Gloucester Place, Edinburgh
One of the nicest things about dining in the Scottish capital is that so many of the venues we visit have illustrious histories to consider. Take Blackwoods Bar and Grill, for instance, tucked away on an almost eerily quiet Stockbridge street. Could this place possibly have anything to do with Blackwood’s Magazine, the venerated literary quarterly founded in the early 1800s – the magazine that counted amongst its regular contributors writers of the calibre of George Eliot, Joseph Conrad and Samuel Taylor Coleridge? A vintage print on the wall as we enter seems to hint at the possibility and the young waitress I ask about it is proud to confirm my suspicions – and even brings me some printed material about the magazine to peruse while we await our meal.
But of course, we’re not here to consider literary history but to enjoy one of Blackwoods’ specialities, Chateaubriand for two. This is a term used to describe a four inch chunk of tenderloin filet, thickly sliced, crisply seared on the outside but with a pleasingly rare centre. Since the meal has a reputation for heartiness, we decide to eschew starters and we’re glad we do because when the meal arrives, pleasingly presented on a wooden board, it does indeed look like it’s going to be everything we expected. It’s accompanied by thick, flavoursome, hand-cut chips, al dente green beans, pea shoots, a lovely moist pile of mushrooms and a sprig of vine tomatoes, gently roasted and as flavoursome as you could possibly ask. Oh yes, and two pots, one featuring a thick sauce Bernaise and another a tangy red wine jus. Okay, so it’s not the most adventurous cuisine we’ve ever tasted, but sometimes you just want something simple done well, and this fits the bill nicely.
We are, for once, too full for pudding, but Blackwoods does offer an intriguing selection of alcohol based puddings – a raspberry and Bourbon creme brûlée, for instance and a chocolate and Nira Caledonia whiskey marmalade tart. There’s also a selection of Scottish and International cheeses by George Mewes, but all that will have to wait for another time. If you’re looking for a hearty dining experience, the Chateaubriand could be just the thing. And while you’re there, you can also swot up on Edinburgh’s rich literary history – and ponder what might have happened to the apostrophe in Blackwood’s.