24 May 2015

Review: L'Escargot Bleu, Edinburgh

WE DROVE PAST L’Escargot Bleu a couple of weeks ago, with Sarah stating “We should go back there soon, it was unbelievable last time”. A discreet smile briefly adorned my face, as I had booked a table for her forthcoming birthday just the day before.

Chef/owner Fred Berkmiller is a hugely popular figure on the Edinburgh food scene and is usually based at Bleu’s sister restaurant, L’Escargot Blanc, with partner Betty looking after proceedings at this end.  Often out spreading the word of the Slow Food movement, Fred resonates passion for the finest seasonal produce and shows an unyielding commitment to the training of young chefs, both here and in his native France with his Budding Chefs initiative (www.buddingchefs.net).

Sarah and I last visited L’Escargot Bleu – which holds one AA Rosette – a year or two ago and can still remember a slightly nervous waiter knocking up a knockout steak tartare. I would have happily ordered any of the starters, but couldn’t resist revisiting what I regard as one of the best I’ve had in Edinburgh; but would it come through this time? Well, the answer is, yes, of course, it did.  The added theatre of assembling the dish at the table drew glances from other diners and only adds to this particular French classic (priced at £8.90). The quality of the shorthorn beef is unquestionable and all the flavours of shallots, capers, Dijon mustard, egg yolk, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, and herbs tantalise the palette. If you are afraid of eating raw meat then 1) Get a grip and 2) Visit L’Escargot Bleu and have this dish.

The birthday girl opened with another classic in the form of moules mariniere, with the bi-valve molluscs coming from the Isle of Lewis.  Provenance is blatantly important to this restaurant and a proud intertwining of French classics with the finest Scottish produce is a definite theme in the menu throughout. I always love getting a whiff of this dish before it’s plumped down at your table.  It’s like catching the invigorating scent of a lady’s fine perfume, and thankfully it went down just as well.  The plump mussels were tender and sweet and the broth tinged with delicious flavours of garlic, white wine and cream serve as a reminder why you find this dish on menus all around the world.

I have never tried horse but know it has often featured on the menu at this Broughton Street restaurant. Today would be the day. I had expected the fillet (£21.90) to be stronger, almost gamier but it was enjoyably light and exquisitely tender.  It came with some expertly executed asparagus, tasty heritage potatoes of purple and white variety. Little morsels of pancetta brought saltiness, with pearl onions slicing through the rich jus with an acidic twang.  Just look at the plate: simple, seasonal, with quality produce – that’s what food should be about.

To mark her arrival in her, erm, let’s say early (sort of) 30s, Sarah ordered beef bourguignon made from organic Scottish wagyu beef (£18.90). Another example of chef/proprietor Fred Berkmiller’s contribution to the Auld Alliance, the beef melted like a knife through hot butter, with a succulent little faggot offering a contrasting texture.  The smokiness from the lardons and woody button mushrooms added layers of flavour and bite while soft potatoes meant this dish succeeded in meeting the expectations of another French staple.  The only foible was that Sarah would have preferred mash to soak up the delicious sauce.

The dining room was full, meaning there was a bustling atmosphere you kind of hope for from a French bistro.  Service was slick and very professional; I particularly like it when the French speak English and slip in little phrases in their native tongue; it adds to the authenticism.

Crème Brulee always draws me in on dessert menus.  It’s one of those instances where I think that if a chef can’t make a decent one, they should just give up and get a job in Wetherspoons. There were no such issues here. Slightly bitter chards of torched goodness gave way to a thankfully not-too-sweet custard littered with vanilla seeds all for the meagre sum of £5.60. Sarah concluded the evening with a pear and frangipane tart with crème anglaise (£5.50).  The pastry was crispy with a moist frangipane filling with a welcome crunch and nuttiness from the almonds.  The custard was flawless and rounded off a thoroughly enjoyable meal.  

I’m very fond of this restaurant. Not only does it share my ethos on food, the team here also deliver cooking of exceptional standard with polished service to match. At just shy of £50 per head (including wine), you certainly won’t leave feeling short changed or underfed. One of the best restaurants in this part of town. Here's to many more birthday meals as delicious as this.


Web: http://www.lescargotbleu.co.uk/
Phone: (0131) 557 1600

Address:

56 Broughton Street,
Edinburgh,
EH1 3SA




Square Meal L'Escargot Bleu Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

2 comments:

  1. Ah we really need to get ourselves along! This sounds exactly what we both love in a good meal.Not sure we'll be ordering horse, but well when in Rome :)

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  2. It's worth a trip, for sure. Pickles downstairs is great, too. Convenient!

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