This is my third visit to this little restaurant on St. Stephen’s Street, and on both previous visits, I’ve found chef/owner Paul Gunning’s cooking to be of an excellent standard. This is a chap who’s CV includes some of the UK’s top kitchens, which only adds to the level of expectation of today's visit.
Sarah and I decided to go for the taster menu at £50 per person, and were promptly presented with the first course of sun-dried tomato arranchini with textures of tomato and basil pesto (or in my case carrot puree due to my nut allergy). The little bon bons were crisp and well-seasoned with the carrot puree adding a smooth, sweetness to it, while the sharpness of the roasted cherry tomato balanced the dish out. It was a light plate of food, ideal to for the beginning of a taster menu.
The second course was pan-fried scallops with watercress puree, roasted celeriac and samphire. An exquisitely presented dish, in which the scallops were spot on – caramelised on the outside and melted in your mouth. The silky watercress puree brought a pepperiness, with the samphire bringing texture and a saltiness that almost seasoned the dish. The roasted celeriac’s earthiness rounded this dish of perfectly.
The main course of this taster menu was roast rump of lamb with peas à la Française, parmentier potatoes and red wine jus. Cleanly presented, this plate brought a wonderful aroma to the table and was a particular highlight indeed. The lamb was extremely tender and flavoursome and worked in perfect harmony with the peas à la Française, with the sharpness of the baby onions cutting through the sweetness of the lamb and the peas, which added texture at the same time. The little morsels of lamb’s tongue brought a rich, saltiness that really made each mouthful sing.
The red wine jus was rich and sumptuous, but the highlight for me was the sweetbreads; a real surprise since they didn’t feature in the description, and a clever way to sneak this unfamiliar ingredient into a dish. I’ve had sweetbreads done badly, and believe me when I say that's a horrible thing, but in the hands of the right chef as they are here, are a complete triumph.
The restaurant was fairly filling up, but despite only having one person front of house, did not impact the quality of the efficient, friendly service. Our waiter happily chatted in between courses and ensured drinks never ran empty. It’s always apparent when someone is enjoying their job, and despite being busy, excellent service was provided to each table throughout the night.
After a palate-cleansing and rather excellent raspberry sorbet, a pre-dessert of vanilla panna cotta with poached rhubarb and ginger jam came our way. Another elegantly presented dish from Gunning, this offered a wobbly panna cotta that had a decent vanilla taste. However, I would suggest allowing the vanilla seeds time to suspend evenly throughout the cream before being placed into moulds – this way you get an equal distribution of seeds and flavour, rather than one big hit of vanilla. Rhubarb and vanilla is one of my favourite flavour combinations, and the ginger jam enhanced that combo with a little bit of heat. This was a well thought out taster menu pudding, because it was light, clean and a perfect portion.
The final course for me (not on menu because it was made to cater for my allergy) was white chocolate mousse, which came in a dark chocolate cylinder with passion fruit sorbet and marinated pineapple. The white chocolate mousse had a marshmallow texture to it and was stunning alongside the bitter crunch of the dark chocolate, which was superbly tempered. A difficult skill to achieve in a hot kitchen, especially as small as this one. The sharpness of the sorbet cut through the sweetness of the mousse, and the chilli in the marinade brought a little bit of warmth alongside the pineapple - another perfectly tuned plate of food.
To finish the meal, Sarah had banofee pie with caramelised banana, of which she particularly enjoyed the boozy kick of the rum soaked raisins. The biscuit base of the pie brought welcome texture and prevented it the banofee pie from being too creamy.
I’m was particularly delighted to find that the food at Purslane is of a consistently excellent standard. Gunning’s menus always feature ingredients in season and never fails to excite; it’s great he shows the confidence to use so called lesser ingredients like tongue and sweetbreads in his menus too. This chef prides himself on sourcing as much produce from around the Stockbridge area as possible, and that care and attention to detail is undoubtedly matched by his ability to cook. Gunning is up there with Edinburgh’s finest chefs, but I doubt any of them can compete with the value on offer at Purslane.