Lovely lunch at Leith’s Cafe Fish

With its sleek aluminium finish and contemporary interior Cafe Fish could not be more different from the traditional Leith pub which used to occupy its premises. Infact as you walk through the revolving doors you are transported to a restaurant which wouldn’t look out of place in a Sex and the City episode. Despite the smooth interior, The Edinburgh Blog has previously been reluctant to try Cafe Fish, as despite a fixed priced evening menu the supplements seemed to litter every dish which caught our eye. However, with an attractive a la carte menu on display for lunch on Saturday we decided to pay Cafe Fish a long overdue visit.

Roasted North Atlantic Cod at Cafe Fish, Leith Fish and chips at Cafe Fish, Leith, Edinburgh

Cafe Fish certainly isn’t cheap, with lunch starters costing up to £10 and mains up to £19. The menu changes daily, so Cafe Fish is a great place to walk by and see if something takes your fancy. Sitting at the bar - glass of champagne and oysters in hand is advocated. Yet there is something about the ambience of Cafe Fish which makes formal table dining the preferred option. It certainly does not have the informal nature a bar like Cafe Royal finds effortlessly. That said Cafe Fish is an enormously attractive restaurant whose interior layout, especially the open plan kitchen, works very well.

The sourcing of quality fresh fish was in evidence through all of our dishes. Fishcakes for starter were served as three lightly battered balls - crisp on the outside and delightfully packed with fluffy fish centres (£5). My bowl of Shetland mussels was served with tomato and coriander (£5). They were messy to eat, but the quality of the produce shone through.

Fishcakes at Cafe Fish in Edinburgh Cheese board at Cafe Fish, Edinburgh

Hake is battered and served on a bed of chips in the Cafe Fish version of the British classic (£11). It works really well and the hake was absolutely white and perfectly tender. Delicious. The homemade tartare sauce is worth a mention - chopped gherkin, capers, dill, etc. all beautifully combined. Crushed peas were the icing on the cake of a fantastically enjoyable dish. A great piece of cod on a bed of lentils (£13) proved the most pleasant of courses. All of this was washed down with a few glasses from our 1/2 bottle of pleasant Sancerre (£13). The service was knowledgeable and, somewhat of a rarity for Edinburgh, very conversational.

When you’re having such an enjoyable time it’s hard to walk away without dessert. The cheese board at £9 was a high quality affair of aged goats’ cheese, tallegio and valdeon; served with a particularly fine chutney. The apple and rhubarb crumble ensured our three course lunch finished without fault.

I think Cafe Fish could do more to offer a wider range of affordable and informal dining options, which would encourage greater casual and repeat trade. But as a destination for a high quality fish lunch or dinner, Cafe Fish is a winner. The setting is great, the quality of the fish is high, the cooking accomplished and the service slick.

Cafe Fish is located at 60 Henderson Street, Edinburgh, EH6 6DE
Telephone: 0131 538 613

Curry at Club India

It’s 9pm on a Friday night in Edinburgh. After a few beers, including an excellent pint of Schiehallion at Indigo Yard, the Edinburgh Blog headed to Club India on Lothian Road. Club India has been open for one year, yet is still relatively unknown to the curry loving Edinburgh public. Even though, to find only two tables occupied on a Friday night is surely a worrying sign. Apparently the restaurant had been busier earlier in the evening for Club India’s pre-theatre deal, but its large interior was now empty. Infact by 10pm we were the only table left - the chef had long left the building and the waitress had made her intentions to close Club India as soon as we had left perfectly clear.

Interior of Club India, Lothian Road, Edinburgh Sabzi Tarkari at Club India in Edinburgh

Evidently Club India aren’t looking for the late night crowd to keep their kitchen busy. The number of starters available at Club India was inline with the number of occupied tables. We settled on vegetable samosas (£3.95) and chicken pakoras (£3.95). These were traditional affairs, served with a small salad of chopped lettuce and pepper. Reasonable value but rather dull.

