St Mary’s Street, Edinburgh
David Bann’s reputation for vegetarian fine dining is well known around Edinburgh, offering something more refined than the usual salad and quiche cafe experience. The deceptively spacious interior is clean and contemporary and there’s a relaxed atmosphere – yet there’s something decidedly old-school about the place. There’s no wi-fi on the premises and a quick internet search reveals that it doesn’t seem to have a Twitter handle, which – in this day and age – seems almost perverse.
The staff are friendly and accommodating however, and we’re soon enjoying some decent quality wine. For my starter, I opt for a ravioli parcel with walnut on basil tomato soup. This is nicely cooked and presented, the pasta parcel satisfyingly al dente, packed with a delicious walnut and spinach filling and floating serenely in a bowl of smooth herb-accented soup. Susan had the salad of fennel, beetroot, raspberry and poached egg. And again, this was handsomely presented, and deliciously fresh, the sharp tang of the raspberry adding a welcome zing – although the poached egg was disappointingly firm. In this kind of dish, you really want to see the yolk spilling over the salad. A minor niggle, perhaps, but an important one.
For my main course, I chose a bowl of stir fried vegetables with udon noodles and smoked tofu. Indeed, this was a popular choice with our party (four out of six of us chose it). It was nicely spiced with ginger and soy, while the smoked tofu was particularly tasty. It’s hard to get tofu just right and this was one of the best attempts I’ve tried. Susan’s baked crepe with spinach, mushroom and smoked cheese was very satisfying too, as well as being the most hearty of all the dishes we ordered, arriving, as it did, with a substantial portion of Mediterranean roasted vegetables.
We were pretty full at this point, so Susan declined a pudding, but I felt I had to sample the ginger and lime ice cream with orange cake – mostly because it sounded really tempting – and I have to say it was every bit as delicious as it sounded, the orange cake succulently moist, the subtly flavoured ice cream good enough to die for, and packed into a dark chocolate nest. In many ways this was the most assured element of the meal. Across the table, I could see a hot peach and raspberry tart (freshly cooked to order in fifteen minutes), which also looked very appetising but was devoured by my dinner guest before I could steal a spoonful from his plate.
David Bann’s deserves its much-trumpeted reputation. For vegetarian diners who long for something special, this is clearly Edinburgh’s go-to venue. They really should sort out that wi-fi, though – and I’d be tweeting this review to others, if I only could…