Two options from the garden section - halloumi chips and  the serrano ham, which was wrapped around a roast peach, with feta
Two options from the garden section - halloumi chips and the serrano ham, which was wrapped around a roast peach, with feta

Hemingway’s offers a veritable moveable feast

Concept dining is a growing market in the industry, with everyone trying to find that unique angle that others haven’t.

The idea of small plates, popularised by the Spanish through tapas, has been on the rise in recent times, and for good reason – why have one large main course, when you can have a few smaller ones?

My companion and I made a visit to Hemingway’s in Leith, Edinburgh, a beautiful location overlooking the Water of Leith. The view from our window was perfect – we could watch the world go by, on land and on the water, from the warm, comfortable surroundings.

As the name suggests, the venue has been inspired by the great Ernest Hemingway. There are plenty of book-themed touches which we both appreciated – the drinks menu is tucked inside an old novel by the man himself (which has gold lettering added to match the original lettering of the hardback edition), there are typewriters dotted around, as well as plenty of books, giving the whole place the feel of a luxurious library.

The menu is divided into three clear sections – garden, sea and land. As my fellow diner isn’t a particularly big fan of seafood, we left it out – but with a choice of sea bass, crispy prawns Thai style, fried calamari and Loch Duart cured salmon, there’s great options there. It was very much a case of what to have and to have not.

Two options from the garden section – halloumi chips and the serrano ham, which was wrapped around a roast peach, with feta

We started with a couple of options from the garden. Our halloumi chips came with lemon tahini, pomegranate molasses, coriander and mint (£8). These were quite honestly the perfect way to open our dining experience – they were a good, substantial thickness, and were packed full of flavour. My cheese-loving friend was in heaven, as they outer batter was perfectly cooked, allowing the innards to ooze out.

Our second choice was an absolute hit – Korean fried cauliflower, with black sesame, gochugang mayo and spring onions (£5). I love cauliflower – I could eat a plate of cauliflower cheese quite happily as a main course – and this takes it to another level. Deep fried in a thin batter, these are fantastic bit-sized snacks. We had enough for four large pieces each – and were left wanting more. The dip is especially moreish. There’s a bit of heat, but not too much. An absolute winner.

We then moved to the land section of the menu, and it was a tough choice. Given that we chose not to pick the Hemingway’s bavette, chicken thigh and slow cooked Ayrshire pork belly, that gives you an idea of how good the choice is.

Korean fried cauliflower

We began with the serrano ham, which was wrapped around a roast peach, with feta and rosemary, plus white balsamic and sumac (£7). Who would have thought that peach and ham, with feta, would have worked so well? The sweetness of the fruit, plus the feta, made for a superb pairing that had my companion’s eyes wide with pleasure. Hugely recommended.

The confit duck leg was just as flavoursome. Duck has always been one of my favourite meats, with a rich, distinctive taste, which I would normally enjoy with a raspberry or kiwi coulais. Instead, it came with Toulouse sausage, cannellini bean cassoulet, and breadcrumbs (£10). The base was wonderful – packed with scent, flavour and contrasting textures, which made it a wonderful experience. For something so comparatively simple, this could almost work on its own. As for the duck, I ran my fork over the meat and it came away perfectly. It was perfectly cooked, and went well with the rest of the small plate.

Our fifth and final small plate was the lamb rump, with spinach, chickpea, dopiata, pickled onions and a naan bread (£10.50). My friend, a self-confessed curry fan, was looking forward to this, and she wasn’t disappointed by the flavour. Lamb is a meat I enjoy from time to time, and this was pleasant tasting, well cooked and worked well with the curry. The naan was first class, especially to soak up the remaining juices.

The lamb rump, with spinach, chickpea, dopiata, pickled onions and a naan bread

When we ordered our five small plates, we also thought it would be a good idea to have a flatbread, since we both enjoy those. With so many toppings to choose from (chorizo, smoked salmon, prosciutto, butternut squash and others), we went for the goat’s cheese (£9). I did mention, my friend loves her cheese! As soon as we tried it, we knew we were on to a winner – red pepper chilli jam, beetroot and rocket were the perfect topping. The cheese came in nice thick wedges, and looked like chicken – absolutely wonderful, especially the beetroot. The jam topping was exceptionaly, my companion commented, and made for a great selection. Our only problem was, we had enjoyed what we’d eaten so much, we couldn’t finish it.

And despite my sweet tooth, I just couldn’t find any room for dessert. The menu was packed full of superb options, and I was genuinely annoyed with myself that I hadn’t kept room for the milk chocolate delice, comprising malted milk ice cream, rice and cornflake crispie, and cafe de leche. And the Key Lime Cheesecake… I can’t miss that next time we go.

The goat’s cheese flatbread

Hemingway’s is a new addition to the Leith eating scene. It’s absolutely worth a visit – you’ll dine in first class surroundings which have the feel of the 1930s, with some solid rustic tables, be welcomed by first class, attentative staff, and, most importantly of all, enjoy perfect food that may be small plates in name, but definitely big in quantity.

Hemingway’s is open from noon to 1am Monday-Friday, and noon to 1am Saturday and Sunday.

Hemingway’s 1 Commercial Street, Edinburgh, EH6 6JA.

0131 554 5272