The nan breads were Club India’s best dish, with the taftan nan (£3.45) the star. Popadoms were 60p each, but happily there was no extra charge for mango chutney and spiced onion accompaniments. On the drinks front Kingfisher was initially unavailable, so we settled on Cobra (£4.10 a pint).

Apparently Club India’s emphasis is on flavour and not heat. Therefore I was disappointed to find my kashmiri chicken tikka (£7.95) taste rather bland. There was lots of sauce, but the dish would have benefited from more chicken. Vegetarian curries are often overlooked, but Club India have a good selection to choose from. Sabzi Tarkari (£5.95) was an inexpensive dish; packed full of peas, carrots and green beans.

There was no offer of dessert, which was fine by us - now we were the only customers in the whole restaurant, so things had gotten awkward enough. The prices we were charged are cheaper than those advertised on Club India’s website. It’s plausible that prices have been reduced and dishes changed to try and entice more people to dine at Club India. I don’t know if this tactic will work, as although there was nothing terrible about our visit to Club India, there was also nothing to suggest we should hurry back.

The Club India experience was uninspiring. There are many very good Indian restaurants in Edinburgh, so Club India will have to up their game and find some way of getting more folk through the door if they are to make an impression.

Club India is located at 105-09 Lothian Road,Edinburgh, EH3 9AN
Telephone: 0131 229 7747

Filmhouse Cafe Bar for a vegetarian curry and nachos

The Filmhouse on Edinburgh’s Lothian Road is an Edinburgh institution. Its monthly film programme always contains a balanced and exciting range of movies. It really is a great place to watch a film. Just behind the main foyer at the Filmhouse is the Cafe Bar, which is often busy and sometimes crowded. The eminently popular and free to enter Filmhouse quiz is hosted in the cafe bar once a month. The emphasis is on informal dining, including snacks. Food is ordered at the bar, before its promptly delivered to your table. Between 3pm and 5pm each day the Filmhouse offer all main meals for £5 and special meals for £7.

Chickpea and coconut curry at the Filmhouse Cafe Bar, Edinburgh Rocky road slice at Filmhouse Cafe Bar, Lothian Road

There’s a fair selection of real ales and lagers on draught, alongside 12 wines by the glass and a good spirit selection. The Filmhouse staff really were very friendly and evidently happy in their jobs - maybe they get free tickets to movie screenings.

The chickpea and coconut curry (£6.75) is one of the most popular dishes at the Filmhouse. Its appeal is universal and the inoffensiveness it offers will surely attract many, although curry aficionados may find it a little dull. There was more of a kick in the spicy bean and chicken nachos (£7.15). The portion size was huge and the toppings addictive. If only there had been some guacamole I’d have been making my trip to nacho heaven.

The Filmhouse Cafe Bar’s menu is made interesting by dishes such as stilton and spinach nuggets, baked meatballs with rice and falafels. There’s also a cake stand, whose contents looked delicious. The slice of rocky road we sampled was a little dry, but £1.75 for a brief bite of dark chocolate and marshmallow pleasure is fair enough.

The Filmhouse Cafe Bar is a simple venue, with an appealing menu and good standards of cooking. With all dishes on offer at very reasonable prices, this is a Lothian Road destination which is worth a visit, even if you’re not seeing a film.

The Filmhouse Cafe Bar is located at 88 Lothian Road,Edinburgh, EH3 9BZ
Telephone: 0131 229 5932

Seadogs for Lunch Club

The blog has previously reviewed The Dogs and Amore Dogs, so it was inevitable our lunch club trio would find its way to Seadogs at some point. Seadogs is David Ramsden’s fish themed restaurant on Edinburgh’s Rose St. I’m continually amazed how busy The Dogs group of restaurants are irrespective of time or day, so it was no surprise to find Seadogs nearly full by 1pm on a Monday. Whatever your personal opinion about these Edinburgh restaurants, there’s clearly a formula here that has lasting appeal.

