I OFTEN WALK passed restaurants just to have a gander at the menu; call it a food geeky hobby of mine. As it happens, Purslane is just around the corner from my work and has caught my eye all too often without action. Time to pay a visit!
Located on St. Stephen Street, Purslane proudly sources around 80% of its produce from the surrounding Stockbridge area. Not only does this bring a community feel to the restaurant but also allows the excellent produce from the likes of George Bower the butcher, George Armstrong the fishmonger and I.J Mellis to feature on its menu.
The restaurant is small, there’s no beating around the bush about that, but it’s small with a certain charm and romance to it and is tastefully decorated too.
Our server was very relaxed and chatty and as we placed our order, it was obvious he really enjoyed his job.
We were presented with an amuse bouché of crispy chicken and Asian noodle salad. The aroma of roast chicken invited you to dive straight in, where you were greeted by this excellent nugget of chicken and accompanying salad that was fresh and crunchy and had a pleasant hint of aniseed to it.
For starter, I went for sole and salmon roulade with sauce vierge. The smell suggested the fish was as fresh as a daisy. Expertly seasoned, the roulade was moist and tasted of the sea. The sauce vierge was well-made and added to what was overall a great modern version of classic flavour combinations.
Sarah chose pigeon pithivier with wild mushrooms and Madeira jus. The pastry was properly cooked and satisfied my Paul Hollywood-esque inspection - no soggy bottoms here.
She found some of the pigeon a little chewy, although the piece I tasted was fine and the flavour was there. The mushrooms were wonderful and woody and the jus, ahh that jus was simply sublime.
The intermediate course consisted of pan fried hake with a fricassee of vegetables, which being honest I wouldn’t have expected to be included in a meal priced at £25.95. Not that I was complaining, as this was a sheer joy to eat.
The fish skin was crisp and the meaty flesh was perfectly cooked. The attention to detail evident in the shelled peas and podded broad beans and a wonderfully light and creamy sauce made it as if the dish saying ‘you didn’t order me in the first instance and this is what you’re missing’.
For main, I had roast breast of guinea fowl with confit potato, watercress and jus gras. There’s several different skills demonstrated in this dish; not just the cooking of the breast but a nifty ballotine and a neatly butchered leg were all top notch. The tasty jus gras sees the whole bird being used to its full potential; I only wish there was more of it on the plate.
I have to say I thought the watercress made this dish. The pepperiness just gave it a hint of spice and a bit of texture. The use of an ingredient bang in season tells you a lot about the ethos of the restaurant.
Sarah had grilled red mullet with herb crusted boulangère potatoes and roasted red pepper salsa. Faultless execution and seasoning of the fish, which was complimented by the zingy salsa. However, Sarah felt the potatoes could have been crispier and more golden.
The raspberry sorbet was a welcome palette cleanser as I chose to finish with apple and butterscotch crème brûlée while Sarah ordered the assiette of pear.
This was no standard brûlée let me tell you. Lifting the apple crisp to find the centre had been cut out to house the butterscotch sauce was rather quirky, while the outside offered the crisp exterior you would expect from a classic version of the dish.
The popcorn was a fun addition but it was sadly a little on the limp side.
The presentation of the pear dish was clean and modern and the tastes from the sorbet, cannelloni and poached pear were refreshing, light, and a thoroughly pleasant way to end any meal.
Paul Gunning has honed his trade under chefs like Marco Pierre White, Jeff Bland and Jean Michel Gauffre and that shows. His presentation of food is outstanding and no detail goes unmissed. This is a chef who has learned his craft and is now intent on putting his own stamp on the Edinburgh food landscape.
At £25.95, I can’t think of anywhere that offers better value for the standard of food on offer and it really is fine dining without any hint of pretention. It’s made me question how good places where I’ve paid considerably more actually are and I can’t give a much bigger compliment than that.
This gem of a restaurant and one really needs to be experienced first- hand.
33a St. Stephen Street
0131 226 3500
Tue - Sun: 12.00 - 14.00
Tue – Su: 18.30-23.30