It's funny how a restaurant can make you feel. I'd say that at the end of the day it's just food on a plate but as I am writing, and you are reading, a blog almost solely about eating out we know that that isn't really the case, don't we?
I have turned 23 and a sense of uneasiness has set in. The general thread of this lingering worry is 23 sort of feels like A Serious Age.
I do not feel Serious.
How does a restaurant fit into this? We went to Edinburgh for the weekend for eating and drinking. Given that Scotland is only an hour and a half away I don't know why its taken me so long to venture up. It had been a while, almost 4 years and on the last trip I was with my ex. My appetite for good food was yet to develop back then at 19 and we were both students.
We fought a lot, had dinner in Pizza Express and broke up 2 weeks later.
4 years later, I was having dinner in Ondine, one of Edinburgh's best restaurants (located above the exact same Pizza Express), was with a boyfriend who didn't completely hate me, had passed my degree relatively well and was living in a flat where people didn't accidentally fall through entire walls. That pizza felt a very long time ago.
What I'm trying to say is that Actually, Maybe, I was OK, and all it took was a lobster and the best meal of my life to work that out.
Ondine is a seafood restaurant in the centre of Edinburgh, with meticulous sourcing of its fish and produce, and lots of clean, simple and exquisite cooking. I've been quite the fish eater since that meal at Cafe 21 and had been eyeing up Ondine since reading this Jay Rayner piece on it. Having to book a table after 9 meant an excuse to start the night with cocktails at Hotel Missoni before we took a seat in the large curing windows in what was a sleek and modern but not flashy compact dining room.
The menu, obviously dominated by fish, threw up many tempting options i.e. whether to have the roast shellfish platter, but instead we settled on starters of tempura squid (£12.50) and red mullet (£11.50). My squid was light, crisp and greaseless with a fishy, slightly spicy dipping sauce, but was somewhat overshadowed by the unbelievably good red mullet.
Perfectly cooked mullet, on a bed of courgette ribbons with tomato and an olive tapenade. Truly one of the best starters I've ever seen (and the other half had eaten) that again made me wonder why I've ignored fish for so long.
We couldn't resist the Shells section for mains, half grilled native Isle of Mull lobster (£22.50) and scallops with charentaise sausage (£21.95) and some skinny fries on the side.
I've developed a taste for lobster recently, I fear for my bank balance. On a recent trip to London I paid a visit to the much hyped Burger and Lobster, and it was a nice introduction to our shellfish friend and very good value (£20 for an entire lobster, salad and chips). It was nothing, however, compared to the lobster at Ondine, which had so much more flavour, was juicier and complemented by pools of luscious garlic and herb butter.
The other half will never be displeased with a plate of shellfish and pork; super plump scallops, robust spiced sausage, lots more butter.
Also, it's testament to the fact I was having such a good meal that my photos are so poor. Who can be bothered taking a nice snap when there's buttery fish to be eaten?
We decided against puddings. Although tempted, getting a table after 9 meant by 11 the restaurant was almost empty and it does give you that strange feeling of being the last people left lingering at a party, the host wants you to stay and enjoy yourself but you can tell they're also thinking about cleaning up for the next day.
The bill, all in with service, came to just shy of £100. Ondine is a grown up restaurant, full of grown up food and I didn't feel out of place. It's creating a feeling like that which is why a good meal is so much more than just food on a plate.
Ondine is at 2 George IV Bridge, Edinburgh, EH1 1AD. They're open Monday - Saturday for lunch and dinner, you can book online.