Leith has an abundance of eating and drinking options. These include Michelin starred restaurants like Martin Wishart or The Kitchin, fine fish restaurants such as Skippers and Fishers or pizza and pasta offered by Pizza Express and Guilianos. All of them do rather well, especially at the weekends. Roseleaf however tries to be different. Roseleaf’s specials menu, written on the chalk-board outside, changes by the day and the food has no theme; infact it’s pretty random. And where other pubs have moulded themselves into dining only establishments Roseleaf are happy to take your drinks only custom.
Roseleaf pitches itself as a neighbourhood bar/cafe. It serves an enticing collection of breakfast meals from 10am until 10pm, offers free wi-fi and serves cocktails in teapots. The interior is spot-on, with an eclectic mix of furniture and ornaments, working well with the ambient lighting. The knife and fork you are given are not guaranteed to match and I doubt if they have more than two plates the same. It’s touches like this which could prove disastrous, but they don’t.
On entering, through to the right is a slightly more formal dining area, while just through the door is the main part of the bar. It’s not particularly spacious, but is very cosy - the kind of place you feel comfortable inside. Games are available from behind the bar; the table next to us were playing Connect 4, while waiting for their burgers. This is all accompanied by an appropriate musical selection. The diners and drinkers at Roseleaf are as eclectic as the interior design - we saw affluent couples there to eat, students drinking cocktails and shots of vodka and elderly gentleman sipping quiet pints at the bar during our visit. This great mix was good to see.
The food is good, but rarely great - the chocolate fudge pie (¬£3.50) we consumed being the exception, that really was magnificent and worthy of just about every menu in town. Where Roseleaf really excels though is choice. If you come here and they have nothing which takes your fancy I would be astounded. Static choices, apart from the breakfasts, include ‘Wee Ones’. Here a true mountain of nachos can be bought for ¬£6, daily dips with toasts (¬£5) or a nibble platter (¬£8). Thus making Roseleaf a great choice for drinks and snacks before a night out in Edinburgh city centre. The burgers are very good and at ¬£6.50 good value. Toasted sandwiches, pasta and more add to the always available choices.
However, it’s the specials board where the most interesting choices can be found. The butternut squash, rocket and feta calzone (¬£6.95) was interesting and presented neatly on the plate. Maybe a few too many flavours, but I still enjoyed this hearty meal. The mushroom pie with mashed potato and spinach (¬£6.95) was a large portion, although the pies contents was a little simplistic. The mash potato offered by Roseleaf is of high standard though. Roseleaf’s game pie was their strongest offering and this was devoured in record time. I don’t know why chefs mix chili with chocolate - Roseleaf tried this with their chili chocolate brownie, which I didn’t enjoy - but more fool me for ordering I guess.
I really like the frequent menu changes - it’s genuinely exciting to see what’s on offer at Roseleaf on a given night. With a gradual maturing of the kitchen the consistency of their offerings will improve: though there’s absolutely no reason to not try their food now. The closest parallel I can make of Roseleaf is The Butterfly and Pig pub in Glasgow. While Roseleaf’s food is not up to their standard yet, it’s early days and certainly heading in the right direction. One thing that definitely is up to great standard is Roseleaf’s service. I’ve found all of their staff to be hugely welcoming, courteous and attentive. With at least one of the owners usually on site, I expect this to continue.
Congratulations to the two Australians and one Scotsman behind Roseleaf, it’s genuinely breathed life into Leith’s bar scene and nine times out of ten I’d prefer a visit there as opposed to the more stuffy, generic offerings to be had on The Shore. Go to Roseleaf for a drink and if you like what you see try their food. I’ll definitely be back - so long as the magnificent chocolate fudge pie returns!
Roseleaf is located on Sandport Place near the Water of Leith. It’s located close enough to The Shore area for it to be included in any visit. You can book a table by calling 0131 476 5268. Their e-mail address is infoXroseleaf.co.uk, where X is @.