When it comes to restaurants, I suffer from esprit d’escalier.
If anyone asks me where they should go for dinner, I can’t think of a single place.
I go completely blank, desperate and stuttery. I see their faces - expectant, then confused.
Then, just as I fall asleep that night, my brain is flooded with all my favourite places to eat.
This new restaurant has been an exception to that rule. I’ve been recommending it even before I’d even been.
Still, all the positive signs were there. It’s in a 19th-century property - a former Royal Bank of Scotland and latterly a cafe - that needed a purpose.
The ambitious owners, Lloyd Morse and James Snowdon, have created an all-day restaurant and bakery, and they have loads of experience at exciting places, including Skye Gyngell’s London restaurant Spring. I was counting down until launch, and, after a cursed start involving a flood followed by a staff member testing positive for Covid, it’s properly open - fingers, toes (and cutlery) crossed.
You can eat up at the bar, or in the bistro-style dining room, with its sage walls and painting - Zepi Tepi, by artist Stewart Swan.
The menu is classic, but with the occasional twist. They set the bar high from the start, when you’re presented with a couple of thick slabs of their magnificent sourdough, with its nutty crust, and a generous blob of daffodil yellow room-temperature butter that glides onto the bread like a silky kimono.
I also tried a rum highball cocktail (£8), which looked like water and tasted like a seltzer, with Plantation 3 Stars Rum, ginger, pear and soda. It was very grown-up, in contrast to your average alcopop-style blend that contains as much sugar as a jumbo tub of Haribo Goldbears.
My starter was a matchbox of breadcrumbed pig’s head (£7). It was salty and feral, with little gelatinous bits in the meaty mash. Of course, all the pig’s thoughts were transferred to me, and that just made me hungrier. This came with a crisp and raw baby turnip, and a blob of herby gribiche sauce, which lifted the protein with a little bit of tang. It was as satisfying as a good scritchetty scratch behind the ear.
We also had the airy and light pickled mackerel (£8). These parallelograms of gently acidic fish came with a crunchy remoulade, a handful of capers and carrot strips.
I haven’t had roast partridge (£18) for a while, and this is the sort of dish that reminded me of what you might get in, say, Edinburgh’s Cafe St Honore. They hadn’t spared the butter, and the plump and soft breast and wings came with a load of creamed spinach, fat lardons and girolles.
Our other main course of roast monkfish (£23) was topped with a sort of bouncy textural crust of toasted spices. It worked beautifully, as did the accompaniments of seaweed butter, baby leeks and smooth skinned and pale Casablanca potatoes. Here’s looking at you, kids.
The pudding of roast hazelnut and black fig tart (£6) made me swoon. I probably don’t have the words to describe how much I loved it. Maybe sounds would be better. Its crumbly buttery nuttiness was tempered by a dollop of cream. I ate it all, and it wasn’t even my course. (Don’t worry about Jack Sprat, he finished the bread).
I haven't seen chocolate mousse (£6) on the menu for ages, but here it was. This sundae glass full of bubbles was served with a drizzle of green tasting olive oil on top and a sprinkle of sea salt, for a pleasantly discombobulating and intriguing taste sensation.
There’s something about The Palmerston that’s like a collision between old fashioned and new fangled. Their sommelier has a corkscrew tattoo, yet there are Eighties style Gerald Scarfe-ish caricatures on the stairwell. Their name is in classic gilt on the windows and there are bistro-style curved back chairs, yet there’s a lucky cat behind the bar. They’re big into sauce and butter, cream and pastry but they don’t overlook the veggies.
It’s quite exciting, as is the fact that you can get bread or pastries to take away, on your way out of the premises. (We took a loaf of that sourdough).
I will go on recommending this place, though now I don’t have to pretend that I’ve been.
1 Palmerston Place
(0131 220 1794, www.thepalmerstonedinburgh.co.uk)
Places to try Nearby
Taco Libre, 3 Shandwick Place, Edinburgh, www.tacolibre.co.uk
This new Mexican restaurant, which offers a little inside seating, but with more (sheltered) space outside, has a menu that feature hugely addictive tacos filled with fish baja, (battered cod, shredded slaw, chipotle mayo and cucumber) and cochinita pibil (pork shoulder cooked with orange and achiote, pickled red onion).
Hau Han, 88 Haymarket Terrace, Edinburgh (0131 281 9331, www.hauhan.co.uk)
For those who love retro “British style Chinese food inspired by the dishes of Hong Kong”, head here (or takeaway) for sweet and sour and sweet and sour chicken, all made with a lighter touch. Look out for their wall of lucky cats,
Tandoori Nite, 29 West Maitland Street, Edinburgh (0131 241 8929, www.tandoorinite.co.uk)
This Indian restaurant is one of The Palmerston’s closed neighbourbours and has sprung up in the former premises of Hungarian restaurant, Magna Hungaria.
We haven’t tried it yet, though the cooking smells will probably tempt us through the door soon.