GIVEN THE DISTINCT lack of summer we’ve been having, I think this sunny(ish) day has to go down as one of the better ones, as we laud the happy drinkers outside The Magnum on Albany Street. Sarah and I had enjoyed a visit to this gastropub last year, meaning there would be added scrutiny this time around.
As it happens, the same table was free, so we plonked down at the window and admired the surrounding Georgian architecture of the New Town, whilst sipping on a rather refreshing Chenin Blanc (The Veldt Range, 2014 from South Africa, priced at £18.95).
I always lean towards cullen skink when it crops up on the menu, but it was too humid a day (boo hoo) for a hot soup. Instead, I ordered beetroot cured salmon gravadlax with celeriac remoulade, beetroot puree and pumpernickel bread (£7.20). It certainly passed the presentation test, vibrant purples contrasting with lusciously green micro herbs. The purple parts consisted of deliciously fresh cured salmon and an earthy puree that we know always works, but what elevated this dish was the warmth of wholegrain mustard from the creamy, crunchy remoulade.
Sarah elected to start with The Magnum’s play on haggis (vegetarian in this instance), neeps ‘n’ tatties with a whisky and thyme sauce (£6.50). Three neat quenelles of the above ticked all the boxes: smooth mash, good quality haggis and a well-cooked turnip element were complemented by a light whisky sauce that had hints of thyme, but maybe could have done with a splash more of whisky.
Mains were again a difficult choice due to the appeal of the menu offerings, but I settled (I say like it’s a chore; it wasn’t) for venison haunch with a black pudding croquette, purple carrots and kale with a redcurrant reduction all for the sum of £19.50. Excellent presentation again, in what turned out to be a real satisfying dish. The tender meat was expertly dispatched and clearly well rested, while the carrots still had crunch and married well with the meat. I really liked the gently sweated red onions running throughout; they brought texture and, along with the irony kale, colour while offsetting the sweetness of the venison. Eating each element together with that black pudding really gives you maximum satisfaction – delicious.
Pan-fried sea bass with sumac-coated king prawns, croutons, charred red pepper and a chilli and orange dressing (£17.50) was Sarah’s main and, again, the portion size was generous to say the least. The fish was soft, succulent and sufficiently seasoned, but maybe the skin could have been crisper. I don’t really get the relevance of the prawns, although there was nothing wrong with them as such. The sweetness and charred notes of the peppers were a real highlight, with an acidity from the orange that sliced through the bass. We debated the fruit and fish combo… it’s still going on, but a good plate of food nonetheless.
For once, I didn’t have a big lunch before going out for dinner and I was glad by the time desserts came. Mine, cranachan cheesecake with red berry coulis and raspberry and vanilla compote (£6.50) with the lady’s dish consisting of chocolate fudge cake with cherries in red wine syrup and chocolate ganache (£6.75).
The cheesecake base was thin and short – I distress at seeing thick biscuit bases. The filling was speckled with oats throughout and, rather pleasingly, wasn’t too heavy. A more pronounced whisky taste would have been welcomed, but the freshness of the fruit and a top-drawer compote meant that this was an ideal dish to end the meal on.
Over the table, Sarah tackled a light, chocolate pudding that sported an oozy, cherry-laden, fondant-esque centre The ganache was rich and finger licking good, with the freshness from strawberries harmonising the richness of the plate.
The Magnum had a lot to live up to after our last visit, but it dealt with those expectations confidently, with superbly presented plates of food at reasonable prices. Well worth a visit if you’re in and around the town centre.
Phone: (0131) 557 4366
Address: 1 Albany Street,
EH 1 3PY