Fish and chips lunch at Seadogs, Edinburgh Prawn scampi and chips at Seadogs, Rose St, Edinburgh

Seadogs have an inexpensive daytime menu and a more expensive, but still very reasonably priced evening menu. And despite the Seadogs name there are a few meat and vegetarian dishes available. The menu is, as you’d expect, rather quirky and varied e.g. the fish is available beer battered, grilled or in oatmeal. The “prawn scampi” and chips (£5.20) was an interesting concept, but it proved too rich for my tastes and the five deep fried prawns were a burn risk to the inside of my mouth.

The large bowl of cullen skink (£4.95) was the best value and best tasting dish. It had a great consistency and generous quantities of haddock. The fish, chips and mushy peas (£6.60) is the staple dish at Seadogs and its popularity meant there was at least one variant of this on each table. The batter was just about spot on, while the chips are unlikely to disappoint. Any dish which gets mushy peas served by default gets a thumbs up from me, though the portion size will be underwhelming for many.

Seadogs manages to create a welcoming, social and comfortable feel; this no fuss atmosphere and clean style of service is surely the biggest attraction of David Ramsden’s Edinburgh restaurants. My visit to Seadogs was exactly what I expected - definitely not amazing, but pleasant and enjoyable enough.

The Edinburgh Blog’s lunch club members provided their own one sentence reviews:

A decent lunch, with fresh ingredients used. Price is reflective of portion size. 6.5/10

Reasonably priced, tasty food, but not a stand out. 7/10

Seadogs is located at 43 Rose Street, Edinburgh, EH2 2NH
Telephone: 0131 225 8028

Oriental “fast” food at Meadowood Cafe

For a long time I’ve walked by the colourful Meadowood Cafe on Edinburgh’s Bread St, but never ventured inside. It’s often packed with folk of Far East origin, so that must be a good sign. The big attraction is seemingly the pearl tea. Demonstrating the pull of this tea was the table next to ours, who stood up and left when the server told them he’d just sold the last cup. The Edinburgh Blog is no expert on pearl tea, but apparently it’s also referred to as bubble tea and consists of fruit, milk, tea and tapioca balls in a sealed cup.

Wonton soup noodles at Meadowood cafe, Bread St, Edinburgh Sui Mai combo at Meadowood cafe, Edinburgh

The Meadowood Cafe billing itself as a “fast food cafe” is like a snail pretending to be a Formula 1 car. If you’re expecting quick service then forget it. With only three tables occupied we had to wait 20 minutes for a can of diet coke and a bottle of water, even longer for our starters and longer again for our mains. It’s no wonder they have a plethora of magazines to choose from. I imagine the racks will be empty when the Meadowood cafe is busy.

Our mixed sui mai starter (£6) was enjoyable, although I think the assorted dumplings came out of the freezer before being steamed. That’s perhaps not surprising as Meadowood also offer frozen dumplings to purchase and take home. The wonton noodle soup was the highlight. The pork dumplings were delicious, the soup tasty and the rice noodles plentiful. Very good value for £6.30. A double portion is available for £3 more, which would surely make this dish large enough for two.

The thick udon noodles in my hot & sour chicken were superb, but the chicken quantity was meagre. I’d also have appreciated more vegetables than a few slices of carrot. At just £6.30 it’s hard to criticise though. Despite the Meadowood Cafe’s small size there are a plethora of food dishes to choose from and I think the key to a good experience is choosing the right dish e.g. the fried chicken “rice meal” another table had looked very good.

With a dazzling array of teas, juices and other drinks the Meadowood Cafe is an informed choice for liquid refreshment. For food I’m less convinced. In all cases don’t go here if you’re in a hurry.

Meadowood Cafe is located at 15 Bread Street, Edinburgh,EH3 9AL
Telephone: 0131 228 548

Soup and sandwich at the Treehouse Cafe

Tollcross certainly isn’t short of cafes - infact the choice can be overwhelming. The Treehouse Cafe sits unassumingly on the corner of Leven Street and Glengyle Terrace. Inside is a charming cafe, which has gained a huge following with local folk at weekends and nearby office workers during the week. Service is always with a smile and there’s a range of freshly prepared salads, soups and sandwiches available. Apparently the breakfast options are good too, but the Edinburgh Blog’s visit was for an informal Saturday lunch.

