Many years ago, I worked for a software company on Melville Street. In winter, Teuchter was our local. At the time, there was a tapas restaurant in the cellar. Years have passed and Teuchters is quite a different pub from the one I used to go to with raucous colleagues. I was intrigued to visit A Room in the West End, the restaurant that now has the cellar. With me, I had one of my colleagues from those long away days.
My first and only previous experience of the Room in… restaurants was a Christmas party at A Room in Town some seven years ago. (That restaurant has now closed.) It’s never fair to judge a restaurant on their Christmas parties, because those are difficult services: lots of people who all want different things but served at the same time, drinking wine much too quickly and forgetting what they’ve ordered. I was interested to see how a less frantic service, in a very different location, would be like and was curious about the menu.
A Room in the West End is a small, intimate restaurant with deep red walls and the cheerful murals that I remember from A Room in Town. The website explains that the focus is on high quality local produce and the menu reflects that by its dishes and by naming producers. It is reassuring to know where ingredients come from and I like the fact that if you really like something, the Crieff oatcakes for example, you can source it.
The menu offers a good selection of vegetarian, fish and meat dishes. I was tempted by the warm roast pear scone, but decided to go for the plaice, king prawn and corriander roulade. I often have things in restaurants that I then try to recreate at home. Not this roulade. Not because it wasn’t good – quite the contrary. Every element was cooked to perfection. The plaice was cooked just right, the stuffing had just set and the kind prawn in the middle was crunchy and juicy. It sat on a beurre blanc that was maybe a little light on the promised orange and ginger but none the less very good. It was the kind of dish I’m very happy to leave to the professionals: a good reason to go out for dinner.
My companion’s Arbroath smokie paté with gooseberry compote and oatcakes was wonderful. Smoky, creamy and very moreish. That dish, however, I think I could copy. (If I could just get my hand on a good smokie.) The gooseberry compote added a welcome note of tartness and the oatcakes a lovely crunch. The paté lingered on the palate, like good smoked food will.
The Main Event
We had a rather pleasant Malbec with dinner and its fruity flavours worked very well with my Barbary duck which came on a clapshot cake and had a luscious quenelle of beetroot ad juniper jam on top. It was cooked perfectly and the flavours were rich but not overpowering. I love juniper: when I grew up, it was used a lot to flavour game and beef dishes and it reminds me of the autumn stews. As a child, I didn’t like the combination of savoury and sweet, but now I do. The beetroot jam was just sweet enough, not so sweet as to be cloying, and added a nice counterpoint to the gamey duck breast.
Across the table, the white flesh of a ling made a pretty picture with new potatoes sautéd with chorizo and a bright green pesto. Chorizo is a big flavour but the ling had enough character to stand up to it and the pesto brought not just colour but a rich, bright flavour too.
Share, and Share Alike
Me and my guest both swithered over the same desert options, so we decided to share a black forest coupé and an baked orange cheese cake. They were both very good, comforting and satisfying in equal measures. The coupé was delighfully messy once we’d allowed it to melt a little and the orange cheese cake was surprisingly adult with its accompaniment of coffee syrup.
A Room in the West End is a cosy, intimate restaurant with a good selection of dishes on the menu: there should be something there for everyone. Prices are sensible and the wine list interesting. It’s a great place to catch up with friends and had a very nice meal and a lovely evening doing just that.
26 William Street
EH3 7NH, Edinburgh
Telephone: 0131 226 1036