Dine Around Edinburgh at The New Bell: good, but not great

I was excited to see The New Bell included in this years Dine Around Edinburgh promotion. The New Bell restaurant is located above The Old Bell Pub on the interesting and varied Causewayside, in Edinburgh’s South side. “Affordable fine dining” is the term The New Bell use to describe their restaurant offering.

Table at Edinburgh's New Bell Restaurant Chocolate Fondant at Edinburgh's The New Bell restaurant

We entered The New Bell restaurant via the stairs at the back of The Old Bell, which is a decent pub in it’s own right. The New Bell’s dining room immediately struck me as very pleasant. The walls are covered with pictures from around the world and home, the floor covered with traditional rugs and the well spaced tables are covered in crisp white linen table cloths. The dining room had an almost Parisian appearance. The only room for improvement would be the lighting: the tables were lit slightly too brightly and the heat from the over-hanging lights combined with the heat from the wall mounted lights was, toward the end of our meal, slightly too much.

Ribeye steak at Edinburgh's The New Bell restaurant

The Dine Around Edinburgh 08 menu was delivered to our table, without the a la carte menu. Some restaurants would have delivered the a la carte menu as well, presumably to tempt the diner into ordering from it; but The New Bell did not. The Dine Around Edinburgh deal offers two courses for £15. What’s not immediately obvious is some dishes will carry supplements, in this case The New Bell added £4 for the steak. Extra side dishes, like steak chips or vegetables, were also available for £3. However the quantity of the set dishes meant there was no need to order these.

We both started with the intriguing crepe with Macsweens haggis, deep fried leaks and whisky sauce. The dish was served quickly and was pretty good. The crepe was cooked to perfection and contained a plentiful quantity of haggis. It was served in a generous, perhaps over generous, quantity of whisky sauce. Disappointingly a thin film had formed on the sauce, but it didn’t distract from this different and very decent starter.

For mains I paid the £4 supplement and received a chargrilled rib eye steak, cooked to my exact medium rare specification, which was covered in a delectable mustard grain sauce. This was served with a generous portion of sauteed potatoes and seasonal vegetables. Interestingly, when I looked at the a la carte menu later, this dish is usually served with chips, portobello mushroom and tomato. Overall the steak and potatoes was fairly substantial and, more or less, faultless. The same could be said of my dining partners grilled fillet of sea bass.

The sea bass seemed to have been pan seared, rather than grilled. But it was still a good piece of quality fish. The garlic and olive mash, with a layer of spinach on top, worked well; the strength of the olive and garlic complemented each other perfectly to leave an interesting, but not overpowering taste.

With the 2 for £15 part of the deal used on our starters and mains it was time to try a dessert from The New Bell’s a la carte menu. We both chose the chocolate fondant at £5.50. Our pleasant waitress informed us this would need at least 20 minutes in the oven. The fondant, while not the best I have tasted, was definitely worth the wait. The mandarin sorbet easily matched the quality of the fondant.

What was obvious from The New Bell’s menu is that Sunday-Thursday the full menu is available at two Courses for £20.50 and three Courses for £25.00 (£2.50 supplement for the steak). So my three course meal saved me just £3 and my dining partner saved £4.50. I was pretty disappointed by this, especially as the a la carte menu had a better choice e.g. my steak would have been served with portobello mushroom and steak chips or I could have ordered duck breast or venison for main. On this basis I certainly don’t class the Dine Around Edinburgh meal at The New Bell as offering anywhere near a bargain.

For wine we ordered the Rioja Blancho at £14.75, which I found rather uninspiring. Throughout the night the service was decent: a little above that found in most bistros and brasseries, but below the service levels offered in ‘top tier’ restaurants.

I didn’t find The New Bell’s dishes particularly amazing or innovating; rather they were solid, simple dishes done well. If I lived near The New Bell it’s likely I would visit every now and again: perhaps this justifies referring to The New Bell as a ‘neighbourhood restaurant’. As I live further afield it doesn’t have the wow factor needed to tempt me into another special journey toward Causewayside. On the whole I would describe the dishes I was served as decent value for the price I paid; pretty much inline with my expectation. On Friday and Saturday nights the 3 courses for £25 isn’t offered, so ordering the dishes separately will add another few pounds onto the bill.

The New Bell is a restaurant I would never proactively recommend, but by the same token I would never discourage. If it takes your fancy or circumstances leave you in The New Bell’s area of town and you’re looking for a good meal, then it’s worth a trip.

The New Bell restaurant is located at 233-235 Causewayside, Edinburgh, EH9 1PH. Telephone the restaurant on 0131 668 2868.

One Response to “Dine Around Edinburgh at The New Bell: good, but not great”

  1. For my husband’s fortieth birthday, we decided to host a dinner in town for 16 people. We spoke to the manager of the New Bell, Laura Crooks and booked our table. She clearly had experience arranging birthday parties and had some great ideas - a personalised menu, homemade birthday cake replacing dessert and even the seating arrangements.

    The pub downstairs was an ideal place to meet before the dinner (our table was booked for 8:45pm), and we weren’t disappointed when we went upstairs.

    The waiting staff were attentive but not intrusive. The food was great (I had the seared sea bass starter and lamb main course). The birthday cake - chocolate nut torte with crème fraiche - was delicious! The atmosphere was really friendly and relaxed.

    We would recommend the New Bell and will be travelling in from East Lothian to eat there again - and so will our friends!

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