Soup and The Treehouse club sandwich, at the Treehouse Cafe, Edinburgh Pesto chicken and mozzarella panini at the Treehouse Cafe, Edinburgh

The Treehouse Cafe change their range of salads and soup daily. Tomato, red pepper and cream cheese soup may not, by the description, be to everyone’s taste - but the kitchen had balanced this dish perfectly. Delicious. The humongous bowl of soup was accompanied by an equally humongous Treehouse club sandwich. A superb sandwich, although a struggle to accomodate both in one sitting! At £6.25 it’s excellent value - when the menu says “you will not go hungry”, it’s no exaggeration. The pesto and chicken panini was excellent too (£5.50, served with two salads, including an excellent cous cous offering).

It’s not hard to see why the Treehouse Cafe is always busy, whether for sit-in or takeaway.

The Treehouse Cafe really is an excellent choice for a fresh and filling lunch. A superb local cafe.

The Treehouse Cafe is located at 44 Leven Street, Edinburgh, EH3 9LJ.
Telephone: 0131 656 0513

Super noodles at Wasa noodle bar

The Rainbow Arch Chinese on Edinburgh’s Morrison St has been operating for a long time. The folk behind this restaurant have recently opened their latest venture - the late-night Wasa noodle bar, which is entered through a separate door on Morrison St. A short walk up the stairs leads to a small open plan dining room, whose basic interior raises memories of Chop Chop, which occupies the other end of Morrison St. Wasa noodle bar is certainly true to its name with a choice of seven different nooodle types, each of which can be served fried or as a soup.

Thai style aubergine at Wasa, Edinburgh Shredded noodle prawn soup at Wasa, Edinburgh

Wasa noodle bar is geared to the informal/casual diner, who is looking for very reasonably priced food. All starters are £3.50, while most noodle (or rice) dishes are £7 each, with none above £8.50. The noodle bar wasn’t very busy when we visited just before 7pm, but I can imagine the popularity of Wasa rising considerably throughout the year. The Thai style aubergine for starter was delicious, with a nice crisp batter and a delightfully zingy salad accompanying it. The paper wrapped chicken is unusual to say the least; our waiter opened the package up at our table to reveal four pieces of chicken on the bone. As you’d expect the meat was extremely succulent, although with no seasoning or sauce, it proved a little bland for our tastes.

We stuck to conventional mains and rejected the more interesting Wasa offerings such as fish head vermicelli soup, mackarel with chicken fried rice or fish head with cocunut rice. Our waiter, who proved friendly and efficient, insisted I try the noodle soup as it was “very good”. No arguments from me there - the shredded noodles were excellent and the large tiger prawns were plentiful. Very good value. My own fried ho-fan noodles with mixed meat came piled high on the plate. Again, this was super dish with a generous quantity of duck, char sui and chicken through it. Wasa noodle bar serve a full pot of Jasmine tea for the bargain price of 80 pence, although I stuck to the bottled Tsing Tao, at £2.80 a pop.

Apparently Wasa, can be translated to English as “wow”. With regard to Wasa’s noodles that seems a very fair description. Recommended.

Wasa noodle bar is located at 8-16A Morrison Street,Edinburgh EH3 8B
Telephone: 0131 221 1288

City centre cupcakes at Bibi’s Bakery

The cupcake revolution continues and the latest combatant is Bibi’s Bakery, on Edinburgh’s Hanover St. This is the bakeries second branch, building upon the Bibi’s brand success in St Andrews. There’s no sit-in area in the very pink and very attractively decorated shop, so it’s takeaway only. As well as offering a great selection of individual cakes for puchase, Bibi’s cater for weddings and other special events. There’s also cupcake classes for adults and children; the latter providing a messy, but fun party opportunity. All cakes are made in the shop and you can see the kitchen staff hard at work through a window on Rose St.

