Great product, less great service - dinner at Café Marlayne

Regular readers of The Edinburgh Blog have often suggested reviewing Café Marlayne, a French outfit with two branches in the centre of Edinburgh. Last Saturday we chose the New Town’s Café Marlayne, which is modestly housed on the interesting Thistle St. Café Marlayne’s other restaurant is in the Old Town (Old Fishmarket Close). I’m told the chefs alternate between restaurants, so the food should be consistent between each.

Boudin Noir with seared King Scallops at Cafe Marlayne Thistle St Edinburgh

Our reservation was at 7.30pm, but we’d arrived 10 minutes early. It was raining outside so we entered Café Marlayne and asked if our table was ready. The waitress eventually found our name, in a dog-eared book full of scribble. Apparently our table wasn’t ready, as the couple occupying it were tucking into their desserts. No problem. We informed our waitress we would go for a drink and be back shortly after 7.30pm. We did notice an empty table in the top corner of Café Marlayne, but thought nothing of it. At 7.40pm we returned. A different waitress guided us to that empty table in the top corner of Café Marlayne.

Our table was the worst in Café Marlayne; perhaps the worst in Edinburgh. It was situated so close to the kitchen we felt guilty not lending a hand. Shouting, singing and smells interrupted our meal, as did waitresses brushing past with stacks of plates. French sticks were sliced adjacent to us and bills were calculated by waitresses whose behinds were almost on our table.

Our table served no other purpose than profiteering. To give away the table we had booked weeks before, presumably because another couple refused ‘our’ table was very poor service. And it didn’t stop there: the waiting time for taking our orders (initial and dessert) was too long and promises to keep our glasses of water full were broken. The whole evening’s service was disjointed and slightly amateurish. When dinner for two costs £68 I don’t think service this poor can be excused by saying Café Marlayne is just a Café.

Enough of the negatives. The food was really very good. My starter of Boudin Noir with seared king scallops (£5.90) was excellent. The black pudding, as our waitress referred to it, was probably the tastiest I’ve ever eaten. Both scallops were cooked to perfection as were the asparagus tips. Cream of spinach soup with parmesan croutons (£2.90) was a hearty portion and a thoroughly satisfying creation.

For mains I was torn between a Scottish lamb rack or Scottish rib-eye steak, both £14.90. The latter won and I’m glad it did. The peppered steak and dollop of horseradish cream ensured this was no plain piece of meat. I’d asked for my steak medium-rare and the kitchen delivered. Given our proximity to the kitchen I could have said thank you to the chef in person… My dining partner’s monkfish tail (£14.60) had been cooked slightly too long, but it was still good and honestly prepared. A Pyrex dish with vegetables and absolutely gorgeous potato gratin was squeezed onto our table to accompany the mains. A bottle of Domaine Moulin Granger Sancerre (£21.90) was enjoyable enough.

The crowning glory of Café Marlayne’s culinary offerings were their desserts. My chocolate truffle tart (£3.90) was mindblowingly indulgent and terrifically textured. A slice of key lime pie (£3.90) was equally well prepared. With desserts this good ending a meal at Café Marlayne without a dessert would be a severe dereliction of your duties as a diner.

I’d certainly recommend a trip to Café Marlayne for their culinary output alone. Their food is wholesome, well sourced and overwhelmingly well prepared. However, based on our visit the throughput of diners Café Marlayne handle on a Saturday night is too much for the restaurant’s limited space and too much for their waitresses to cope with. None of this excuses giving away our table though. That’s just plain rude.

Perhaps try Café Marlayne for lunch or midweek dinner. I doubt many of you will be disappointed.

Café Marlayne are located at 76 Thistle Street, Edinburgh, EH2 1EN. Phone: 0131 226 2230.


7 Old Fishmarket Close, 190 High Street, Edinburgh, EH1 1RW. Phone: 0131 225 3838

One Response to “Great product, less great service - dinner at Café Marlayne”

  1. We enjoyed a fabulous lunch at Cafe Marlayne, but I know the table you write of and totally agree with you - in fact, I would refuse to sit there! Service was laid back but fine and the food excellent value and cooked just right. It reminded me a little of Pierre Victoire - mismatched tables and chairs, good french food and a good price point but laid back slightly dismissive French service!

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