The Rabbit Hole


FOR A while somewhere between the starters and the main courses we do actually disappear down the rabbit hole. Joe looking over at me as we sit up high at the bar saying: this seems to be taking a really long time. And when I glance at my watch and realise we’ve been in a hour so far, I have to kind of agree.

Those monkfish and black pudding beignets, srirarcha mayonnaise, weird as they sound, were super-light and packed with flavour, but are already merely a warm and fading memory.

The venison and chorizo polpettine, that’s little meatballs to you and me, with tomato and taleggio cheese lingered a bit longer on the palate given their rollercoaster, super-punchy flavours and a sauce so powerful that Joe can’t finish it, so I do.

The problem anyway seems to me to be simply this: There are two pleasant, efficient young waiting staff bustling about this double shopfront restaurant in Edinburgh’s Marchmont this Friday evening. But that’s not enough, in my view.

This place, with its nooks and crannies, cubby hole dining area and customers who booked late – that will be us – seated comfortably at the bar, is completely packed to its douce Edinburgh rafters.

I would think at least one other member of serving staff would be an idea, to keep those glamorous Marchmont diners fed and watered at least, if not the Glasgow louts at the bar – and that’s before we even know what’s happening in the kitchen, because the delay could be down to them.

I say all this given that The Rabbit-Hole is decidedly upmarket, £7.50-a-starter and today, when super-casual has penetrated every level of restaurant life and service across the board has come on leaps and bounds, they probably do need to be a bit sharper on their toes.

Grumble aside, the mains of course do arrive and within minutes the delay is (almost) forgotten and Joe is tasting my calves liver, roasted garlic, beetroot and puy lentil and pronouncing the liver, which he claims never to have tasted before, interesting.

I think it’s more than that. I think it's a very good piece of liver cooked the only way liver should be: seared and carmelised on the outside and inside a pale pink that skillfully avoids being shock-horror actual-blood-bloody.

There’s a competent, though pretty conservative given the pacy, racy, slightly flashy starters, puy lentil mix with weirdly textured beetroot chunks through it. I love beetroot. I don’t like these. We had also ordered good, fine, crisp and salty fries on the side which, if you ask me, this dish would be better served with in the first place. There are, however, three giant onion rings. And what do I know?

Anyway, there’s a superbly dark and ironic cavallo nero smearing colour and interest across Joe’s duck breast, celeriac puree too, blackberries and red wine jus. However…the duck breast is disappointingly chewy and tough – should it simply have had some time, more time, any time…to rest? Answers on a postcard, please.

To finish? A very good chocolate fondant doing that gooey-inside molten lava thing that fondants always do when they know what they are about.

Being a lifelong sucker for frangipanes, I ordered the pear frangipane. It’s a bit damp, warm on the outside, very cold inside, and somewhat lacking pear flavour.

It, like me, spends much of its time completely ignoring the runny creme anglaise that came with it and instead gazes longingly at the perky vanilla ice-cream that arrived alongside Joe’s fondant.

Now, I had taken the opportunity to ask for the bill when I ordered the desserts hoping for a relatively clean sharp exit, there being a long drive back to Western civilisation ahead.

Predictably, given a large table of people had recently walked in, I end up wandering the restaurant trying to catch hold of one of the staff so I can pay. That issue aside? Still pretty good.

The Rabbit Hole

11 Roseneath Street


0131 229 7953

Menu: Cool, casual fine dining with off-piste starters including venison and chorizo polpettine, monkfish and black pudding beignets. Mains more conservative. 4/5

Atmosphere: Going like a fair on a dank, damp Saturday night. Bar seats are a good place to eat, otherwise it’s tight but cosy. 4/5

Service: Can’t fault the actual serving staff, just don’t think there was enough of them, or enough people perhaps in the kitchen. Slow at times. 3/5

Price: Starters hovering around the £7.50 mark, mains mainly hitting £17 and desserts at £6. Reasonable for the market. 4/5

Food: The monkfish and black pudding beignets; the crisp-seared, calves liver, even the polpettine? All good. reasonable desserts. Not perfect but pretty good overall 8/10