Looking for a quiet meal during festival season?
Looking for a quiet meal in festival season can seem like a challenge but as Michelle Clancy found out, you don't have to stray far from the city centre to find these little gems (and no queues!)...
Honeycomb & Co, Bruntsifeld
Situated on a sunny corner just up the road from Brunstfield Links, Honeycomb & Co is a new venture from culinary trio Ian D’Annunzio-Green, Susan Booth and Julie Friel, who have worked together for over 15 years at cafes in the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, the Scottish National Portrait Gallery and Hopetoun House, to name just a few. Their first independent restaurant venture might have less footfall than those bustling tourist attractions but, for those in the know, it is a must-visit.
A modern, Ottolenghi-inspired café with a focus on healthy, tasty food, the décor is as fresh as the amazing selection of cakes and pastries on display, While it’s tempting to go straight for them, we resist and kick off our family lunch with savoury bakes instead. The Honeycomb & Co Loaf Tin, £3.50, is paradise for bread lovers - levened flatbread, lavosh and focaccia with a local rapeseed oil and hazelnut dukkah. To this, we add a trio of tasty dips, £2.50, which includes butternut squash hummus, baba ghanoush and tahini yogurt. After demolishing the lot, I fear I may have over-ordered with my main, yet my Aberdeen Angus pulled beef marinated in BBQ sauce and served in a homemade brioche roll with sweet potato wedges, £11, disappears at a similar rate. Around the table, the delicious aromatic scent of my other half’s Vietnamese Chicken Pho, £9, is as good as anything we experienced travelling in Asia and the little ones are happily scoffing a honey roast ham roll, £4.50, and flatbread pizza, £5.50, from the kids’ menu.
They save their biggest smiles for the arrival of two bowls of heavenly homemade ice cream, while we opt for the Scottish summer berry Eton mess, £6.00 - quite possibly the best pudding we have ever had. Thankfully, we still have a great excuse to go back. We didn’t try those divine-looking cakes.
Merchiston Pl, EH10 4NP. Tel: 0131 228 4641, honeycombandco.com
When I first moved to Leith, Nobles wasn’t the most salubrious of hangouts. I remember sticky tables, some interesting live music and having to fight my way out through a rowdy bunch of regulars. Oh, how things have changed. Now, the old school pub has been transformed into an atmospheric café and bar with a sophisticated restaurant where locals flock for brunch or a ‘nice’ dinner out. Somehow the place seems to fly a little under the radar when it comes to tourists, which is no bad thing if you’re looking to escape the festival crowds.
We rocked up on a Friday evening at 7pm and were surprised to find the place still pretty quiet; a fact we were immediately thankful of when presented with the menu. There was so much to choose from, it would take all of our focus. We finally decided to resist the pub staples of burger and fish & chips and be a little more adventurous. My starter of pork belly and squid with apple, ginger & sesame, £7.50, certainly ticked that box. The unusual flavour combo was a surprise hit, even tempting my partner’s fork away from his steamed Shetland mussels, £6.50. When it came to the mains it was my turn to suffer from a roaming eye. His glazed beef short rib, roasted sweet potato and pickled red cabbage, £16, was a seriously stunning plateful with melt-in-the-mouth meat, which would have satisfied even without the rich accompaniments. My fillet of hake, rumbledethumps, mussels, crispy kale, and dill cream, £16, was a more delicate affair – simple, tasty, understated and thankfully leaving me room for dessert: a delicious trio of house-made ice creams, £5. By the time I’d polished off the last mouthful, the bar was bustling so rather than head home, we joined the throng for a few drinks. That’s one thing that hasn’t changed about Nobles: once you’re there, it’s hard to leave.
44a Constitution St, EH6 6RS. Tel: 0131 629 7215, noblesbarleith.co.uk
The Rabbit Hole, Marchmont
A neighbourhood eatery owned by husband and wife team and co-chefs, Mo Boulay and Antonello Esposito, The Rabbit Hole offers a welcoming, relaxed setting where you feel instantly calmer. The chic brasserie style interior is dominated by a beautiful NYC-style dining bar, where we’re tempted to perch to eat, but opt to take a seat at a cosy table in a quiet corner instead – it is a date night after all. We kick off proceedings by sharing an octopus, fennel, and potato salad with lemon dill dressing and the monkfish beignet with curry mayonnaise and tomato chutney, both £7, and delicious washed down with a glass of Rioja Blanco.
Moving on, I opt for black and blue flat iron tagliata served with rocket and parmesan salad and fries, £17, while my husband goes for the silver hake, tiger prawns, clams, chorizo and confit tomato served with saffron potatoes, £16.50. My beef is perfectly cooked and beautifully presented while his superbly fresh fish is the centrepiece in a superb plate of seafood. Desserts don’t disappoint either as we go sweet with hazelnut brownie and coffee ice cream, £5.50, and savoury with the cheese board, £8, featuring three delicious selections from local cheesemonger I.J. Mellis. With first class food, attentive, unfussy service and a warm, welcoming atmosphere, The Rabbit Hole is the perfect hiding place for those looking to escape festival madness.
11 Roseneath St, EH9 1JH. Tel: 0131 229 7953, therabbitholerestaurant.com