Sunshine on Leith, Sonnenschein am Porty!
Oktoberfest is a big thing in Germany, not so much in Portobello…until now perhaps!? I’d actually never been to Portobello and the taxi driver had never heard of the Palm Tree, but we found it easily enough about 2/3rds of the way down Portobello High Street. He thought that it might’ve been a Spanish restaurant previously but it appears that it was just another pub, The Three Monkeys, at least in its most recent incarnation.
The Palm Tree opened in Spring of this year and is another venture from the people who own the Lioness of Leith, which we are fans of (see our review from April 2014), and like the Lioness (or LOL), they’ve taken an old pub and given it a slighty eclectic makeover, the theme here is skateboards – they are along the walls but also look out for the door handles and the shutters on the kitchen. Ah yes, the kitchen is out back in the beer garden.
A beer garden that is a fair size and can possibly seat just as many punters, if not more, than the pub itself! It’s open till 9pm as it’s in a residential area, hence the kitchen closes at 9 too, and they also had some live music when I visited (another reason for keeping the skateboard-wheel-handled-door closed!). The food is made and served from an outbuilding and is provided by Alternative roots, the same people who can be found cooking at the monthly Neu Reekie music, art and poetry events in Edinburgh. They usually cook up Caribbean street food but for the month of October the theme, as mentioned above, is Oktoberfest, so hearty German fare, perfect with a beer, and ideally they’re selling Perlenbacher pils on special at £2.50 for a 330ml bottle. They also sell West St.Mungo and I believe they’re doing a pint of this with a schnitzel for a tenner.
In the cooking shack they have a wood-fired pizza oven as you can see, though of course no pizzas are on the current menu but I watched my Kassler mit Brot (£7.50) being made and it all looked pretty fresh! It was a tasty slab of smoked pork loin in a sweet bun with sauerkraut, salad and Parmentier-style potatoes on the side, and just like the tatties you get in Germany they were expertly cooked – soft and fluffy inside with a crisp exterior. Händlmaier, a brand of very sweet Bavarian mustard was also on hand for an authentic experience.
Fresh lettuce, tomato, onion, gherkin, cabbage/sauerkraut and the smoked pork loin itself comprised the tasty filling which was washed down with a glass of the pilsner. The other main courses available are pork schnitzel, currywurst and potato cakes.
For pudding there are two options, black forest gateau (naturally) or the Kaiserschmarrn (£3.50) which I had – large fluffy cinnamon and raisin pancakes, chopped and served with a large dollop of orange cream. These were light and sweet but a wee bit more of the cream would’ve been welcome.
We have West and BarVaria in Glasgow with a Bavarian Brau Haus coming soon so it’s good to see German food in Edinburgh for a change (I believe there was once a German restaurant in the New Town). It’s underlooked and perhaps even frowned upon for being unsophisticated but where can you go wrong with well-cooked, tasty meat and potatoes? We love it! They also had some real ale on tap but if you’re not a beer drinker they have a 3 page cocktail menu and of course other drinks are available – though the selection is small.
The German menu runs till the end of October and I’m told they will also be launching a take-away/delivery menu soon. Service was quick, staff were friendly & helpful and toilets were basic but clean.
We shall return again when the sun is out to test the beer garden! There’s a bus stop a short walk away on the same street and the trip from Princes St takes 22 – 30 minutes and if people from Glasgow can make it there’s no excuse for those from other parts of Edinburgh!
+ Hearty German food
+ Quirky interior with nods to skateboarding
+ Big beer garden
+ Good service, toilets clean
+ Promo on German beer and real ale is available
+ Easy to get there by bus from central Edinburgh
– Limited drinks selection
– Pancakes could’ve done with more cream