This week, I've been up in Edinburgh again on work. So I had a good excuse to try out some more of the Scottish capital's vegetarian restaurants.
We decided to visit David Bann's restaurant which seemed to get really good reviews on websites I had "googled". The menu on the website sounded rather modern and unusual. I was looking forward to the meal. When we walked in, we received a warm and friendly welcome and were quickly seated at a nice table. The tables were spaced well apart; the purply-walls and the trendy, minimalist setting provided an airy yet romantic backdrop.
Looking at the menu, we decided to order an initial bowl of chips while we made up our minds from the long list of fusion-ish starters and mains. The menu looked like a strange journey to Asia and the Mediterranean via Scotland with no real central theme except vegetarianism; I asked our friendly waiter for advice on the main course options. "It's a new menu we introduced only last week or so", he said admitting that he hadn't tried a single dish. I was a tad disappointed. Hadn't these guys seen any of the celebrity chefs on tv. Ground rule number one: make sure your front of house have a good idea what you are serving? Forget about any detailed questions re: provenance, this guy couldn't even tell me which dish was recommended. After a bit of umming and aahing, and with the waiter's watery recommendation (given his experience that some customers gave good reviews to the curry), we decided on the Thai fritters and the Soup of the day (caramelised onion) for starters and the Crepe with braised vegetables, basil & dunlop cheese and a curry for the main.
The chips arrived first, served with an apple & tomato ketchup and sour cream. The chips were average in taste and quite fresh quality-wise. The ketchup though was a total disaster. Really, really vile. Any pleasure one took from the chips was totally negated by this monstrosity of a concoction; a precursor of things to come.
The Thai fritters which came next were a total waste of good tofu. This disastrous blend of coriander seeds, tofu, lemongrass and God-knows-what, tasted like it had been chargrilled with something vile; we left the plate fairly untouched. Fortunately the waitress noticed and offered to take it off our bill, suggesting that it was probably the smoked tofu that we didn't like. It wasn't the tofu that ruined it , I thought to myself; what destroyed that dish was a failure to mimic Thai flavours by simply bunging in anything that sounded vaguely Asian and assuming that it would pass off as nouvelle cuisine.
The onion soup that R had next was so-so; nothing to write home about and with the faint taste of slightly-off leftovers, although R didn't mind too much.
We then moved to the mains. The next assault was on Indian cuisine. The chef's modernist take on my curry meant that it was a total disappointment - gloopy, under-cooked and served without any rice but with a couple of little fritters made from rice flour. The fritters were under-seasoned but edible. The curry wasn't even as edible as my own home-made curry would be at a stage when I've just ground the basic ingredients together.
The final onslaught was on French cuisine and here, the crepe was soggy, there was no hint of the basil which had been promised, the filling tasted overpoweringly of peppery-tomato puree with no sign of the promised cheese and even R, who is normally not fussy at all, gave up after 2 mouthfuls. This time, the waitress didn't notice or even ask for feedback on why the plates were virtually untouched.
When we finally arose from our tables, deprived of nearly forty pounds for one starter and two mains and two soft drinks, I felt relieved. At least I didn't have to face pudding and watch perhaps yet another great culinary tradition destroyed by the vile machinations of the chef who would no doubt have produced yet another surreal mish-mash of flavours.
All in all, a total waste of time and money except for the fantastic ambience.
Avoid, until they sort their food out !!
56-58, St Mary's St, Edinburgh