Stockbridge hides a number of gems in cellars along St Stephen Street. Purslane is a recent addition to the area. The owner, Paul Gunning, and his head chef, Craig Smith, feel strongly about using seasonal ingedients and presenting them at their very best. The dining experience they offer is one they call ‘casual fine dining’. I went along, with a glamorous companion, on a Thursday night, to see what that means.
I discovered a comfortable restaurant that offers excellent cooking in a relaxed atmosphere. It was quiet when I was there – it was one of those evenings when it’s threatening rain and sunshine in equal measures – but I expect the restaurant will be busy in the Festival. It certainly deserves to be.
I like a restaurant that gives you extra and have been a huge fan of the amuse bouche since I first encountered one (a hot, salty, tomato soup slicked with basil oil) at the Atrium many years ago. Purslane kept me happy by offering not just a selection of small loaf-shaped rolls, but also a deliciously smooth and rich butternut squash velouté.
It’s great to eat with someone who likes food as much as I do and is willing to share so I vouch for the flavour of every dish we had. I enjoyed my rabbit terrine with textures of carrot (smooth purée, soft new carrot and crispy flowers of lightly picked carrot). The meat was rich and soothing, the textures of carrot making a vegetable we often take for granted interesting. It was maybe not as pretty as my companion’s cod check wrapped in parma ham and server with a lovely pea soup. The food really was beautiful. A pretty plate is a delight and it is always great when the food tastes as good as it looks. At Purslane it does.
For mains, I had rock turbot with mash and a warm tartar sauce. I have to admit that I’m not usually a fan of tartar sauce but warm, with chunks of caper and gherkin, it was really nice. It was rich yet tangy and balanced both potatoes and fish beautifully. My companion’s guinea fowl was cooked just right and had a deep and savoury flavour. It came with mushrooms and a sausage roll that was crunchy and tasty.
There was pre-dessert too! A deep red scoop of raspberry sorbet with a flavour so clean, you know there’s little but raspberries in it. Craig told us that he’d made the sorbet that afternoon by simply churning ripe berries and powdered sugar. It was tremendous.
And it whet our appetite for desert. My companion had the cheese which was very tasty indeed, and I had the strawberry soup with vanilla ice cream. Summer on a plate. We finished the meal with coffees and petite four. The latter were handmade by a local confectioner. My favourite was the rosemary jelly. It tasted of the Mediterranean and for a little while, the sun came out between the clouds. The chocolates were good too: the salted caramel was shiny on the outside, creamy on the inside, the Bailey’s truffle true to its name.
With our food we had a pinot grigio rosé which worked well with the wide variety of flavours that we were tasting. It was as cheerful a wine as the evening we had. The atmosphere at Purslane is relaxed and friendly. The food is well thought out, well presented and well balanced. If you want an evening of great food in a chilled but in no way slap-dash environment, visit Purslane. You won’t regret it.