It’s summer in the city and the New Town is bustling with locals heading home from work, meeting friends to sit in the sunshine and families out for dinner to celebrate graduations.
The people of Edinburgh are enjoying having their city to themselves before the madness of the festival descends along with a herd of tourists who all need fed.
Le Roi Fou on Forth Street will no doubt provide sustenance for a good number of them and those who are fortunate enough to get a table in this small but perfectly formed French restaurant will be very lucky indeed. Chef/patron Jerome Henry opened Le Roi Fou, or the mad king, for those of you don’t parlez le Francais, just over two years ago.
Since then he’s achieved what he set out to do by providing a local restaurant where diners can be assured they won’t be rushed off their table. This is, after all, is the French way. And he’s serving up some very fine classic French cooking to boot.
Kicking off our meal was an amuse-bouche of leek and potato soup served with some delightfully warm bread dipped in really good quality olive oil. Choosing between the taster menu (six courses at £55, with an additional £45 is you choose to enjoy the paired wines) and the a la carte proved tricky, but the staff were patient as we perused the menus for an inordinate length of time and admired the shelf full of awards that Le Roi Fou has garnered.
The lure of the a la carte proved too tempting and we ordered the grilled Galician octopus with watermelon and more of that outstanding olive oil (£17.50) and grilled Orkney hand-dived scallops with confit tomato, fennel and lemon (£17.50) to start. The two good sized octopus tentacles were meaty, flavourful and grilled to perfection, and the refreshing grilled watermelon provided the perfect accompaniment to this most summery starter. Mr B’s scallops were enormous and as sweet as you like. The zing of the tomato, warmth of the fennel and freshness of the lemon were evident but not so much as to overpower the stars of the show. A really accomplished and refreshingly light starter.
Mains came in the form of braised guinea fowl with a tagine of aubergine and preserved lemon (£24.50) and hand-cut beef fillet tartare with pommes frites and salad (£24). The guinea fowl was cooked well with a satisfyingly crisp skin, cumin provided a gentle warmth but the lemon and apricots seemed somewhat lacking. My steak tartare was melt in the mouth with subtle spicing allowing the quality of the meat to shine through. The chips were crisp and dark gold, clearly fried in something as unhealthy as it is delicious.
Rounding off our meal with a seasonal dessert of poached Scottish strawberries with oat crumble and yoghurt sherbet (£8.50), served up by Jerome himself, provided just the right level of sweetness from the food and from our most gracious host.
Le Roi Fou
1 Forth Street
Tel: 0131 557 9346