The Scran & Scallie
In a manner akin to marauding Vikings five of us descended on the Scran & Scallie, an outpost of Tom Kitchin’s empire in the Comely Bank region of Edinburgh. Although open a year or two now this place quickly developed a reputation for quality and value combined. Despite being aware of this, this was my first visit here, plainly long overdue; previous attempts to secure a table – admittedly at short notice – having been unsuccessful. This is perhaps the region’s only family-friendly gastropub where you need, for a weekend table at least, to be telephoning a month or two in advance to seal the deal (although strangely they do always hold back a few tables for walk-ins, so if you were desperate you could always just chance your arm and turn up).
The restaurant has a broad glass frontage and its popularity is clear to see from the pavement outside. Having crossed the threshold, inside it was simply heaving, every table occupied with young families armed with bag-laden pushchairs and gangs of girls warming up for a night on the town. Quiet and refined, this isn’t. This workload did perhaps impact on the level of service offered, although nothing that would spoil the evening. We asked for water, but it didn’t materialise, although it soon appeared after a repeat request. Problem sorted. The wine was too warm, but on asking a requested ice bucket was quickly rustled up. Again, problem solved. The staff were clearly struggling to keep on top of everything, on this visit at least.
Burgers seemed to be the order of the day (some of my dining companions were more familiar with MacDonalds than mesclan and monkfish) but I kicked off with a roe deer terrine which was beautifully presented, the cut surface of the terrine revealing the vibrant hues of carrot, pistachio and other little jewels. Appearances can be deceptive though and the terrine itself was firm and far too dense, the texture cool with a firm, glistening bite. It seemed to have much more slippery texture than flavour, and ultimately it wasn’t really the inspiring start I was hoping for. Happily, however, all was redeemed with my main course, although it did serve as a reminder that my eye test is overdue. I was expecting monkfish wrapped in pancetta, with mushrooms, and what I received was monkfish wrapped in pancetta with mussels, which is exactly what the menu described. There was nothing to fault here, the monkfish – which was cooked on the bone – was soft and delicate, the sauce a mix of buttery richness with the piquancy provided by a squirt of chargrilled lemon, and the mussels weren’t half bad either. And only the hardest of hearts could fail to be melted by the accompanying triple-cooked chips, super-crisp on the outside, soft and fluffy within. Washing it all down was a very attractive 2013 Pouilly-Fumé from Jonathan Pabiot, from a 500 ml carafe. I make no apologies for drinking one of Jonathan’s wines yet again. He has an importer very close by, and so his wines are now popping up on restaurant lists all over Edinburgh. And when presented with wines so close in quality to those from Pouilly-Fumé superstars such as Louis-Benjamin Dagueneau, and yet sold at a fraction of the price, who wouldn’t want to drink them?
We skipped dessert, and brought our repast to an end. Although I confess I was somewhat underwhelmed by my starter here (to say the least), almost all my troubles were blown away by the sheer elegance, the precise cooking and balance of flavours and textures, the melding of richness, saltiness and acidity found in my main course. Although the presentation was gastropub down-to-earth, the quality of cooking would not have been out of place in a much finer establishment. And what is more, there is good value here. Forget the terrine. This is one venue – provided I can be bothered to battle my way across the city to Comely Bank to get here – that I would return to.
Prices: The roe deer terrine was £8. The monkfish was £22. Burger and chips was £13. The Jonathan Pabiot Pouilly-Fumé was £35 for a 500 ml carafe. (13/6/15)