of the lyrics, but I think it’s safe to assume that everyone knows the song to which I’m referring. So, it was with a musical heart that Blythe and I popped along to this Fringe venue just a few short days after the Fringe had said farewell for another year.
So with a quieter city, it was no wonder that we had the restaurant to ourselves for the entire evening. We were seated in the first room of a vast space which looked like it was decorated to be a perfect mimicry of a shabby bistro in France. The menu was a decent size and provided many options that looked nice. There were afew odd things that stuck out at me though, one being the note about a supplement for the lamb…when there was no lamb on the menu. And the other was a bit of confusion about the listed dishes on the 2 course for £12.90 menu, which could, in actuality, be switched out for anything on the a la carte menu- whether this was a special service extended to us, as the only patrons that evening, I did not ask.
The service was attentive and well judged with the server’s French accent just heavy enough to lend credibility to the atmosphere while he answered my questions about the whisky sauce on the haggis.
I opted for the baked haggis tower with neeps and tatties in a whisky sauce (on the side) to start, followed by the grilled fillet of cod with lemon crushed potatoes and dill sauce to follow.
The starters came out quickly and were piping hot. My haggis stack as nice, if a little unspectacular, and the whisky sauce (which I had a fear of being a creamy thick sauce like the one that was made by my Scottish friends on Burns night) was actually some brown concoction that tasted much like Bisto gravy, and was slightly over-seasoned.
The mains arrived in really good time as well and though I had slight food envy of the vibrant veggies on Blythe’s plate, my cod looked nice and well presented. The fish was well cooked, and it went well with the mash and broccoli, but the whole dish was lacking something, some citric oomph to give it a real kick in the tail end. The sauce, however, was well balanced and the dill was subtle and delicate and worked with the fish quite well.
I had a taste of Blythe’s calf’s liver too, and the liver was a tad dry, and the sauce tasted conspicuously similar to the whisky sauce I had with my haggis, but I thought it was a rich, hearty dish, and the veggies were quite nice.
Overall, B’est was ok. Solid, middle of the road, ok-ness.
Blythe scores B’Est
3.5/5 for food
3.5/5 for presentation
4/5 for service
3.5/5 for setting
giving an overall 14.5/20
MJ scores B’Est
3/5 for food
3.5/5 for presentation
4/5 for service
3/5 for setting
giving an overall 13.5/20
Today’s questers were: MJ, Blythe
We ate: haggis tian; broccoli, cauliflower and blue cheese soup; fillet of cod; calves liver
We drank: lager, water
We wore: maroon tights, brogues
Total bill: £37.20