Consistency is key in the restaurant business and I’ve waxed lyrical about this St. Stephen Street eatery many times, but tonight, chef-in-residence Paul Gunning is away at an awards bash, giving his deputies the chance to show off and impress this hungry soul. Previous visits meant that expectations were incredibly high.
Nestled in at the window seat with the world going by above us, we opted for the à la carte menu (tasting menus are available) priced at a ridiculously good value of £29.95 for three courses (or £24.95 for two), with all the usual add-ons included.
I debuted with pan-fried scallops with a potato and leek velouté and crispy leeks that carried a supplement of just £1.50. Smartly presented, this dish was everything I would expect of it: accurately executed sweet scallops with a creamy soup disguising little morsels of vegetables and a welcome salty kick arriving at the back of the palette. The leeks enhanced the dish with crunch and showed no signs of being greasy. My only gripe was that the velouté should have been a little warmer than blood temperature.
Sarah’s guinea fowl terrine with chestnut mushrooms and wild leeks certainly looked like a well-produced effort, with white chunks of bird marbled through it and a soft, herb packed sausage meat. It was succulent to taste, excellently seasoned and with bite coming from thin slices of raw mushroom. Maybe a cracker or some sort of scooping up-type vessel would have enhanced it further, but it was delicious nonetheless.
A bottle of Chilean carmenére (£27) that was recommended to us by our waitress was of distinct quality, with notes of liquorice, spice and blackberries. I’ve already set about tracking down this stunning wine.
Overruling me on the main course meant that Sarah would feast on the roast rump of beef with caramelised onions, potato croquettes, curly kale and a red wine jus (with £1.50 supplement). The rump was perfectly pink and juicy, with a robust onion flavour from the silky puree and a rich red wine jus that we all know works with the beef. There was a tasty little pulled beef puck to show a contrasting cut of beef to the plate – something I’ve always enjoyed about Gunning’s cooking. The kale brought a slight hint of bitterness that counterbalanced the sweetness from the other elements, but the highlight was the little potato beignets, light as a feather inside, crunchy on the outside, and brimming with herby flavours that truly intrigued the taste buds.
Dessert for me was simply “rhubarb and custard”, which always brings back fond memories of eating those hard-boiled sweets I loved as a kid. This take on that classic old pairing came in the form of a rather delectable brulée, a top-notch rhubarb sorbet, and a pretty little pannacotta with a layer of rhubarb jelly sandwiched in the middle scything through the set cream. Well-balanced and thought out, this was a good all-round eat.
To conclude her evening, Sarah ordered pear tart with crème chiboust and pear sorbet. The pear was tender and sweet with flaky pastry bringing crunch, the chiboust – a slightly lighter crème pat – successfully kept it from being too sickly sweet, while the sorbet refreshed the palate.
Purslane has yet again come up trumps with a delightful dinner. The value for money is unrivalled in Edinburgh, and I was delighted that the consistent quality I’ve enjoyed previously has been maintained, even without Gunning at the stove – well worth all that ironing palava!
Oh, as to that awards gig Paul and the team were attending? Well, it only went and saw Purslane named “Scotland’s Favourite Fine Dining Restaurant”. Well done, guys!
Reservations: 0131 226 3500
Opening times: Lunch Tues-Sun: 12:00-14:00
Dinner Tues-Sun: 18:00 - 23:30
Address: 33a St. Stephen Street,