I can't really get the measure of this place. As you know, it's part of an upmarket chain of hotels and this one is in a converted asylum in a street that isn't going to get much walk-in trade. The conversion is very thoughtful and the bistro is a lovely room with stripped walls and high ceilings but enough internal walls left in to break up the space and with the noise suitably baffled (unlike 90% of other conversions in Edinburgh), so you can have as proper chat to your fellow diners.
The menu is bistro-like but eclectic, with French bistro dishes (steak frites) and Scottish offerings (stovies). Although we were eating early on a Thursday evening, a fair number of dishes (mainly ones we would have ordered) were off. The food is pretty ordinary. I started with a Jerusalem artichoke soup. I am particularly fond of this—-jerusalem artichokes manage to combine earthiness and subtlety and a soup should be a distillation of this, but this one tasted of nothing at all. I added some salt, and then it tasted of salt. It was served with some strips of duck in the plate and the soup in a jug to pour on, an idea that was quite pointless as never have two ingredients done so little for each other. Main course was a step up—a generous piece of melting calf’s liver with a large dollop of parsnip puree (OK but slightly heading towards the fate of the jerusalem artichokes). The liver was said to be devilled but, although nicely seasoned, there wasn’t much evidence of spices. Best thing about the whole meal were the light, crisp, hand-cut chips that we ordered for the table.
The wine list, as you might expect, is extensive and interesting with a noticeable mark-up and not much under £30. We had a Picpoul de Pinet first which was great with a nice, spicy Southern French richness and then a wonderful Lacrima di Morro Alba, a wine you don’t see much of but which I love and was great with the liver. So the wine was a great success, but the problem is this: I don’t mind forking out for some great wine you can’t get in the supermarket, but this should be as a way of celebrating some great food. The ordinariness of the food here doesn’t really inspire you to explore the wine list into its headier reaches.