Fine din­ing Good, flavour-packed dishes let down by lack of staff. Cu­ri­ouser and cu­ri­ouser

The Herald Magazine - - etc RON MACKENNA EATING OUT - THE RAB­BIT HOLE ED­IN­BURGH

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

PHO­TO­GRAPH: GOR­DON TER­RIS

Bar seats are a good place to eat at The Rab­bit Hole; oth­er­wise it’s tight but cosy

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