Review: Bistro Moderne by Mark Greenaway, Edinburgh

IT IS FAIR to say that Mark Greenaway has a reputation for top-class desserts, innovative cooking and dishes that wouldn’t look out of place in an art gallery.  The ever-busy chef’s latest venture, Bistro Moderne, offers “moderately priced, simple meals in a modest setting” so it would be interesting to see if this shift from his more accustomed fine-dining style could further enhance that reputation.

Opened on the site of the old Café Fish restaurant in Edinburgh’s Stockbridge area last year, Bistro Moderne vies for punters with a plethora of accomplished restaurants that rightly sees Stockbridge installed as a real gastronomic treat for anyone’s tastes. 

At one end, you have Michelin-starred Tom Kitchin and Dominic Jack’s gastropub, The Scran and Scallie, alongside newcomers Rollo and the reincarnated Raeburn Hotel.  While at the other end, there’s the immensely talented Paul Gunning’s Purslane, the well-established Stockbridge Restaurant just across the road, and old favourite Bell’s Diner all on Bistro Moderne’s doorstep. 

As temperatures soared and new graduates seemed to adorn every street in the city centre, Sarah and I toiled through the heat to sample Bistro Moderne’s offerings.  The dining room instantly had a much warmer feel and a more bustling atmosphere than when I visited under previous tenants, where it was a bit of an uninspiring space to say the least.

I was rather excited to sample the Parmesan ice cream component of the Aberdeen Angus beef carpaccio with anchovy crostini, rocket and watercress dressing (£9) dish. Sadly, my excitement was short lived as I tucked into my starter. I could see there was shavings of the cheese, but it wasn’t particularly cold, so  I promptly asked the waiter “wasn’t there ice cream with this?”  To my disappointment, he informed me the shavings were in fact the ice cream.  I can appreciate the novelty and imagination but really, if you’re going to put it on the menu as ice cream, give me a bloody dollop of the stuff. Perhaps influenced by a previous review from another critic led to this change; a shame Greenaway didn’t trust his convictions (if that is in fact the case).  The beef was lovely as well, but it did need seasoning – something the Parmesan should have added alongside the peppery greens.

On the opposite side of the table, Sarah’s rather pretty looking ham hock ballontine with quails egg, smoked pineapple and pea shoots (£8) was a cracking dish.  The expertly executed egg burst onto the tasty ballontine, with the pineapple espuma bringing a fruity tang showing modern techniques in the right hands can enhance a dish.

My fellow gastronaut Gavin had informed me the Scottish hake with carrot, razor clams, chowder, broad beans and chorizo (£15) was “a real triumph” after visiting last week, so I went for that.  The hake was replaced with sea trout, which was fine by me, and I’m pleased to say was done justice.  Crunchy skin like this is always a winner in my books, and the meaty flesh was welcomingly moist.  The chorizo brought a kick of heat and harmonised with the sublime carrot puree and trout, but while I can overlook the broad beans actually being peas, I can’t ignore that the razor clams were a tad on the tough side.  

The chowder came in the form of a foam, which, in my opinion, needs to be an 11 out of 10 to beat even a semi-decent traditional chowder – this attempt offered nothing bar a visual element to the dish, and I actually forgot it was there until I re-read the menu.  The generous side orders of buttered Jersey Royals (£3.50) were suitably buttery and a real highlight, but unfortunately, the razor clams dampened what could have been a top-notch dish.

Sarah ordered caramelised duck breast with watermelon, celeriac, sausage roll, braised salsify and thyme jus (£18). The duck perhaps could have been a little pinker Sarah thought, and would have liked crispier skin.  I thought the duck was tender enough and reasonably tasty.  We both enjoyed the combination of the watermelon with the meat, while the accompanying pomme purée (£3.50) was one of the best I’ve tasted. The salsify still had sufficient bite and the sharpness it brought was a welcome inclusion to this dish.  However, the sauce was a bit wishy washy and lacked the sheen and sumptuousness I’d expect at this level. The dish also would have benefited from whack of seasoning.

It’s worth noting that the standard of service was excellent when we got it, but I felt the front of house team were maybe a body short here.  There was maybe 25-30 diners on this occasion, catered for by two hard-working souls who never stopped. Perhaps the volume of graduations taking place in the city caught them out, but the amount of dirty glasses that peppered the bar and outside decking would certainly suggested a need for reinforcements. As it happens, the team were a member short because reinforcements were required at Restaurant Mark Greenaway - these things happen. 

Often great expectation leads to disappointment, and because of Greenaway’s aforementioned reputation expectations were high – and rightly so.  Consider that expectation now raised, as this pudding knocked it out of the park for me. I can’t think of a better way to spend £7 than on the chocolate and mint mousse tart, dark and white chocolate with crème fraiche parfait on offer here.  I cracked through a well-tempered white chocolate disk and scooped up a mouthful of light, but rich mousse that offered a wonderful bitter, dark chocolate flavour before a warm hum of minty goodness, all encased in a beautifully crafted, buttery pastry case.  
The key to this pudding is that it wasn’t too sweet and that parfait just completed this accomplished dish. Sublime.

I had resisted the appeal of the jam jar of rice pudding, raspberry compote and raspberry sorbet (£7), but thankfully Sarah couldn’t.  This was another exceptional dessert.  The rice pudding still had texture and was creamy, without being overly creamy.  The sweet, sharp compote layered in between cut through the rice pudding and the soothing sorbet polished off this memorable pud. 

At nearly £40 per head on food alone, Bistro Moderne is at the higher-end of Stockbride price scales; perhaps you would expect a little more in terms of value for money given the quality of the neighbouring competition, but the lasting memories of those desserts mean it is certainly worth a visit.
15 North West Circus Place, Edinburgh EH3 6SX
Phone: 0131 225 4431 

Bistro Moderne on UrbanspoonOpen 7 days a week
Breakfast: 8 - 11am (Fri and Sat)
Breakfast: 9 - 12.00pm (Sun)
Lunch: 12 - 2.30pm
Dinner: 5.30 - 10pm
Sunday lunch and dinner: 12.00 - 9pm


  1. Those desserts do sound sensational!

  2. It was so good i didn't actually speak until it was finished haha


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