Social Bite

Vesta

20/02/20

Queensferry Street, Edinburgh

We’ve long been impressed by Social Bite, the Edinburgh-based charity with a mission to end homelessness in Scotland. The whole enterprise is an object lesson in how much individuals can achieve – so long as they have vision, tenacity and drive. And compassion, of course. From a sandwich shop in Rose Street to a nationwide endeavour spanning sleep outs, a training academy and even its own village, Alice Thompson and Josh Littlejohn have made a real difference.

And tonight, we’re eating at Vesta, the second incarnation of the charity’s restaurant (you can read our review of Social Bite’s previous partnership with Maison Bleue here: https://bouquetsbrickbatsreviews.com/2016/12/31/home/). We have family visiting, which gives us the perfect excuse to check out the menu.

It’s not as fancy as it used to be – more gastro pub than fine dining. But that’s okay by us. I don’t want a starter tonight (I’m saving room for pudding), so I sip at a glass of Pinot Grigio while Philip eats his chilli & coriander crab cakes, served with a courgette & red pepper remoulade. They’re lovely: robust and well flavoured, and a very generous portion. 

For his main, Philip opts for the roast rump of lamb, which comes with aubergine ratatouille, pommes anna, salsa verde, garlic & spinach puree. The meat is nicely pink and succulent, and the accompaniments work well. I have a poached fillet of hake with roasted pumpkin, savoy cabbage & a watercress butter sauce, and it’s pretty near perfect. We order a side of mac’n’cheese just because, and that’s okay, although maybe not as indulgent and cheesy as the very best of its kind. 

For pudding, I have the oreo cheesecake with macerated berries and ice cream (instead of the Chantilly cream that’s on the menu). It’s delicious, in a too-sweet-kids’d-love-it-lip-smacking kind of way. Philip’s vegan dark chocolate mousse with honeycomb & salted caramel is an altogether more grown-up affair, with a rich, intense flavour.

We’re done. It’s time to head off for a quick drink, and then home. But before we go, of course, we need to add a little something to the bill. You can’t come here and ignore the pay it forward option, which enables the restaurant to open on Mondays for an exclusively homeless clientele. Food with a conscience. It feels good.

4.2 stars

Susan Singfield

HOME

30/12/16

Queensferry Street, Edinburgh

Maison Bleue at Home is a restaurant with a mission: to provide for the homeless. On Monday afternoons, it opens its doors to those of no fixed abode, and training and employment opportunities are also available for some of Edinburgh’s most disadvantaged people. A quarter of the staff working here have been homeless at some point in their lives, and all profits go to Social Bite’s parent charity. In short, it’s a business with a heart.

It’s also a very good restaurant. It’s Philip’s birthday, so there are four of us out celebrating, and we are off to a good start with a complimentary glass of fizz in honour of the day. It’s a special occasion, so we’re planning on indulging ourselves by going à la carte, but it turns out we all want things from the keenly priced set menu (£29.90 for three courses), so that works out well. We have olives and bread and wine while we’re waiting. We’re happy.

I start with a shellfish bisquewhich has such depth of flavour that I feel like I could dive right into it. It’s delicious. Philip opts for the Saigon beef, redolent with the flavours of soy and sesame, and he clearly enjoys every mouthful. His daughter and her boyfriend both have the fondue de Camembert; they allow us to sample a mouthful and we’re glad we do. It’s a creamy, indulgent delight.

For his main, Philip has the North African lamb tagine. The lamb is mouthwateringly succulent and tender, and the dish is robustly spiced. The rest of us all go for the Châteaubriand filet steak (which carries a £5 supplement). I like mine rare, and this is perfectly judged, very pink indeed but nicely warm and soft enough to cut without a special knife. It’s served with fondant potatoes and a ratatouille, both of which are bursting with flavour. The pepper sauce is a bit too peppery (I like a punch, but this is a more like a kick in the teeth) but it’s our only criticism, so that’s okay.

For pudding, two of us take the sticky toffee option, and it’s everything you’d hope for it to be. The other two sample the Xmas pudding brûlée, which is a festive delight, with Christmas spices adding an interesting twist to an old favourite.

The service is excellent: warm, friendly and relaxed. And of course we take up the offer to pay it forward, adding twenty pounds to our bill to pay for two homeless people’s Monday meals. It’d be wrong not to, wouldn’t it?

This is a lovely place to be. Try it. If it’s good enough for Leonardo di Caprio, then surely it’s worth a visit?

4.6 stars

Susan Singfield