IF I tell you that at the theatre a guy in the same row as us will wear a large and bright yellow bobble hat throughout the whole show…and not a single person behind him will complain, you’ll know we’re in Edinburgh – at Touching the Void. The play of the movie of the book of a climber called Joe Simpson who falls off a mountain, doesn’t die and then very skilfully makes a pretty big deal out of it.

There will be folks wearing actual hillwalking boots, supping from aluminium flasks and rustling multi-season kagoules throughout and while my hillwalking chums Sir Ranulph and The Tycoon will be enraptured by the scaffold depiction of the mountain Suila Grande on centre stage I’ll never get past its striking similarity to the roof of the St Enoch Shopping Centre.

Meaning we’ll watch entirely different plays. All of this I mention so you realise that when people see a large and sparkly-lit romantic tree in the middle of Dine, the restaurant we popped into for our pre-theatre, I simply see a large plastic one. I know, apologies.

Where the public relations people describe a chic wood dominated dining room I see lots of generic veneer table tops in that colour that I associate with budget hotels and mega pubs and not with upmarket city centre restaurants. And I see, too, waiting staff in the midst of, well, not quite a rush as there are empty tables, but a sort of pre-theatre surge and not engaging very much or well with the three guys over here. Except repeatedly coming to the table to up-sell drinks. I don’t particularly warm to the service and I don’t warm to the atmosphere either, which bare-brick walls, stripy chair backs and padded menu aside is, to me, just big, bland and maybe corporate.

To compound matters we order from the Market Menu – now what Scottish restaurant can hope to be taken seriously when it has one of these? It is not only pre-printed, clad in plastic and padded, but presumably is not sourced from any actual market that’s anywhere near here. Or any actual food market at all. Or it would surely say, wouldn’t it?

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And need I mention it, but the dreaded Market Menu is to me now the favoured term of the mega pub and chain hotel. Sigh. So not really the most promising of starts before we’ve even eaten a thing.

Let's move on to the food because this is where things do improve. Sir Ranulph (no, not the real one) being of a certain age immediately and automatically chooses the soup – curried lentil with kale pesto, since you ask. While I have the duck croquette with pickled walnut mayonnaise.

Yes, there’s certainly a bit of life to these menu descriptions and while both dishes are almost clinical in their presentation they’re fine if somehow, disappointingly, just a little safe and bland in taste.

There’s a main of Toulouse sausage with dijon mustard mash and onion gravy and while, once again, it would be hard to fault the presentation I find the sausage, which should be a garlicky, nutmeggy, porky joy, bland again and therefore dull too and actually pretty inconsistently textured. Hmm.

There’s also a chicken breast dish with a pepper and bean stew and Sea bream with crushed potatoes sauce vierge and winter greens. Both these dishes look bright, cheery and they’re prepared with skill if not much soul, the skin on the bream being crisp, golden and attractive. Yet neither really deliver anything interesting in terms of flavour.

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We taste, we nod blandly to ourselves, we shrug shoulders and we move on. To that theatre.

Dine then? That Market Menu offers two courses for £14.50 and three for £19.50 before 6.30pm. Reasonable value in the heart of the capital. It fulfils too a useful role for those of us who want to eat and go. But more than that? Hmm.

Dine Edinburgh

First Floor

10 Cambridge Street


Menu: Inoffensive and semi-Scottish menu with a fair smattering of generic dishes, more interesting than the average. 4/5

Service: Fairly impersonal with a clear imperative to up-sell the drinks. 3/5

Price: We paid £14.50 for two courses from the Market Menu which was reasonable value. 4/5

Atmosphere: Either chic wood-dominated restaurant or vast and generic veneer-laden corporate restaurant. You decide. 3/5

Food: Full marks for the descriptions and even the presentation, that seabream with sauce vierge and Toulouse sausage and mash looked right, but food lacks sparkle. 5/10