After doing a little review of 2019, at the end of December, there was a very small clamour for a return of some Lunchquest content, albeit much less regularly than daily postings. I reckoned a monthly round-up might work, so here’s the first of them. These are a mish-mash of new and established places; places I was visiting for the first time and regular haunts.
First up is the excellent lunch I had at Cult Espresso to start the year. They’ve re-upped their food game, once more, with the savoury waffle – topped with haggis, crisp bacon, poached egg – absolutely outstanding. Their coffee has always been right up there with the best in the city, so it’s great to see the food offering absolutely killing it, also.
We had to deal with the mixed blessings of Veganuary – a word that still feels super-awkward to me – and Dry January. Both are commendable movements aimed at healthier living. I can’t help feeling that a celebration or calling-to-arms around vegan living might be better served during a month when there are just a few more local, seasonal vegetables on offer. But maybe the Veganuary brand is now established enough to carry things. And veganism is a jolly good approach to life, so maybe I’ll just shut up now.
It felt like there was an opportunity to check-out the vegan options trumpeted by some of the fast food purveyors. Regular guest quester Dan and I explored three of these – the KFC vegan burger, the Gregg’s vegan bake, and the Subway vegan ball sub – during one dreich lunchtime.
Results were mixed. The vegan bake was the clear winner with the Subway balls utterly dreadful. I still can’t quite pin down what they tasted like, but it was somewhere near a perished version of the kind of dense foam that used to be used to stuff sofas in the 1970s before it was discovered to be highly flammable.
On a happier vegan note, I was very well looked after at 83 Hanover Street during a slightly (highly) inebriated visit.
I visited Brasserie Prince at the Balmoral for the first time. I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it. All three dishes I tried – onion soup, pate, oxtail – were good but just a touch underwhelming. Next time I’m looking for hearty French dishes, I’ll stick to La Garrigue or the L’Escargots.
On the bar front, I very much enjoyed sampling the new menu at Bramble. It is full of bangers, with the Tomatillo a particular new favourite. I enjoyed further visits to Hey Palu.
I spent a little time checking out House of Gods (photo below, with thanks to folks at House of Gods), but I’ve submitted a review to a print publication all about that, so no further spoilers.
I had a couple of excellent visits to the latest Pop-up Geeks bar, which is a Star Wars-themed offering called Cantina. With fun light sabre drinks and joyous blue bantha milk matched with a killer soundtrack, this was one of my favourite of their bars, which in recent times have included drinks on the theme of Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Stranger Things, Rick & Morty and Game of Thrones.
I was gutted about the closing of Fizz – the old Sygn Bar – on Charlotte Lane, but not for the reasons you think. I know it’s perhaps unnecessarily cruel to dance on the grave of a failed business, but Fizz is a cautionary tale that deserves to be told. I’ve never seen a business get things so wrong. Their cocktails – coming in at a hefty £14 a pop – were just so poor. I wrote a review for a popular print outlet, but the place ceased trading just after my submission and before the print deadline. It concluded with the following words:
“At a time when Edinburgh feels in need of some fresh impetus to further elevate its excellent cocktail scene, Fizz is nothing but a lazy anachronism.”
I mean…it was just awful.
On a happier note, I will be keenly following the progress of the Margher-eater over the coming months in his quest to try the best cheese pizzas in the city. He will be hard pressed to find better than Razzo or Wanderer’s Kneaded, but we shall see.
I was intrigued by Decanter, a new wine bar in Bruntsfield where Inca used to trade, but reckon it needs a while to settle in and get its operation fully up and running before I check it out.
I continued to enjoy Noto very much with their new carrot dish absolutely fantastic. I did a fair sprinkling of Soul Sushi lunching and continued to enjoy Bowls, a great wee place on Forrest Road serving healthy bowls of goodness. I had a cracking good wrap from Tupiniquim, too.
The Drip took over the Tollcross police box previously occupied by The Counter. A fair amount of continuity was maintained with similar Mr Eion coffee used and the same staff team who were laterally operating the box maintained under the new livery. A similar tale applies to Clava, who have taken over the Usher Hall box.
The Counter is transitioning from its three box and one barge sites to an ambitious centralised operation on Argyle Place. After extensive work to remodel that site, we look forward to visiting when it opens later in the year.
I joined Mark from the Foodie Explorers on a trip Surf n Turf at the Macdonald Hotel, next to the Parliament. I’d really enjoyed Bistrot Deluxe which used to trade there. This place wasn’t quite to that standard, but they’re still knocking out good steaks, service was very good, and they know how to mix a drink. They picked up the tab which was nice of them. Here endeth the advertorial.
I’d not been in Purslane for an age, so it was great to find an excuse to revisit. They are still consistently knocking it out of the park, with the scallops with marmalade just fabulous.
Another continually great place is BBL where I visited for another excellent burger, just the other day. If you’re thinking about taking the Vegan January thing beyond to future months, it’s a place you should make friends with as their vegan breakfasts, pastries and so on are really superb.