After an afternoon of working on The Istanbul Review, I ran off and met Blythe at The Pantry in Stockbridge. The place is lovely and welcoming and the tweed elements are right up my simplistic yet stylish alley (how did Blythe know?!). After having a look over the menu, I could have ordered several items and Blythe was encouraging of me to do so. But, I managed to rein it in and just have a starter and main.
I went for the pigeon breast on lentils as a starter. Until this point, I’d not tried pigeon, and this specimen was especially lovely and went well with the lentils, which were perfectly cooked. The pumpkin seeds and potato squares gave the dish a variety of textures and was nicely tied together with an elegant sauce.
Since I had enjoyed my pigeon, I was really looking forwards to the main of curried cauliflower and chickpea ragu (with sultanas) and butternut mash. And I was not disappointed. The rich red sauce was highlighted by hits of curry and deep Moroccan inspired flavours, that were liberal with the aromatic cinnamon and earthy tones. The mash was wonderous. The sweetness of the butternut mixed well with the acidity of the tomato in the ragu sauce and the result was a delightful mouthful of food. The light coating of oil swirled around the outside of the plate didn’t taste of much in comparison to the powerful flavours of the ragu, and the plate might have benefited from a few bits of green veg, but this was a great meal and I expect that The Pantry will do well for themselves.
It seems but the blink of an eye since we first visited The Pantry, shortly after it opened, in December. Now settled in to their new premises, we were delighted when they let us know about a couple of test evenings they were doing for the launch of their new evening menu.
Bringing in locals and friends, and charging at cost, with no corkage on their BYO, is always a smart play to a) build interest, and b) test out the running of things, with a little less pressure than full service.
It was MJ’s first visit to what I was sure would be “her kind of place”, what with the tweed embellishments, the fresh and tasty dishes, and the general unfussiness of their approach. This is a place with its own brand of elegance, but with a straightforward commitment to excellence of produce and flavour that sings.
I opened with the Arbroath smokie and leek risotto, served with a mini fried egg on toast. It looked great and tasted even better. MJ’s pigeon dish, from the little corner I tasted, was really good, too.
The main course shin of beef, served with barley, spinach, a shallot puree, and red wine jus, was the kind of dish I could happily eat every winter evening throughout the season. The beautifully fally-aparty beef was the star, but the accompaniments were nicely judge to balance the dish.
I couldn’t resist the cheeseboard, which featured dinky wee crispbreads and an excellent selection of cheeses. The Blue Monday was the standout, but I’m a sucker for good blue cheese.
Good espresso rounded out what had been a superbly enjoyable evening.
So overall, The Pantry’s evening selection looks to be shaping up to be every bit as good, if not even better, than what they have on offer during the day.
Even though we have our Top Ten places, which accurately reflect what we think are the ten best places to dine in the city, when people ask for lunch recommendations, I don’t always strictly adhere to it. I have an alternative list in my head, which comprises The Dogs, The Purslane, and usually one other that’s in my mind from a recent visit. At the moment that flips in between Brasserie de Luxe and the Edinburgh Larder Bistro.
This list is the “sure fire winners”; places that I think are going to please a broad range of tastes, offer excellent value, and give someone a good insight into the restaurant excellence we have on offer in Edinburgh. The compliment that I will pay The Pantry is that it will be added to this list in future. They sit nicely with that company, given the quality they have on show.
MJ scores The Pantry
4.5/5 for food
4/5 for presentation
3.5/5 for setting
4/5 for service
giving an overall 16/20
Today’s questers were: MJ, Blythe
We ate: Arbroath smokie risotto; pigeon; shin of beef; cauliflower and chick pea ragu
We drank: malbec, water, espresso
We wore: simple black, complex green
Total bill: c.£35 (full price likely to be somewhere c.£45)