49 St Stephen St, Edinburgh EH3 5AH 

They are about to give us that have-you-ever-eaten-here-before cliche chat when I blurt straight out: small plates by any chance? Brought when the kitchen feels like it?

Yes, is the answer so we move quickly on to some wham-bam ordering, a bit of chit-chat between Joe and myself about how hard it is to find this bloody place, it being buried at the bottom of an architectural canyon, or gulch even, and then bish-bosh I’m on Shazam. Trying to identify the whacky tunes playing on the Skua sound system.

I’m thinking maybe some kinda death rock to match the black walls, the puny level of light making it down here, seriously it’s dark, the all black-clad staff but…of course, no phone signal.

And by now the first small dish is on the table. As soon as I see this Cured Sea Trout, Taramasalata, Blood Orange I feel a flicker of financial fear. Whew, £14.

It might be cheaper, I whisper to Joe, while looking at these slivers, to cancel the food and brighten the damn place by burning tenners.

But then…like in all the best food movies? We taste. Choirs begin to play, angels sing, okay I’m kidding: it’s not quite that good.

The Herald: SkuaSkua (Image: free)

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In fact, Joe’s not keen on the fish texture (I like it and the salty, orangey, tang throughout), and leaves some, yes, at these prices. This leads to a comedy gold moment later when the the waiter, nice chatty guy, lifts Joe’s pushed-aside plate complete with rejected debris and puts it right back in front of him.

No, that’s actually finished we have to say. Lol. I mean, eek.

Course the jokes on us ten minutes later when I’m ordering, ahem, yet another plate of that Skua Fried chicken at £14. What is it about Edinburgh posh restaurants and fried chicken just now? They’re all at it. Like rarebits.

However, this is the best I’ve had by far. Salty, juicy, crispy, fresh and piping hot thighs, battered to the absolute edge of crispy insanity and drenched in a pugnacious hot sauce that lands a delicious vinegar sucker punch. That’s £28 quickly spent on two, frankly, small-ish bowlfuls of chicken, absolutely ridiculous and yet we honestly could have eaten another.

By now we’re playing my favourite post-Covid restaurant game: guess the price. Monkfish, Lemon, Tropea Onions (Calabrian and pricey) definitely not as large a portion as it sounds. The fish meaty, clean, white and satisfying, ribbons of caramelised preserved lemons boinging into life with each mouthful, and a gloopy creamy pool which when it’s described as “whipped kombu butter” sounds unpromising, but wow does it put in a shift. Tremendous. Oh, £28 if you’re still playing along.

There’s a lot of: “what’s in this again”, going on incidentally. Partially because the menu fashionably says next to nada but mainly because there are so many surprising flavours.

A dish of asparagus arrives; pancetta, or is it translucent lardo, hugging it, hazelnuts and nasturtium too, this last leading me to expect flowers. But no flowers. No leaves. A fabulous sauce that only after the plate is cleared will we discover is flavoured with loveage and nasturtium apparently. Not that it matters: it’s a joy to eat.

You’ll be wondering about Carrot, Crowdie and Pumpkin Seed (£12)? It looks nothing like it says on the label, being instead verdant, lush, supplied with fancy broccoli and a dollop of some Crowdie-based sauce for dragging it all through. This too is very good.


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Course we have a dessert. Sending the bill, sans drinks, soaring over the ton. There is only one to choose from. Pavlova, Currant Leaf, Strawberry. You’re right. This too can be made long in advance. But.. they make an outstanding pavlova and with the sweet sour combo of creamy, sharp, flavours it also makes for a memorable finish.

Skua then? Oh, hang on, there’s some Michelin Guide stuff written about this place, the chefs too, but it’s available on the web.

Question: Was it good? Answer on this postcard? Yes.

Worth a trip? Yes. Albeit a pricey one.

The Herald: The food is pricey but always interesting, says RonThe food is pricey but always interesting, says Ron (Image: free)

Menu: Looks scarily like food as pretentious art; enigmatic descriptions, windswept Scottish ingredients but interesting. 3/5

Atmosphere: Like a Goth basement it’s so dark and flickery and buried below street level but comfy and atmospheric. 5/5

Service: They’re chilled, aware, professional and clearly know what they’re doing. 5/5

Price: Small plates, come fast, in piccolo portions, and hefty prices, can mean early home. It’s an experience though. 3/5

Food: Knock-out fried chicken the best, but not a single plate that wasn’t crammed full of surprise. Asparagus up there too. 8/10