Bennets Bar in Tollcross and the Cafe Royal in West Register Street are two of the city’s most beautiful pubs. They have retained their traditional decor and gantries and have been Edinburgh institutions for many years.
The Cafe Royal has had an associated seafood restaurant for as long as I can remember but, until recently, Bennets has simply provided cheap and filling pub food. Recently, however, what used to be called the Green Room has been repurposed as a small restaurant called La Petit Mort.
It’s acquired a good reputation and we visited for the first time last week. It’s a small, cosy space with a very interesting, short, regularly changing menu. I never like it when a small restaurant has a long menu as you know then that lots of things will not be freshly prepared.
The menu when we went last Friday looked great and I started with Pasta Nero Cullen Skink Ravioli with seared chorizo.
A few minutes after ordering, our starters were delivered which made me a bit suspicious that the ravioli had been pre-cooked then re-heated. The filling was great but the pasta really wasn’t good – it was rubbery rather than light and the spicy chorizo overwhelmed the subtle smoked haddock. If it wasn’t pre-cooked, it was badly cooked and rather a disappointment.
However, others had a vegetarian starter – breadcrumbed parsnip brûlée and said it was excellent.
My main course was Pistachio Mousse Stuffed Tandoori Guinea Fowl Breasts, Naan Bread, and Haggis Dahl with charred little gem lettuce. This was a creative and interesting dish – well executed and tasty and made up for the disappointment of the starter.
Others had venison haunch and pollock fillet and were equally happy with their choices.
We were about £35 each for two courses with starter drinks and wine which is now middle of the range for Edinburgh. Our waitress was friendly and efficient and the atmosphere was good.
I wish that La Petite Mort had lived up to its name and had been a yes-yes-yes but it was a maybe-maybe-maybe. I hope that my experience with the ravioli was a blip and I’d certainly be willing to give La Petite Mort another try.
A couple of days later we were in town – it’s about time we updated our TV so we had a look at what was in offer in John Lewis. It was lunchtime and raining but the prospect of eating in John Lewis’s restaurant did not appeal. So, we went round the corner to the Cafe Royal bar, a place that I hadn’t been in for years.
I have an instinctive liking for the Cafe Royal as it’s the only pub that I know of decorated with pictures of engineers. There are six pictures on the wall, made from tiles, of famous inventors.
I had fish stew, one of their signature dishes, which was absolutely fabulous. My wife had crab gnocchi, which was equally good.
A super lunch with good service in a lovely environment. If you’re at the east end of Princes Street, it’s worth the effort of seeking out the Cafe Royal (turn up the lane by the Apple store, past the Guildford Arms, another beautiful pub, and it’s round the corner).
I paid for meals in both La Petite Mort and the Cafe Royal with my own money.