The Outsider


LAMB rump with courgette and basil puree, sold out. Peppered mountain hare bridie, sold out. Any carrot and celeriac soup left, I ask.

Ah, that’s sold out too. Venison, I suggest now, failing to suppress an exasperated sigh and scanning rapidly past the daily special scrawls on the menu?

“Hmm, think so,” says the waitress, “but by the time I get back to the kitchen that could be gone.”

I’ll be gone too by the time she gets back from that kitchen, I’m thinking. Not because The Outsider is selling out of lunch items faster than I can think them up but because I’ve been shoved into a little alcove of two-seater tables and on my too-close left are two Edinburgh University students m’wah-m’wah-m’wahing at full volume. It’s like Brideshead Revisited meets the Lancaster bomber right here.

Can I sit over there, I’m saying as she comes back, already on my feet and almost running between the tight tables towards the opposite corner of this battleship grey dining room.

“Sure,” she shrugs while indicating good news on the lamb front. Later, when I’ve pushed back my dessert plate, eaten the very last of those addictive garlic fries, had a final drag of a so-so flatbread through the lemon creme fraiche, nduja and red pepper that came with that lamb and when the waitress sits down at the table to do the card machine thing, I’ll ask: how long has this place been here?

“Oh, 20 years at least,” will come the surprising reply.

Uh? 20 years ago I used to work right round the corner for the Hootsmon newspaper. And in the intervening period I have been out there on George IV Bridge dozens of times, often struggling to find somewhere decent to eat amongst the cunning food traps this touristy triangle sets for the unwary.

Never noticed this place and I thought I’d seen them all. I even had to use Google Maps today when I was standing right outside. Maybe it’s completely invisible to crumpled Weegies such as myself, because otherwise it’s full-tilt in here this early afternoon. And it’s not small.

That’s surprising because although winter had fully set in at the other end of the M8 when I left it’s still high summer here in the capital – sun shining brightly, people mooching about in shorts and tee-shirts, the Royal Mile comfortably busy, a day to be outside.

It was a pal who works in Crown Office round the corner who suggested this place to me and, students aside, the occasional touristy table overlooked, there are a lot of people wearing crisp suits in here.

The odd state prosecutor maybe? At this end of the dining room, there’s a full-blown business meeting taking place.

They do this thing here with seared cod where they pile it on a kind of salad of chopped new potato (in October), green beans, olives, boiled egg and rocket then drench it in passion fruit dressing. Salty, sweet, not bad fish at all. I quite like it.

That venison I mentioned is one of those loppy slurpy combos of creams and peppers and gooey nduja that’s pretty big on fresh flavour though the venison itself, as it always is these days, is bland and has a bit bounce.

They whistled up a pork rillete from the dinner menu when we started to run out of options earler – though I now notice the menu says lunch is served through til 5pm. I quite like its moist crispness.

Of course, there was no peanut butter ice cream left to go with the dark chocolate and salted caramel tart so I settle for plain vanilla after I’m given assurances everything is “home-made”.

It’s a competent tart with an almost solid, fashionably spoon bending choco element and a reasonable pastry. Nothing to get too excited about frankly.

But everything that has come to the table today has been put together prettily, it’s been interesting enough, I’ve found an okay place to lunch.

The Outsider

15 George IV Bridge,


0131 226 3131

Menu: They make a Scottish effort with mountain hare bridies, venison flat breads, cod and rocket, interesting choices. 4/5

Service: It’s a big place, and busy, not many staff on but they covered the floor and were friendly in a relaxed and breezy way. 4/5

Price: There’s a price bump for dinner but lunch dishes hover around the £8 mark per dish which considering we’re on expensive real estate is not too bad. 4/5

Atmosphere: There’s not much in the way of decor but it buzzes with all human life in an interesting, fairly comfortable, though occasionally noisy, way. 4/5

Food: All presented professionally and prettily, the cod passion fruit salad being pleasant, the venison interesting and that dessert okay. Fine for a bish-bosh decent lunch. 7/10