The Potting Shed has pots of character

It takes 45 minutes to walk from my part of Gorgie to Potter Row. It’s a good walk to take before and after dinner, especially if you think you might be about to have a lot to eat. When I went to try out The Potting Shed, I had a suspicion that I’d be full when I came out, and I was right. It was a Thursday night. Couples and groups of friends, some students, some possibly University staff, sat at tables or in armchairs, relaxing, chatting, eating and drinking.

I felt immediately at home. The space is warm and fun, there’s a good list of beers (although I’m more interested in the wines and ciders) and there’s a menu with something for most everyone. There are veggie dishes, traditional meat and fish dishes, bar snacks, kebabs and hot dogs. It’s a place set up to drink, eat and chat with friends.

The Potting Shed bar

The Potting Shed bar. Note the bucket light: I want that.

The Food

I didn’t chat. Some evenings, things don’t quite work out. The glamorous companion I had lined up to dine with me had double-booked, and, winding story short and straight,  I ended up eating on my own, which means I’m reporting on fewer dishes than I normally do. But I learned something. I always knew I was a fast eater, but I didn’t know how fast I could eat when I’m not making conversation. Now I do.

Chicken kebab and chips at The Potting Shed, Edinburgh.

Chicken kebab and chips.

There were several things on the menu that looked good. For mains, I was tempted by the Spanish style pork chorizo and lentil pot and the farmhouse cottage pie, but decided to go for the beef kebabs. I’d had a hankering for beef skewers for a while so this was great excuse. I chose to have salad instead of chips. The kebab was served hanging from a stand, a pot of garlic butter perched on top (you can have that poured over the kebab, which sounds like fun theatre) of the stand. Pulling the meat off the skewer was fun. I was concerned that I’d make a mess, but didn’t.

The meat was well done and tasted good with the salad. I enjoyed dipping my pieces of beef in garlic butter and the salad was crunchy and good.

Where it Started

Prawn and crawfish cocktail at The Potting Shed.

Prawn and crawfish cocktail.

You can only have so much garlic butter in an evening, which is why I decided not to have the queenie scallops with garlic butter. I also passed on the risotto cakes and instead went for the prawn cocktail. The serving that arrived was very generous. Prawns and crawfish were bound together in a creamy Mary Rose sauce with the faintest vinegary bite.  While I ate, I had a good look around.

Farmer Chic

The Potting Shed has a very distinctive look to it. I really like it, but not everyone’s convinced. So, what’s getting the reactions?

Gentle sliding turned my kebab into kebab salad. The Potting Shed, Edinburgh.

Gentle sliding turned my kebab into kebab salad.

The space is very cosy. Pots and metal buckets are used for light shades, wood, old bricks, stone and wood cover the walls. The ceiling and floor are also wood. The different textures and colours are rich yet simple and manage to give a unified look. Long tables and mismatched furniture support the friendly, get-together-and-share feel, and there’s a chandelier of storm lamps and drift wood that I rather like.

Many years ago, I had graduation drinks in this place. Back then, it was a vary different space. I remember straight lines and dark glossy surfaces, a room of echoes and reflections. That was a long way from the current incarnation. I like the vintage style crockery, the warm wood, the fun lights. food prices are good too: bar snacks start at £3, most mains are under a tenner.

The End

Sticky toffee pudding with a pot of ice cream at The Potting Shed, Edinburgh.

Sticky toffee pudding with a pot of ice cream.

The desserts are classic: lemon posset, ice cream sunday, strawberry mess. I opted for sticky toffee pudding. Now, sticky toffee pudding is something people get very passionate about. I like mine big, dense, but not claggy, swimming in a sea of glossy toffee sauce. That’s exactly what I got.

Having wolfed that down, I was very full indeed.

The Characters

The conceit behind The Potting Shed is that it is old Angus’ allotment. The dishes on the menu are themed by character: Angus’ Musselburgh leek and cheese macaroni with artisan bread, for example, Billy’s whole dressed crab and uncle Orng’s Thai chicken curry. This is where I stumble. Yes, it’s kind of cute, but the writer in me rebels against the stories and, to be honest, the punctuation. I think the idea of characters is nice but I don’t think the menu’s enough to establish the narratives.
The Potting Shed has lots of character on its own: I don’t think it needs the fictional ones. It has a good range of foods and drinks, the staff is pleasant and the atmosphere is conducive to relaxing and spending some time. They do everything they can to entice you to visit, and to stay. If you want coffee and cake, you can have that. If it’s dinner you’re after, there’s an interesting, varied menu. If you’re out for drinks, you have any number of options.  I look forward to spending a Sunday afternoon there.

The Potting Shed

32 Potterrow
Edinburgh, EH8 9BT

Telephone: 0131 662 9788

Book online.

Thank you to Crimson Edge for the photos of The Potting Shed’s bar and that rather attractive kebab.

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About Caroline von Schmalensee

Cooking, eating and drinking is fun as well as necessary. I do food for fun and I write for a living. Good food makes the world a more delicious and satisfying place. Good writing, meanwhile, can make the world a less confusing place.

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