It has been a busy old time, recently, what with the launch of Issue 2 of The Istanbul Review, and a busy programme of dining. I was starting to feel the need for a break, so I was delighted to check my calendar and see that MJ and I were due for a little roadtrip to the north of England, for a murder mystery birthday weekend.
With that in mind, I thought a hearty meal was in order, so I strode up the road to Blonde, on the Pleasance. I’d spotted it, a few weeks previously, and made a mental note to visit, when I got the chance.
Upon entering, I was warmly welcomed by the front-of-house crew for the evening. I was shown to a table in the rear half of their two-section dining room.
The first thing that was apparent was that the room was dark. Setting a mood is one thing, but this was just plain gloomy. Some diners who weren’t blessed with my sharp eyesight really struggled with the menu. Even with my eagle eyes, I struggled to fully appreciate some of the careful endeavours that the kitchen had put in to the presentation of dishes. A little more light on the matter would have greatly enhanced the overall experience.
The menu offers a good range of dishes, with local produce to the fore. After checking on what the soup of the day was (spinach, chickpea and artichoke, which sounded a little too like the soup I had in BaGet Stuffed, the other day), I opted for the mussels, which were served with blue cheese and chorizo. For main I chose the venison casserole.
I chose accompanying wines in relevant colours, with a sauvignon blanc to go with the mussels, then a red with the venison. From their selection of three different by-the-glass reds, I was undecided between the malbec and merlot, so sought advice as to which best matched the venison. The waitress checked with the kitchen, then returned with taster glasses of both. I thought that a rather nice touch. I opted for the merlot, which was the gutsier of the two.
The mussels proved to be rather good, with juicy plump specimens, served in a nice creamy broth. The blue cheese was very subtle, though, and polite folks who didn’t get stuck in to supping the broth, like I did, would have missed much of the chorizo flavour.
The main course was a dish of complex textures and flavours. I think the outstanding items were the parsnip crisps, which topped things off. The venison had varying degrees of tenders, and the sauce, containing seasonal root vegetables, had a lovely silky sheen to it, from chocolate in the mix, but did veer towards fulsome sweetness.
The cheese selection, featuring Lanarkshire cheeses, was more notable for the excellent range of crackers than for the quality of the cheeses, which were slightly on the timid side.
So overall, I did enjoy my visit to Blonde. The service was a real strength, and the food was quite impressive, without quite unifying in to overwhelmingly convincing dishes. The price tag was very reasonable for the fare on offer, though, so I’d happily go back, and take friends, as I’d be confident that the broad appeal that Blonde delivers would please many different tastes.
Blythe scores Blonde
3.5/5 for food
3.5/5 for presentation
3.5/5 for setting
4/5 for service
giving an overall 14.5/20
Today’s quester was: Blythe
I ate: mussels with blue cheese and chorizo; venison casserole, red wine, chocolate, root vegetables, mash and parsnip crisps; selection of Lanarkshire cheeses
I drank: sauvignon blanc; merlot; water; port
I wore: a big holiday grin
Total bill: £36.10