IT being January and therefore the very best month to eat in the very best restaurants because there are always free tables, I’m in Edinburgh. At Dulse. Playing the guess-the-price game with my old chum Joe.

Enjoying immensely his genuine reaction when I tell him that this single – yes, the one, spring roll we just shared – costs … cue drum roll … £15. “Whit!” he splutters in pure Ayrshire. And … those Monkfish, ahem, cheeks? Three of the little blighters. Hoots mon tattie scone – £16.50.

How we laugh at the neck of the capital’s restaurateurs. Well, he does. I suddenly remember I’ll be paying for this. Soon. With my own money. Sigh.

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Still, you’ll be wanting to know what these starters, sorry small plates, actually tasted like and hoping with a touch of that old schadenfreude that they’re truly terrible.

Actually? That Abroath smokie spring roll is light, crisp, filled (though certainly not packed) with warming haddock and adrift in a sea of Connage Gouda fondue, which to the untrained may look like gloop. But it tastes much better than that. Sort of cheesy, tangy, moreish ... gloop.

Now, Dulse. It’s nearish to the castle, closer to Princes Street and,on this dank night, pretty much the only bright light in an otherwise dreary row of shop fronts.

They’ve either decided not to waste money on decor when everybody’s going to be so busy checking the menu or this is your actual high fashion. Plain walls, plain light bulbs, some draping cables: reminds me of the setting of one of those kitchen sink dramas my parents used to watch.

Still, there are a few customers in tonight, staff lingering, service, like the air temperature, from the cool, efficient, almost but hard-to-put-the-finger-on-exactly-why diffident school. Those monkfish cheeks? Well, firstly the word “cheeks” doesn’t appear in the menu: buttermilk fried monkfish, sea buckthorn buffalo sauce, it says. It only crosses the waiter’s lips when he is asking a question, I forget what, and only then do I realise it’s the cheeks I’ve ordered, which generally I am not a fan of.

These behave exactly like monkfish cheeks usually do; pulling straight out their batter at the first slightly rubbery bite. That aside? The batter is wonderful, crisp yet with lush flavours, the buckthorn buffalo sauce too adds a smart tang and the whole lot, cheeks included, is joyfully eaten.

The Herald: Dulse in EdinburghDulse in Edinburgh (Image: Gordan Terris)

On then to the tandoori baked hake, coconut, shallots (£27). Steaming hot, white flakes of still juicy fish, a delicate yet tantalising dusting of sub-continental spicing, soothing coconut after-tones.

We’re now fully into food I want to eat. So much so that – five seconds after sliding the plate containing two of the three fillets across to Joe to try – I have leant back over and consumed a whole second fillet too.

The cod, then, a mere wallflower alongside that hake, but one that still rewards with more juicy fish, this time decorated with crisp Jerusalem artichoke slivers and lake-like quantities of a truffled pesto for dipping and dragging through. Obviously, there are wilted leaves, textural herbs (is that a purple flower?) and other dooh-dahs decorating every plate, but they do somehow manage to keep the principal flavours to the out-front.

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Oh. I almost forgot. On encouragement from a waiter I ordered sides. Dulse seaweed new potatoes, salsa verde (yes new potatoes in January – amazing) at £5.50. The spuds are a bit wet, there’s not nearly enough dulse action, nor salsa verde for me and I wouldn’t order again.

The roasted Brussels sprouts Caesar on the other hand? A winner. Even at £6.50. Crisped, sweet sprouts, dolloped with a creamy Caesar sauce that make them kinda delicious. Plate scraped.

Dulse, then? Pricey, fishy, pretty good though. But hang on.

The best is still to come. Sticky toffee ginger madeleines, pumpkin seed praline parfait (£9.50). Aha. You’re thinking of those little bags of dryish clamshell shapes sold at terrible French motorway stations. No. These are freshly-baked, crumbly, silky-flavoured, deep toffee, dark ginger, cooling praline. These, above all I, would return for.

17 Queensferry Street
Open: Tues and Wed 5pm til late, Thurs - Sat 12pm til late. 

Menu: Proper seafood restaurant in a proper capital city, complete with smokies, hake, cod of course and dulse – like the name.  5/5
Atmosphere: They’ve gone plain vanilla with the decor on the basis, you come for the food. January probably not the best month to appreciate it. 3/5
Service: Old-school, very efficient, yet slightly distant service. It was a dull, cold, Tuesday night though and hard for anybody to warm up. 4/5
Price: It’s fish. It’s Scotland. It’s high-end too, of course it’s going to be pricey. Big hit is on the small plates, mains and desserts. 4/5
Food: Those ginger toffee madeleines at the end? Outstanding. The tandoori hake too: deft, light, worth the journey. Nothing fell below very good. 8/10

TOTAL: 24/30