When the Gilded Balloon burned down all those years ago, it highlighted just how massive and labyrinthine some on the buildings that are founded on the Cowgate and scrape the sky on South Bridge truly are.
Taking over one such monster come two new eateries with a hotel apartment complex sandwiches in between. At the South Bridge entrance is Mono, a tasting menu Italian looking to succeed where the likes of Enzo failed in offering top-end Italian dining.
On the Cowgate we have Carnivore, a meat and bourbon bar. I popped in to give it a look on a quiet Sunday afternoon.
I know various of the folks working there, so a secret-shopper visit was unachievable, but I think I got a pretty fair sense of what the place is all about.
I was largely able to take advice from bartender Aidy who kept me on track both with food and drink recommendations, setting up what had been selling well, what was still work in progress, and what was good but so far underappreciated.
For food I opted for the Reuben sandwich, then added some chips and spiced cauliflower on the side.
I started with their signature cocktail, The Carnivore. Topped with a bacon saltire, this was a very light drinking stirred-down drink with brightness from Cross Brew and vanilla to balance the bourbon at its heart. I enjoyed it.
The food proved equally satisfying. The house-made pastrami at the core of the Reuben was excellent. The chips were rustic and packed good crunch and the cauliflower was light and fresh, providing a good counterpoint.
I rounded things out with their Swanson cocktail, with its notes grapefruit, mandarin and sloe gin working well with the smoky excesses of Lagavulin.
So overall, Carnivore looks to be starting life from an assured and good quality position. I enjoyed everything I had and there felt like a strong sense in which things will only improve and develop from here. Give it a look next time you fancy a quality deli sandwich and some punchy cocktails.
Blythe scores Carnivore
4/5 for food
3.5/5 for presentation
4/5 for setting
4/5 for service
giving an overall 15.5/20
I ate: Reuben, chips, spiced cauliflower
I drank: The Carnivore, Swanson, water
I wore: action footwear
Total bill: £36 (although I actually paid £22.40 due to a very friendly discount)
Address: 208 Cowgate, Edinburgh EH1 1LL