My birthday and our wedding anniversary always make this a big week in the calendar. To celebrate both occasions B and I headed off to Edinburgh for day of indulgence in my favourite pastimes – eating and shopping. After managing to lay waste to my lovely husband’s credit card in a number of Edinburgh’s finest department stores it was time to eat.
B knows my taste in restaurants very well so my squeak of delight when we walked through the doors of Cafe Marlayne would have come as no surprise to him.
Cafe Marlayne has two establishments in Edinburgh. The newer, larger restaurant is on Antigua Street , however it is the much smaller original restaurant that B had chosen for us. Three phrases to describe my first impressions of this restaurant – utterly charming, quintessentially French and adorably quirky. The interior is very small but very beautifully done with marble table tops, a rather unusual mirror ball wall, impressionist paintings and rustic wooden floors.
Our waiter (French of course) reminded me of Oskar Werner from the 1960’s classic Jules et Jim – tres authenique. I am sure however that he was hired for his fabulous front of house skills and that his resemblance to a classic character of French cinema was a happy coincidence – or was it?
We started proceedings with a kir Royale – an aperitif fit for a king. – and toasted ourselves whilst musing over the fantastic menu. The starters included: Cauliflower soup topped with blue cheese, Boudin Noir with Sauted Potatoes and Apple Compote, Chicken Caesar Salad or Smoked Trout Pate, egg and spring onion with Herb Toast.
I opted for Boudin Noir and B chose the Chicken Caesar Salad. Boudin Noir is actually one of France’s oldest charcuterie preparations, a fine tradition which has spanned 2000 years, not too surprising therefore that they are rather good at it. Cafe Marlayne import their Boudin Noir from France and it tastes quite different to the black pudding we are used to here. Beautifully crisp on the outside and gloriously soft on the inside with a delicate spiced flavouring. The little sautéed potatoes were done to perfection and the compote served with the Boudin Noir was a marriage made in heaven.
I didn’t try B’s Caesar Salad but it looked divine and I was delighted to see that the anchovies were not the big, long, salty, hairy brown variety but the lovely silvery, vinegary, fresh variety.
I couldn’t decide between Braised Pork Cheeks in Cider or Venison Sausages with red cabbage, beetroot and apple coleslaw with a maple and balsamic syrup. Similarly B was tempted by both the Pork and Smoked Haddock Fillet on Baby Spinach and Hollandaise. In an unusual move we both chose the Braised Pork Cheeks.
This dish was presented as a stew with potatoes and carrots and topped with a gremolata (a simple mix of lemon juice, garlic and parsley). This was served with French beans and new potatoes in a delicious tomato based dressing. This is the kind of French cooking I love – rustic and warming with not too much fiddle or fuss.
Just a touch of the fork had the pork cheeks melting in submission, they were glorious. The flavours in this dish were beautifully layered with every aspect balanced and working in harmony whilst managing to bring out the unique qualities of each individual ingredient – not an easy task.
The pudding list was extensive but I could not get past that Sticky Toffee Pudding. I can never get past Sticky Toffee Pudding! I asked ‘Oskar’ if the portions were small and with a bit of a Gallic shrug he described it as a little cube. In reality it was rather a large cube, so large in fact that I couldn’t finish it. I have never been beaten by a Sticky Toffee pudding until now – it was a sad moment. BUT I have to hand it to them – the pudding was a triumph and B hoovered up my left overs so nothing went to waste.
Two Kir-Royales and a three course meal for two came to around £50 which is brilliant value for money considering the outstanding quality of the food.
This is a wonderful place for lunch and I imagine it would be an intimate and romantic evening venue. It is French bistro dining at its best and the decoration and feel of the restaurant transports you to a simple, relaxed restaurant in the back streets of Paris. I for one will be back.
Why not try it out for yourself – book the Thistle Street restaurant on 0131 226 2230