Princes Street, Edinburgh
Whitbread’s Bar + Block is the kind of restaurant that those of us with foodie pretensions like to dismiss: it’s a chain; it’s attached to a Premier Inn. The food is bound to be pre-packaged, we tell ourselves; it’s surely a soulless place. But even we have to admit that this Edinburgh branch, situated on Princes Street with its iconic view of the castle, is very nicely styled. It looks inviting. And, after a morning of shopping (which is absolutely our least favourite kind of morning), we find ourselves drawn to the lunch and early dinner menu advertised in the window. Three courses for £14.95? It’s hard to resist.
The menu is short, but reads well. Philip starts with Korean chicken wings, which are charcoal cooked and generously flavoured with barbecue sauce and chilli. I have the tomato bruschetta, which isn’t perhaps the most exciting choice, but I just love tomatoes, and I like the sound of the the stone-baked flatbread they come on. As expected, it tastes good, enhanced by a sweet balsamic-heavy dressing.
For his main, Philip chooses the steak sandwich with fries. This looks really attractive, and he’s pleasantly surprised by the quality of the meat, which surpasses his expectations for this price point. It’s served on more of that stone-baked flatbread, and garnished with cheese, onions, tomato and rocket. The chips aren’t great – just frozen skinny fries – but they’re piping hot, which makes them edible at least. I have the seabass fillet, which comes with a delicious Greek salad and – yes, you’ve guessed it – a piece of stone-baked flatbread. Apart from the over-reliance on that particular carb, this is a pleasant dish: the fish is well-cooked, the skin pleasingly crispy, and the salad is generously strewn with feta cheese.
Do we have room for pudding? You bet we do. I have the Eton Mess sundae, a pleasing concoction of berries, ice cream, cream and meringue, while Philip opts for a triple chocolate brownie, served warm with vanilla ice cream. Both slip down far too easily.
Add in a couple of alcohol-free drinks (a Peroni and a Rekorderlig fruit cider), and we’re feeling pretty satisfied. Okay, so our assumptions haven’t exactly been disproved: Bar + Block is exactly what we knew it would be. But the service is pleasant, we’ve had a decent lunch, and it hasn’t cost us much. I’m not sure we’ll be in a rush to return, but I’m glad we’ve given it a go.