Fine dining Good, flavour-packed dishes let down by lack of staff. Curiouser and curiouser
FOR a while, somewhere between the starters and the main courses, we do actually disappear down the rabbit hole, with Joe looking over at me as we sit up high at the bar saying: “This seems to be taking a really long time”. And when I glance at my watch and realise we’ve been in an hour, I have to kind of agree.
Those monkfish and black pudding beignets, with srirarcha mayonnaise, weird as they sound, were super-light and packed with flavour, but are already merely a warm and fading memory.
The venison and chorizo polpettine – that’s little meatballs to you and me – with tomato and taleggio cheese lingered a bit longer on the palate given their rollercoaster, super-punchy flavours and a sauce so powerful that Joe can’t finish it, so I do.
The problem anyway seems to me to be simply this: there are two pleasant, efficient young waiting staff bustling about this double-shopfront restaurant in Edinburgh’s Marchmont this Friday evening. But that’s not enough, in my view. This place, with its nooks and crannies, cubby-hole dining area and customers who booked late – that will be us – seated comfortably at the bar, is completely packed to its douce Edinburgh rafters.
I would think at least one other member of serving staff would be an idea, to keep those glamorous Marchmont diners fed and watered at least, if not
the Glasgow louts at the bar – and that’s before we even know what’s happening in the kitchen, because the delay could be down to them. I say all this given that The Rabbit Hole is decidedly upmarket – £7.50 a starter – and today, when super-casual has penetrated every level of restaurant life and service across the board has come on leaps and bounds, they probably do need to be a bit sharper on their toes.
Grumble aside, the mains, of course, do arrive and within minutes the delay is (almost) forgotten and Joe is tasting my calves liver, roasted garlic, beetroot and puy lentil and pronouncing the liver, which he claims never to have tasted before, interesting.
I think it’s more than that. I think it’s a very good piece of liver cooked the only way liver should be: seared and caramelised on the outside and inside a pale pink that skilfully avoids being shock-horror actual-blood-bloody.
There’s a competent – though pretty conservative given the pacy, racy, slightly flashy starters – puy lentil mix with weirdly textured beetroot chunks through it. I love beetroot. I don’t like these. We had also ordered good, fine, crisp and salty fries on the side which, if you ask me, this dish would be better served with in the first place. There are, however, three giant onion rings. And what do I know?
Anyway, there’s a superbly dark and ironic cavallo nero smearing colour and interest across Joe’s duck breast; celeriac puree too, blackberries and red wine jus. However, the duck breast is disappointingly chewy and tough – should it simply have had some time, more time, any time … to rest? Answers on a postcard, please.
To finish? A very good chocolate fondant doing that gooey-inside molten lava thing that fondants always do when they know what they are about.
Being a lifelong sucker for frangipanes, I ordered the pear frangipane. It’s a bit damp, warm on the outside, very cold inside and somewhat lacking pear flavour. It, like me, spends much of its time completely ignoring the runny
Bar seats are a good place to eat at The Rabbit Hole; otherwise it’s tight but cosy