Review – Bread Street Brasserie

Posted by in May's Magazine

Unless you’re a banker or a Premier League footballer, chances are you’re skint. Or at the very least, feeling the pinch. They tell us the recession is over, but I read somewhere that many are having a worse time of the recovery than they ever did in the recession – inflation at 5.5%, wage rates falling in real terms and no chance of a decent return on your capital, if you have any. We’re worse off than we were in 1977, apparently. Yes, 1977. Liverpool won the European Cup in 1977 (but Kevin Keegan was still there, so we don’t talk about that one). Queen and the Bee Gees were topping the charts, and Fleetwood Mac became a crap band, officially, having lost Peter Green to the mental hospital after he tried to shoot the messenger, literally.

What the swinging bollix has this got to do with food? I hear the high-heid yins in Leither Towers roar. It’s called a scene-setter, I counter, all will become clear.



Throwback to 1977
Groupon,’s Big Deal, various two-fers, and Sweetness winning The Leither crossword puzzle have meant that we never leave home these days without some coupon or other stuffed into the handbag. Each entitles us to a free course or a bottle of wine or some other reduction in the price of our food, the better to help us see-out this prolonged period of austerity. So, it was with one such coupon in hand that we set out on this fine Spring Saturday for Bread Street Brasserie (on the 35 bus, I might add) no carriages await outside John’s Place these days to whisk us in splendid comfort to the gastronomic pleasure dome of our choice: oh no, not for poorly-paid, under-valued, down-trodden public servants.  Those days are over.

On arrival at said Deal of the Week establishment, we were offered a small table, in a dark corner, just where the draught was making itself felt. It might have been Spring but this is Edinburgh – it was 4 degrees C, indoors. This’ll be the coupon table, I suggested, and looked around.

Noticing that the restaurant was less than half-full (they can’t keep things like that from a Holmes), I suggested we might take the larger, better-lit, cosier-looking table further up the room. That table is for… someone, our French waiter gargled, Gallicly. It was now ten-past 9, so with the aforementioned half-empty restaurant stretching before us, I didn’t need a trusty Watson to deduce that our French friend’s reluctance had more to do with keeping the room ‘in trim’ than the imminent arrival of other diners. I stood my ground and eventually he shrugged ok, I’ll be in trouble when others arrive, but if you want that table… We sat down, not feeling wholly comfortable, and waited.

And waited. This is because you were so difficult, Sweetness opined, becoming less sweet by the minute. Eventually, after our waiter had served a table of residents (the restaurant is part of the Apex Hotel) who clearly had something to do with the media, and were therefore more important than us, we were given menus and asked if we wanted something to drink.

The menu is not particularly inspiring. In fact, it reminded me of the sort of fare I might have been offered in 1977 – smoked salmon, steak and chips, fish and chips, fried chicken – you know the sort of thing: covers all the bases and nothing actually wrong with it but just lacking any, well, inspiration. And it was printed on a shiny, black, food-spattered cardboard menu also reminiscent of the 70s – very Pizza Hut. The only thing it lacked was photographs of the food for the hard-of-understanding.

Cassoulet (not)

We kicked-off, eventually, with a ‘Classic Caesar Salad’ @ £4.95 and warm wild mushroom, leek and smoked Scottish cheddar tartlet @ £4.95. The Caesar salad was okay, despite not having any anchovies (like many restaurants, Bread St relies on the dressing for the anchovy flavour and, to be fair, follows the original recipe in that regard, but I like anchovies on mine) and the tartlet was nice: it had a good crust and tasted as though it had been made on the premises.

Our mains were a fairly tasteless roast Barbary duck breast with thyme fondant, Savoy cabbage with a red currant glaze @ £13.25 and what was described as grilled fillet of sea bream with chorizo, olive and cherry tomato cassoulet @ £11.95. The sea bream was plump and fresh enough but the ‘cassoulet’ was bereft of beans. When quizzed about this, our Gallic friend agreed, yes, cassoulet would ‘normally’ have beans: I told the chef this is more like ratatouille, then turned on his heels without an apology or proper explanation as to the failing in the fundamental prerequisite for cassoulet to have haricot beans as a major constituent. Disappointing.

We had an Etchart 2010 Presido Malbec from a small, uninteresting and over-priced wine list that doesn’t state their vintages. When I asked what the Malbec’s vintage was, the answer was Argentina. And when the bottle arrived, it was hot. I pointed this out and was advised, curiously, that there was a problem with the fridge. Perhaps the training starts next week. When I did eventually obtain a bottle at room temperature, at £28.75, it was only just worth the wait.

At this point, we would normally have sampled a couple of the 3 rather predictable puddings @ £3.95 each – cheese is also available at this price – but we fell out. Now Leither readers who know us will be wholly unsurprised by this event, or by the fact that I can’t remember what it was about. I rarely do. But I feel that I’ve let you down. It was unprofessional not to have completed the task and brought you a full review of the 3 courses on offer, but there you go. We walked out of the restaurant with her coupon like thunder and WT Gould’s bank balance a little healthier than it might otherwise have been.

And it had all started so well too. The Blue Blazer was the Inn improving this particular part of Edinburgh’s landscape for our pre-dinner snifters – a proper pub with proper beer, and Phipps NBC IPA (from Northampton) in excellent form on the evening we visited. We should have stayed put.

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Damage: £63.95, £48.95 with coupon

Bread Street Brasserie

32 Bread Street

t. 0131 221 9929


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