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Putting the Borough back into Edinburgh
Following the abrupt departure of chef-patron Scott Smith from Norn, ‘Borough’ (not ‘Burgh’) fills the space vacated by that rather splendid restaurant (and before that, the Michelin-starred Plumed Horse was of course here too). It didn’t take long for ex-Norn head chef Darren Murray to open this new venture in the same location but this time with a more neighbourhood feel. It feels more open and brighter than its predecessors to aid this vision. It’s fine dining but it’s open to all, even interloping weegies like us!
We visited for lunch. You could order one dish from each, or share a few between you – we did that just that but whatever you do make sure you have a few slices of bread. We were offered two and happily accepted both, a dinky beef fat and seaweed brioche and sliced wholemeal sourdough with soft salted butter. Both were excellent, the only slight improvement I can think of is to also have seaweed butter accompanying the seaweed bread.
Borough wine and drinks list
They pay attention to their wine selection with most available by the glass but we’d been out the night before and had more wine and dinner to come later that night so played it safe with two wines on the cheaper end, an Aussie Riesling and a red from Languedoc – both £7 per 175ml glass.
First up, some appetisers, some lovely plump gordal olives (£3) and haddock croquettes, which were crisp on the outside and gooey on the inside(£4).
Some of the combinations from the menu sound a bit odd like Gunard Ceviche, turnip and leek (£9). Ceviche could be the next big thing in Scotland as we’re seeing it more and more often but usually with the typical lime, coriander and peppers not Scottish root vegetables! But the turnip here was more of a radish, not crunchy as both it and the leek were julienned to be mere millimetres in thickness! Despite being so thin the leek still had a good crunch. The fish was pleasant though there wasn’t an awful lot of it as it was also cut thinly rather than the cubes you’d associate with Peruvian ceviche. So it wasn’t fishy, it was kind of earthy but the dominant flavour of the dish was a vinegar rather than citrus zing so pick a nice acidic white if you plan on having a wine with this course.
Courgette tart, nasturtiums and black olive (£7)
A savoury pastry decorated with curls of yellow courgette and nasturtium leaves on top. It looked pretty though the courgette didn’t taste of much but inside there was a strong and earthy green interior of what appeared to be a smooth green olive tapenade (rather than black).
Sea trout, cauliflower and fregola (£18)
Fregola, in case you don’t know, is a Sardinian pasta which looks like little ditalini-sized pasta pellets, a bit like miniature gnocchi or maybe even giant cous cous. I’m not sure that we’ve ever had them anywhere else but in any case, they sat underneath the foam and soaked up some of the flavours. On top was a slice of fish with perfectly crisp skin. Tasty food but a small portion.
Gooseberry, bay, meringue (£6)
Perhaps another first for us, we’d assumed that the gooseberries had been poached as they were red and sweet but it seems that red gooseberries do exist and that they are much sweeter than the typical green ones so I’m guessing that’s what we ate. And what about bay? Bay leaf presumably? Well, we had a scoop of something (bay leaf sorbet?) and crumb resting underneath a canopy of thin crisp meringue bespeckled with green dots (bay leaf again?) It tasted far sweeter than we anticipated so this was unexpected, as was the final dessert…
Chocolate mint hazelnut (£7)
Looking like the frosted ice from a minty green Slush Puppy, ok, food blogger head on now – it was a granita, so there’s another link to Italian islands, this time Sicily (I recommend reading the chapter in Jeffrey Steingarten’s The Man Who Ate Everything about how true granitas are made!). Underneath the frosty layer were crunchy hazelnuts and smooth chocolate – this was quite an unusual arrangement but chocolate, mint and hazelnuts always go together in my world so I was happy.
Borough utilises fresh food and foraged ingredients with challenging dishes. At £68 for two it’s not cheap or the most filling – it’s the same menu/price for dinner but if I lived nearby I would certainly make repeated visits just for the bread!
Should you be looking for fine-dining in the area during festival time but can’t get a table at The Kitchin or Martin Wishart’s then this is a logical alternative.
Background music was a very eclectic mix covering underground hip-hop, Nina Simone, The Doors, Arcade Fire and soul and funk tunes, whether the hip-hop would go down well with older folks is debateable.
Toilets are downstairs (I don’t think there’s any at ground level so may not be suitable for any disabilities), there’s two of them and they were clean and tidy with tampons and panty liners provided!
+ The bread is fantastic
+ Good selection of wine, most by the glass
+ Unusual food combos
+ Interesting mix of music
– Some of the hip-hop may not be to everyone’s tastes though
– You may have to stop off for a snack on the way home
Borough, 50-54 Henderson St, Edinburgh EH6 6DE
Open for lunch Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays only from 12 noon – 2:30 pm (on Sundays it stays open until 5 pm).
Dinner is served 5:30 pm – 9:30 pm Wednesday – Saturday.
Disclaimer: Fred sez his hoomins didn’t pay for lunch but dey nice guys really and they brought in a single fish from the chippy after galavanting through to Edinburgh so all is good in the hood.
Come say hello
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