IT’S 10 minutes past 1pm exactly as I am leaning over the smart reception desk asking the young woman if she can promise I will have two courses of lunch and be out by 10 minutes to 2pm.

Yes, she says, and minutes later I’m swinging my legs on a high chair and checking the menu at Ondine’s big horseshoe shaped bar. There are oysters on ice to the left; a couple of single diners like me to the right and straight ahead, where the serving person should be, rather alarmingly there’s absolutely nobody.

Moments later the barman hoves into view and I repeat the promise obtained at the reception desk only to be met with: we-will-see-what-we-can-do-sir.

Uh-oh, if see-what-we-can-do-sir had been the answer at the front door I would have gone elsewhere. Pronto.

Turns out, though, that phrase is polite Edinburgh speak for right away, sir. So my starter is actually in front of me at precisely 16 minutes past 1pm.

Before anyone starts high-fiving I did order a dish I suspected would be pre-prepared. And, as expected, the salad has that chill edge of something whisked from the fridge. What’s unexpected is that it’s sweet, tart, salty – nothing more than beetroot and feta on the menu, but more than that on the palate. There are punchy, whole toasted hazelnuts, bitter chicory, moments of sudden saltiness, sugary beetroot chunks then a vibrant beetroot dressing bringing it all together.

This is enjoyable, I think, as I consume at a gallop the hot, puffy, cheesy sconey thing that comes with it and scoop up the very last of that dressing with warmed bread.

Ondine, in case you are wondering, is where we are this lunchtime. Take a dip down to the King George IV Bridge from the top of the Royal Mile, look up the stairs above the pizza place, see the curved glass window peering sniffily down on tourist-stuffed Victoria Street, and enter the spiffy black and white decor inside.

While I have been eating the place has noisily filled up. Over there, beneath the framed black and white portraits, beautiful people are mwah-mwahing, sliding in beside me right now are Italian tourists and down there at the tables by the curved windows there are very many suits and ties and even a splash or two of Harris Tweed.

It definitely has a vibe.

OK, my starter is finished at 24 minutes past and plate cleared at 26 minutes past. Maybe I could squeeze in a dessert too, lemon meringue and madelaine’s perhaps…too confident.

Ten whole minutes will now pass by which I will fill by trying to attract the attention of floor staff to ask for salt and pepper. This turns out to be embarrassingly impossible. Embarrassing because all the people sitting at nearby tables can see me waving and gesticulating like a fat fool. Impossible because there is zero eye contact from the floor staff who seem oblivious to my presence. But are they? Answers on a postcard please.

As it happens I finally stop the reception desk lady and we are good to go when the main arrives at 36 minutes past. I’ll tell you this: I eat a lot of fish but it’s not til right now that I realise most of it has been imperfectly cooked.

This hake is so completely, perfectly moist, almost juicy, that I am taken aback. Flakes of steaming fish aside there’s a light serving of a freshly flavoured chickpea and tomato, a powerful rouille to mix within and on the side a sprightly Polonaise which – as everybody in Edinburgh probably knows – is not a sprightly Polish country dance but a sprightly mix of crisp breadcrumbs, gherkin and chopped egg. Good? Yes. Very good, though the price of getting that fish so moist and juicy is a disappointingly moist skin.

Now, here I am at 47 minutes past, paying £19 for those two courses. Worth it? Yes.


2 George IV Bridge


0131 226 1888

Menu: Edinburgh’s premier fish restaurant and with a fresh twist, simple yet skilled dishes. 5/5

Atmosphere: A-chattery and a-clattery due to the hard surfaces but also with some genuine and informal presence. 4/5

Service: Hard to fault except for that snow blindness when looking back at the oyster bar where I sat. 4/5

Price: £19 for lunch is pricey, an extra fiver if I had squeezed in dessert but for a fine, light meal it's worth it. 4/5

Food: Just two simple courses, yet the beetroot and feta was excellent and the hake outstanding. 8/10

Total 25/30