Cupcakes from Bibi's, Edinburgh Cupcakes from Bibi's Bakery, Hanover St, Edinburgh

The cupcakes are £1.50 each and there’s a great assortment of regular flavours alongside special flavours. We sampled the lemon, cookies and cream, and, After Eight cupcake flavours. All of them were fantastic; big flavours, frosting to die for and an amazingly moist sponge. With a product this good Bibi’s Bakery will surely prove a sure fire Edinburgh hit. All of their cupcakes were selling well, with the possible exception of the chocolate chilli (definitely not suitable alongside my cup of tea). On a slight downer, the service wasn’t as cheery as the decor - maybe the very cold weather had got the spirits of the serving staff down.

Bibi’s Bakery know a thing or two about cupcakes and their expertise has been put to great use, with a range of terrifically flavoured cakes. All of which are lovingly and expertly prepared. A very tempting addition to Edinburgh’s city centre!

p.s. According to their website, Bibi’s also offer a brownie - I can’t wait to try that!

Bibi’s Bakery is located at 37 Hanover Street, Edinburgh, EH2 2PJ.
Telephone: 0131 226 5563

Mr Snow

His arrival was delayed, but Mr Snow has now taken residence in Edinburgh’s St Andrews Square. Mr Snow is a 12ft tall robot, designed by Thomas Payne and Matthew Swan of the Edinburgh College of Art. Apparently Mr Snow shoots out artificial snow several times a day, although with all the snow Edinburgh’s experienced I imagine he will struggle to make an impression. I haven’t personally experienced a snowing Mr Snow, but he’s a pleasance presence nonetheless - a shame he’s boxed in with the railings though.

Mr Snow in Edinburgh Mr Snow at Edinburgh's St Andrews Square

The Albanach Bar for a pub lunch

Edinburgh’s Royal Mile isn’t short of traditional pubs, which pull in the tourists all year round. The Albanach Bar ticks all the tourist boxes, with a traditional Scottish pub at the front and a homely dining room at the rear. The latter has a lovely table situated in the overhanging alcove, which affords great views over Cockburn street. The menu of the Albanach Bar is as traditional as the surroundings, with a best seller of chicken balmoral lining up alongside beef stew, fish cakes and steaks. There are a range of lighter bites too, including sandwiches and salads.

Sausage & Mash at The Albanach, Bar Edinburgh Haggis, neeps and tatties at The Albanach, Bar on Edinburgh's Royal Mile

The service at The Albanach Bar was very friendly and accomodating; its multinational flavour a stark contrast to the Scottish heather on the walls. Deliciously smokie Auld Reekie sausages from Crombies were the star of The Albanach’s sausage and mash (£7.99). The mashed potato was a little lumpy and the gravy over generous, but on a cold Winter’s day the dish served its purpose. The Albanach’s haggis, neeps and tatties (£4.99 for a starter or £8.99 as a main) was the Albanach’s most accomplished offering. The whisky sauce (served separately) just added to this most traditional of dishes appeal. A side dish of vegetables (£1.99) was good value and contained a healthy amount of carrots, broccoli and cauliflower.

A “slice” of chocolate fudge cake for dessert at £4.99 sounds excessive, but this could easily have passed for a whole cake, so easily enough for two to share. Its chocolate and goo overload was enough to satisfy our dessert cravings, although I doubt it had been lovingly prepared here at The Albanach. The superb Japanese lager, Kirin Ichiban was a welcome, if somewhat unexpected offering (£3.78). But for those seeking the genuine Scottish experience there’s a good range of whiskies and Belhaven beers on draught.

The Albanach offers a good dose of traditional Scottish setting and food on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile. The food does have room for improvement, but generally it’s priced sensibly and the quality is about what you’d expect. A fair choice for tourists and informal family meals.

The Alabanch is located at 197 High Street, Royal Mile, Old Town, Edinburgh, EH11PE
Telephone: 0131 220 5277

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