It’s the Sunday after the Friday and as we bolt through to Edinburgh I’m pretty pleased to exclusively reveal I’ve managed to get a table at Merienda just two days after it wins a coveted Bib Gourmand.

Will we have to fight our way through well-heeled diners jostling to see what the Michelin guide’s fuss is all about? Or will somewhat snooty Stockbridge be dripping with indifference? Answers on a postcard, please.

OK, save the stamp. I can tell you right now that, slightly surprisingly, there will only be one other table occupied in the whole damn restaurant throughout the whole damn Sunday lunch. Giant Edinburgh tumbleweed bounces past our tiny two-bite filo tart of East Lothian brown crab, pretty as a picture, set in a crisp and crunchy fresh fennel salad, with sweetly seafaring crabby sensations everywhere. A single blue cornflower marking its absolute perfection.

Cartoon comic book yawns of capital indifference will fill the silence as we eat slushy, crispy, salty batons of roasted zucchini, pepped with oregano leaves and sun-dried tomatoes, strands of melting pecorino making it as satisfying as it is light.

And then, at the very point we’re enjoying an ethereally light sea bass ceviche, Pop Art squirts of beet, lemon, and electric green cucumber, and even more fistfuls of flavour …a glamorous older Edinburgh couple will sweep in with a celebratory bottle of fizz.

The gent wearing one of those Dick Tracey hats and trench coat. Hurrah, I’ll say to Debs, we are in the right place. The chef will swing out of the tiny open galley kitchen. They’ll warmly embrace. Then like the plop of one of those party balloons the cool dears will announce that, unfortunately, they don’t have time to eat. And depart. Leaving me shaking my head.

Where is everybody? Is the East India Company announcing its annual dividend today? Is the cricket on at Lords? Or could it be this slightly, ahem, complicated menu system? A tasting menu where you choose seven dishes per head, from maybe 40, at about £8 a go.

Frankly, and I’m interested in such things, it’s a headache trying choose just 14, yes 14. Surely the joy of a tasting menu is that zero thought is required?

When the cheery, chatty waitress comes to the table I simply put the menu to my temple, spin the barrel and Russian roulette order.

Dishes then fly from the kitchen in full bedknobs and broomsticks mode from what are pretty much our personal chefs.

Smoked on-these-very-premises haddock. A raging runaway train of woody, carmelly, juicy, fishy sensations, is emergency braked to calming comfort by soothing creamy leeks.

Duck, chorizo, little popping broad beans, all dance the dance thanks to a bursting bramble jus acid trip. And a hand-smudged, pan-seared gnocchi with salted walnuts, pirouettes playfully around pungent gorgonzola.

I could go on. Not only is this all perfect to look at – it's bloody good. There are hiccups, of course. A rosemary focaccia that’s dull, heavy and has far, far too much salt. And I say that knowing that apart from it there isn’t another single dish where the seasoning is not perfect. And also whilst believing that courage with the salt is usually the difference between a genius and a plodder.

Now, they’ll say the Pentland lamb ravioli with a pasta so fine and so delicate that the whole thing sticks to the bubbling serving dish, tearing and disintegrating when forked, is meant to be like that. But, I think, lamb included? Too heavy.

And that Clava Brie croquette? I like deep fried cheesiness, but it’s burst-pillow appearance is incongruous amongst the culinary art.

The whole gig though? The way it was today? The totally chilled down, chat-with-the-chef, what-do-you-think-of-that-one-vibe? Great.

If you inhabit the great Michelin desert that is the mid-western of our country, I’d get on that M8 now.

Before the Edinburghers park their fashionable indifference.


30 North West Circus Place


0131 220 2020

Menu: Scotland’s newest Michelin Bib Gourmand with a left field take on Mediterranean tasting menus. Small plates that are works of art and lots of choice. 5/5

Service: Personal, friendly, cheery, very laid back and relaxed, and the chefs are only a few feet away. 5/5

Atmosphere: Shop front cum woody wine-bar feel. Up steps from the main drag, very quiet on a Sunday lunch but comfortable 4/5

Price: Most dishes are around £8 and you're supposed to pick seven. Expensive? Not when you see and taste what they’re capable of. 4/5

Food: A fabulous East Lothian crab tart; wonderful home-smoked haddock and hand formed pasta dishes a go-go. Great cooking, fab flavours. 9/10