The Shore

Toast

04/10/21

The Shore, Leith

We’re meeting friends. Hurrah! This still seems like a big deal as we slowly ease our way back to a semblance of normality, and we’re keen to make the morning a success. Said friends are on their way further north, with a camper van and two dogs to look after, so it doesn’t make sense for them to come into the city centre. Instead, we agree to meet them at the Shore, where they can take their pooches for a beach walk and park with relative ease. As we’re less au fait with Leith, I ask the Hidden Edinburgh Facebook group where’s good to go for a dog-friendly breakfast, and Toast tops the list.

So Toast it is.

It’s a bright, sunny morning, so Philip and I decide to make the most of it and walk there, along the Waters of Leith. It’s three and a half miles of absolute pleasure, all dappled green light and sparkling water. And we’ve certainly built up an appetite by the time we arrive.

We start with coffees, which are good and strong, then spend some time perusing the menu. Philip opts for toast Benedict, which comprises toasted sourdough, two poached eggs, two rashers of smoked bacon and a hollandaise sauce. It looks delicious, and he declares it a triumph. The eggs are perfectly cooked, and the bacon, only subtly smoked, is superb quality. I have the French toast, and so does one of our friends. It’s the same sourdough, this time dipped in egg, vanilla & cinnamon, before being fried in butter. I add crispy praline bacon, hazelnut & maple syrup to the mix, because, well, why wouldn’t I when it’s on offer? The portion is huge, but I make my way through it womanfully, because I’m nothing if not stoic, and only a fool would leave any of this on their plate. I don’t lick the plate clean, but I can’t say it doesn’t cross my mind. I bet my friend is thinking the same thing. Our other friend has a toasted sourdough sandwich with sausages and eggs. He doesn’t say a lot about it; he’s too busy eating. He looks happy enough though.

The only slight negative is the peanut butter and chocolate cheesecake Philip orders afterwards. We’ve been sitting a while, ordering more coffees, chatting, and the cake cabinet is right in front of us, so it is very tempting. Sadly, he makes the wrong choice. The cheesecake is vegan (which the lovely waitress does inform him). He decides to try it anyway, but there’s none of the gooey naughtiness of dairy, just a not-quite-sweet enough, worthy, healthy tasting snack. It’s not awful, but it doesn’t feel like a treat. Luckily, our pal (who has also fallen prey to the allures of the sweet counter) lets him sample a pear tart, which is exquisite. He’ll know what to order next time.

And there’ll certainly be a next time.

4.3 stars

Susan Singfield


Restaurant Martin Wishart

16/06/18

54 The Shore, Leith

We’re here because it’s my birthday, and I can’t think of any way I’d rather spend it than eating fancy food with my lovely husband. It’s raining (of course; it always rains on my birthday), so we get the bus to The Shore rather than walking from Edinburgh along the Waters of Leith as we’d originally planned. No matter: we’re feeling festive and happy and looking forward to our lunch.

The restaurant is achingly tasteful: all muted colours and hushed tones, managing to strike a pleasing balance between ‘relaxed’ and ‘formal’ – it feels special here, but there’s a convivial atmosphere nonetheless. The amuse bouches we’re presented with upon arrival really set the tone: they’re savoury macarons, bright pink (beetroot) and green (pistachio), filled with horseradish and chipotle cream respectively. They’re light and crisp, unusual and appealing, a delightful way to start things off.

The wine list is extensive – there are pages and pages of it – and, if I’m honest, a little intimidating (despite being very practised imbibers, we’re a long way from connoisseurs). We decide to play it safe and order a New Zealand Marlborough sauvignon blanc, because we’ve never tried one of those we don’t like, but the sommelier steers us away from this towards an Argentinian Torrontes, which he says will better complement our food. He’s right – it’s ideal – and, as it’s considerably cheaper than our original choice, seems like a genuine recommendation rather than a cunning piece of upselling. Bravo!

We both opt for five course tasting menus: Philip’s is the ‘standard’ one with meat and fish for £75, mine the vegetarian for £70 (I’m not actually herbivorous; I just like the look of what’s on offer here). Everything we’re served is eye-catchingly presented; the precision is astonishing. And the flavours are all so intense, so perfectly matched… well, I guess they don’t give Michelin stars away for nothing, so I shouldn’t be surprised.

There are too many little plates of loveliness to describe them all here; suffice to say we’re impressed with every course. The standout from my menu is the sweetcorn and polenta, served with crème fraîche, chilli and lime, which tastes like sweetcorn to the power of ten, and really elevates that humble cereal, although the aubergine caponata with feta and herb gnudi is a close contender – and I don’t usually like aubergine at all. The gnudi in particular are a revelation, pleasingly chewy and salty against the zing of the vegetables. Philip’s especially impressed with his ceviche of Gigha halibut with mango and passion fruit, which he says is particularly light and fresh. He’s also pretty taken with the oyster blade of Black Angus beef, which is served with peas, broad beans, black garlic and a rich roast onion sauce.

But the devil is in the detail, as they say, and it’s the details here that add up to make this such a marvellous experience. The butter for example, which accompanies the twists of white or olive bread, is a homemade one, flavoured with salt and seaweed; we can hardly get enough of it. No supermarket butter will ever pass muster again. And the petit fours that come with our coffee are little gems: a tiny donut bursting with caramelised apple, a salted caramel truffle I’m still drooling over now.

So, no mis-steps, no niggles. Just a long, leisurely lunch (we’re here for two and a half hours), with friendly service and some spectacular cooking. Happy birthday to me. And back out into the rain.

5 stars

Susan Singfield