Field, Edinburgh, restaurant review

Date:15-01-2014 08:59:21 read:2

Field, Edinburgh, restaurant review

It is full of charm, people and promise, but this small restaurant doesn’t quite do it for me.

Field, 41 West Nicolson Street, Edinburgh EH8 9DB Photo: MARK WHITFIELD

Field 41 West Nicolson Street, Edinburgh EH8 9DB
Contact: 0131 667 7010
Price: Three courses: £24.95

Field is a very charming place, that charm built of things being not quite right and everybody being terribly nice to one another, in an effort not to say, "I'm too close to the door!" "This room is freezing!" "It's too small, I can't flap my elbows about." "Oh, I just caught some rain from someone else's cagoul." It's a nice little place, but very bare and simple, and I was surprised by how many people there looked like more of a leather-armchair crowd. "The food must be great," I thought, "for those pinstripes to be sitting on those hard wooden chairs." But maybe it is just close to their office.

M, who is exacting but unfailingly polite, had Jerusalem-artichoke pannacotta with Scotch quail egg and artichoke relish (£5.95). The plating was gorgeous; the assorted shades of green were pale and melancholy. The pannacotta hit the textural bull's-eye. "If only," M said quietly, "it tasted more of artichoke."

I had beetroot-cured smoked salmon (£5.95) with cauliflower purée (delicious), spiced peppers (slippery and likeable) and crispy king prawn ball (oh my, all the taste of a lovely prawn and none of the virtue). This will seem petty but was in fact vital: the salmon itself was chunked rather than sliced, and the cure had only penetrated its edges. So the flavour, while appealing, was very mild; the salmon's character was muted rather than brought out.

But I wasn't fully disappointed until I had my pork belly (£12.95), which I chose largely because of the mention of black-pudding gnocchi. The skin, instead of being crisped, had been slathered in a sweet sauce to become a horrid combination of jellied fat and sugar, while the meat itself had a thin, bland taste, and none of the porcine richness that slow-cooking seems to promise. The gnocchi was good, but just a shade gluey. The cheek – ah, now that was good. Was it the cheek of a different pig? Or was it the process rather than the beast that did for the belly? I don't know; I just know I was underwhelmed. It was quite good value, though, considering the work that went into the plate. I much preferred M's pan-fried cod, with a cod brandade (£13.50) – she eschewed some of its parts, being allergic to wheat, so didn't have the fennel tart or mussel beignet. These were replaced, very kindly, with chorizo; so it was lively and salty and fun. But the
fish itself was bland, despite its nicely fried exterior.

She finished with Catalan cream (£5.95), and that was great – it is more grown-up, has more attitude, than a crème brûlée; the caramel notes are sweet but not cute. I, however, drew the short straw again, with a pudding almost incomprehensible in its jarring textures and sickly flavours. On paper, this should have been a chic, Parisian sort of moment – pistachio macaroon with apple and cranberry tea jelly (£5.95). What could be more elegant, more tailored to the discreet appetites of the bourgeoisie?

That wasn't how it panned out – the macaroon was claggy and too sweet. It didn't taste at all of pistachios, just a sort of wet, swampy sugariness that was a little too cold. The subtleties of the jelly – and they were there – were edged out by the aggressive sweetness of the macaroon. In the middle was a weird brown disc of some sort of seed-brittle. This totally did for the texture, introducing notes of grit and hardness into what should have been the highlight of the dish, that meringue carapace against the inner squidge. It wasn't horrible; it was just wrong.

With the best will in the world (from them, I mean), they’re not up to snuff at the moment.


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