This week I’m visiting Edinburgh for Finch Conf, a wonderful-looking web development conference. This means a couple of nights in a strange city and at least for this first night, I’m dining alone.
I set out from my New Town hotel in the rain in search of food and with no plans. I’d seen a few places on Foursquare but was feeling indecisive. I started on a drizzly wander towards the old town to explore.
Taking a shortcut up a steep alleyway to get out of the rain, I spotted a name I recognised from my research, Michael Neave Kitchen and Whisky bar. I ducked inside and asked if there was a table for one.
The young waiter on the door seemed hesitant to take in this damp, solo diner and checked with the slightly snooty, older man behind the bar who gave a stern nod. I was led downstairs to the dining room, a spacious, modern affair with tables well spaced and music on the trip-hip side of jazz. Despite the layout, I was surprised to be able to detect that every one of my fellow diners that evening were middle-aged travelling Americans.
“So, Paris, Barcelona, Edinburgh. What’s been your favourite place so far?”
“Are you going to keep the place in Tahoe for the Summers?”
I ordered a glass of wine from a waiter somehow more snooty than the man from the bar and at the same time made my dinner choices. King scallops with black pudding and pea purée to start, followed by a venison saddle main.
The scallops were delicious. Perfectly cooked and resting on a plate rich in their cooking liquor. The black pudding was moist but with a delightful crisp to its edges. The pea purée was also there. It added moisture to the plate but not much flavour.
By this time, care of my table was being shared between the the original waiter and another, rather less snooty woman who seemed happy that I was enjoying my meal.
The main course was venison saddle; beautifully pink and wrapped in smokey bacon. I’m not generally fan of things wrapped in bacon or pancetta. I can make an exception here. The salty, smokey flavour of the bacon was the perfect foil for its tender, meaty contents. It was served with confit potatoes, kale, turned baby carrots, a butternut purée and the richest jus.
I had scanned the dessert menu when I was seated and whilst the Bowmore baba looked very tempting at £6.50, I opted to call it a day on two courses and go to a pub for a whisky or two before getting my head down.
Michael Neave’s restaurant is a must-visit if you’re in Edinburgh. If you’re not, it’s a reason to go there.