You might think that every nook and cranny of Edinburgh is well-served by outstanding local restaurants, but you’d be wrong.
Outside the city centre and the epicurean enclave of Leith and Bruntsfield. there are still many areas of the city which are crying out for a good neighbourhood eaterie.
There are some great little outposts in Edinburgh’s suburbs and the outlying towns – Nonna’s Kitchen in Morningside, Dantes in Colinton, the Bridge Inn in Ratho, the Sun Inn near Dalkeith all spring to mind – but there are substantial areas of the city that are almost completely bereft of restaurants. Murrayfield, Ravelston Dykes, Blackhall, Grange, Trinity, Juniper Green and Balerno all spring to mind, but there are many more.
It was that realisation which lured Glasgow restaurateur Andy McCartney into the market with his new venture Damm Twenty Seven on the southside of the city on Causewayside.
At first sight, you might think that the restaurants of Newington are too close, but he realised that people want somewhere that’s a maximum of a 10-minute walk rather than twenty minutes, and that Causewayside is densely populated with Boho folk from the university and rather grand B&Bs with no dining facilities.
The result is a fantastic bar and bistro that since its launch in April has proved a huge hit with locals. With its exposed stone walls, wooden floors and leather seats, it’s on the money in terms of ambience. As for the food, it is made up of the now obligatory but nonetheless popular formula of small plates, while the bar boasts a genuinely interesting array of obscure gins and well-chosen drams.
On Friday and Saturday nights there’s a DJ and the place is primarily in bar mode. But in midweek, with initiatives like Lobster Tuesday and high tea every afternoon, the food is clearly the big draw, and when we visited on a Thursday evening it turned out to be not just excellent, but outstanding value.
We started with the French onion soup and bouillabaisse, which costs £8 but which are both so substantial that they would have made a meal on their own.
The bouillabaisse, in particular, was a mini feast that was so stuffed with prawns, mussels and calamari that there was very little space left for any actual soup, yet somehow it worked perfectly. Ditto the onion soup.
By the time our five small plates arrived (which cost an average of £7 each), we were already three-quarters full, but like the troopers we are we soldiered on. All five arrived at once, and generally exceeded expectations. The highlight was the charred pickled fennel, which came with bulgar wheat tabbouleh and lemon hummus, but the Roquefort, pear and walnut salad wasn’t far behind, and nor were the ham hock and gruyere croquettes.
The rare sliced onglette steak (one of my favourite dishes) was competently done, as were the mixed wild mushrooms on rustic bread with a suitably rich Champagne cream sauce, but by the end we were so full that we weren’t able to finish the rather wonderful bone marrow mac and cheese.
We were, however, able to save a tiny bit of space for pudding, which turned out to be the weakest area of the food. The Champagne sorbet with rhubarb sherbet was the better of the two dishes, the sticky toffee pear pudding a little too cloying, although to be fair we were both stuffed to exploding by this stage.
Throw in some excellent wines and you have a recipe for a great evening out. But just make sure you remember that when it comes to ordering at Damm Twenty Seven, less is more – your wallet and your belly will thank you for bearing that in mind.
Damm Twenty Seven, 27 Causewayside, Edinburgh, EH9 1QF
TEL: 0131 667 6693