I'm a working mum writing about life in Edinburgh (and anywhere else we go) with two curious, adventurous, and imaginative children. Visit my blog at www.linzertortes.blogspot.co.uk. Follow me on Twitter: @LinzerLaw
Published November 2nd 2013
The best little smokehouse in the city
The Vintage is one of the newer arrivals to the Shore district of Leith. This area is home to a number of Michelin-starred restaurants, and I was eager to see what this latest opening would add to the vibrant culinary scene.
The menu outside looked promisingly different. The Vintage is a charcuterie, which they helpfully define on their menu as "the art of salting, smoking, and curing", but unlike many other places which serve charcuterie they do most of it themselves.
We stopped by for an early lunch and it was still very quiet, with the chefs preparing fresh bread behind the open kitchen. It was a relaxed and friendly ambience, with hand-drawn art on the chalkboards and mirrors. It caught my eye, so I asked who had done it. In a strange coincidence it turned out to be one of the owners and designers at Totty Rocks, a local fashion boutique, whose coat I happened to be wearing that day.
Artwork and fashion design chat over, my husband and I set to choosing from the extensive menu. There are main meals, but there's also a grazing menu, from which you select some items and they make them up into a platter for you. Our waitress was very helpful and friendly. Not only did she launch into an animated discussion with me about both the art and the awesomeness of Totty Rocks, but she then went on to thoroughly explain the menu items that we had questions about, including the huge range of craft beers on offer. I don't drink beer but I was impressed by the passion they have for this part of the business. The drinks list is extensive, and doesn't just include craft beers, but also unusual ciders and and spirits from smaller stills.
The restaurant was quite quiet, but the staff still busied round industriously
Back to food, and I was intrigued by cheddar brulee – I've never encountered a savoury brulee before. The waitress explained, "It's like a cheesy custard, but it does have the crisp sugar on top like a proper brulee. And it's cold." It sounded quite peculiar so I immediately ordered one, along with a few other items from the grazing menu including beery baco, and pork cola cubes. My husband stayed a bit safer; lentil and bacon soup followed by fish, chips, and mushy peas.
So, how did the food actually taste? Well, before I get to that, let's talk about presentation. Everything was artistically presented, and I liked the wooden board that my platter came on. In fact, throughout the meal all of our dishes were presented neatly, thoughtfully, and creatively.
Looking pretty is no substitute for flavour, but I wasn't disappointed here either. The cheddar brulee was amazing. It was thick and rich, like the most delicious cheese spread you've ever had. And the crispy, burnt sugar topping absolutely set off the savoury yumminess of it. I don't often wheel out superlatives in my reviews, but I loved this. One word of caution though, I get the feeling that it might be a bit Marmiteish – love it or hate it.
My husband also declared the lentil soup to be the best he'd ever had. So far The Vintage was really impressing us. My beery bacon was bacony, so I don't have much to say about it to say about it, but the pork cola cubes with their lime dressing with peanuts was a unique taste sensation. The fish and chips were lovely, I leaned over and tried some of the fish, so I know that for a fact. The batter was crisp, and light, and the flavour of the beer came through without being overpowering.
Mains and starters were overwhelmingly positive, and I now have a list of other things I want to try when I go back. It's the kind of place that challenges you a little, which can be risky, but also evokes a curiosity and a certain amount of forgiveness when something doesn't quite work.
And that's the place I was with dessert. On paper, it was my perfect dessert. Chocolate ganache on a crunchy peanut base, salted caramel sauce and a caramel crisp, and peanut butter ice cream. Like a Snickers, but even better. Unfortunately it didn't quite live up to my expectations – the base wasn't flavoursome enough (needed a touch more crunch and salt), and I would have like the peanut butter ice cream to taste more of peanut. It redeemed itself because the ganache was delicious, as was the salted caramel (although I would have liked more). Dessert was a minor complaint in an otherwise delicious meal.
I am so glad this is on my doorstep, although I feel trepidations for my bank account because I could eat here every day of the week.