It feels like Edinburgh’s settling comfortably into a new era of ‘how to do restaurants’. The knock-on effect of the stellar performances from the city’s famed Michelin and Rosetted chefs is filtering down into accomplished but relaxed new places, meeting good quality pub food halfway. It’s more about the food, less about a theme, and UK/Scottish produce is on the menu. Budgets may be tight, pretensions are diminishing, but I think that expectations are are higher than ever before; it’s a logical time for the bistro to make a comeback.
Field, a newbie, has opened just over the road from the Pear Tree, in the space formerly occupied by Home Bistro. It’s a knacky wee spot, just off the north bridge, and if the name conjures up vast expanses, then the restaurant itself is the opposite in stature. The team behind it come with a great pedigree (The Wee Restaurant, The Plumed Horse) and hope to offer (in their own words) ‘delish’ affordable food. Mum and I ate on a Friday night, a few weeks after opening and found it to be a cosy welcoming kind of place.
The menu offers the best of challenges to the picker, when any five of the offered starters could have been selected. A bottle of Pipcoul de Pinet was opened, a few sips were taken and we finally plumped for the ham hock rissole with poached egg and Hollandaise, and the terrine of confit duck leg with a parfait bonbon.
The rissole was a generous plateful, and in any other context would have been a contender for best breakfast dish ever. As it was, a soft potatoey cake with strips of smokey ham hough through it, and a satisfyingly crisp breadcrumbed outer. The runny poached egg and creamy Hollandaise put the dopamine levels into overdrive. With this dish is the ultimate in comfort, mum’s terrine was more of a ‘think piece’, a surprisingly delicate presentation of the duck meat, with notes of five spice. The co-star of the duck dish was another golden breadcrumbed lovely, the duck liver parfait bonbon. Punchy but with a silky texture, the intensity of the flavour in each bite slightly kicked its cold plate-fellow into submission.
Main courses hit the Friday night dinner spot well. Mum, a great believer in the ‘less is more’ school of thought on cooking fish was full of praise for the hake dish, the pan-fried, super fresh sweet former swimmer was the star of its show. A deliciously light take on ratatouille without too much sticky tomato action, and some appropriately billed chunky chips which were perfectly seasoned. The coo beckoned me (it does feature rather prominently in the restaurant’s artwork), and a special of rose veal successfully tempted me. Served perfectly pink, tasty from high-heat searing, this was close to the perfect piece of meat. More ‘golden balls’, this time in the form of a croquette with soft red onions in the centre, and juicy roasted baby plum tomatoes completed the picture. A lot of ‘yuming and ahhhing’ ensued.
Desserts, were excellent too. I have reservations about cheesecake, it can be so heavy or over-set, but the black forest version I tried was light but rich with hidden cherries, little bitter flecks of dark chocolate and a crumbly base. Mum had a banana Tatin which had that nice caramel brúlée edge to the pastry and with its vanilla ice cream hat was deemed a triumph. Only small gripe was about the overenthusiastic drizzling of toffee sauce over both desserts.
The ‘loos’ are like a real Pinterest board, papered with an array of images of artfully photographed food porn, which thankfully the restaurant’s own kitchen output lives up to. It’s the perfect size for a neighbourhood eaterie, the atmosphere is casual enough for jeans, but smart enough for date night. I really like the relaxed friendly vibe and I imagine with an eye on the seasons, chef Gordon Craig’s menu will be well worth repeat visits.
We dined as guests of Field.