The Vaults, 87a Giles Street, Edinburgh

0131 553 6914

Lunch £12.50-£14.50 Dinner £13.50-£45

Food rating 8 and a half/10

FIRST question at Anfora: "Are you OK with just the candlelight, or would you like me to switch on the lamp?" Given that we're in the effortlessly atmospheric former Vintners' Room in Leith's historic Vaults, that's a no-brainer. Now I fully appreciate that a vocal "angry-in-the-shires" constituency loves to complain about subtle lighting, along with "mumble TV" - just follow the reaction to Wolf Hall. Using technology that allows the camera to pick up more than the human eye, its brilliant director, Peter Kosminsky, filmed the evening scenes by candlelight, much to the indignation of viewers permanently irritated by inky definition. But for the many of us who adored Wolf Hall, this authenticity only added to the mood, evoking the period all the more strongly.

And candlelight fulfils exactly the same function in the dining room at Anfora, once the saleroom for the Vintners' Guild of Edinburgh, the merchants who controlled importation of claret into the port of Leith from Bordeaux, set its price, and supervised distribution. On the evening of our visit to this graceful dining room so steeped in history and wine, the flickering candles gently highlighted and cast into relief the opulent 18th-century plasterwork of trailing vines and scallop shell. Electric light would be a brash, oafish modern intrusion in such a romantic heritage setting.

It's so good to see the Vintners' Room in use again after it stood vacant for three years, and - apart from the arrival of a vast terracotta amphora that imports an Hellenic note not out of place amongst the neo-classical stucco - unchanged. It's even better to discover that the cooking here is precise, professional, and accomplished enough to match the fabulousness of the place.

That said, Anfora has a play-safe, conservative menu. Goats' cheese crottin with marinated beetroot, pear jelly and rocket isn't exactly pushing the boundaries. Nor is the pan-fried (presumably farmed) salmon, which comes with accompaniments as original as crushed new potatoes, and relatively "daring" bok choi, caper and anchovy. By way of a "special", I'm not set alight at the prospect of honey and ale-roasted poussin with purple sprouted broccoli and new potatoes, while slow-cooked pork belly, with braised pork cheek, savoy cabbage, and creamy mash feels, well, very familiar. And on a "winter" (and so supposedly seasonal) menu I'm puzzled to see sea trout - a quintessential early summer species.

So no surprises or thrills, but some very steady cooking. For instance, the strong oily attack of an immaculately grilled, crisp-skinned, fresh mackerel was perfectly "cut" by a refreshing citrus and fennel salad strewn with splintered candied hazelnuts. This dish really primed the appetite and underlined just how well mackerel works with orange. The sweet fishiness of two beautifully browned, petite, firm scallops (not the waterlogged sort), was eclipsed a little by their bed of smoky paprika chorizo "jam", but a limpid swirl of apple and celeriac puree, and a bold lemon presence, brokered the "land and sea" liaison.

Roasted breast of guinea fowl, served upon spinach and lentils, the boned leg meat stuffed with chicken liver, made a capable main course. For me, the breast meat, although juicy, was boringly plain, and so it didn't hold my interest after a while, but people who hate to be presented with a bone on the plate would doubtless appreciate it more. The 60-day, dry-aged "hung" sirloin was, as you might imagine, a tender dream to eat, and a textbook example of how to cook steak: a dark-seared surface on a centimetre-thick, beige-cooked ring that enclosed claret-red meat, so evenly cooked on both sides that it displayed an almost mathematical balance. The steak came with an A-star béarnaise sauce that delivered a strong, fresh tarragon attack, but rather greasy fat chips and onion rings.

More technical precision brought to table a chocolate fondant that was the essence of perfection, and partnered with an unusual, quite delicious bay leaf ice cream. White chocolate tart (like a particularly agreeable custard tart) was another confection that was all too easy to eat.

Anfora isn't pushing culinary boundaries, but it works very respectfully and correctly within well-tested, familiar limits.