I BOOK for 1pm, change plans twice, then find myself at a loose end and decide to chance turning up at the restaurant a whole hour early. I find Le Manager - I assume anyway - standing chatting outside the front door in the mid-day sun wearing the sort of belted sky blue shorts that only a Frenchman could make look super-chic.

Come in, he says garrulously, when I interrupt to explain, leading me to a Tim Stead table with a primo view over the heads of the tourists pouring by on Jeffrey Street and up onto the old Royal High School.

Right now, something marvellously, moodily gallic called Adieu Tristesse by somebody called Zazie is gently filling the room and what with the hewn furniture, that Languedoc mural, the French murmuring over there, where napkins are being folded, I’m so quickly seduced by the vibe, that I immediately save Zazie in my Shazams collection of Mad Mental Tunes Restaurants Play.

Now, if I didn’t already know that La Garrigue - and you can Google this - is a venerable Edinburgh institution, and I hadn’t once been hired as Le Chief Reporter of The Hootsmon newspaper over a bottle or two of wine at one of these very tables, I would have picked it up anyway by the genteel chat around me as lunchtime tables fill.

“Oh, the State of Jersey treated us very well,” comes drifting by from the big round one to be followed by a tinkling laughter as I eariwig their How-I-Survived Covid tales.

From Le Menu then. Du Jour. I am eating a simple, light mackerel fillet with sourdough tartine and Tomato concasse. The fish, juicy, summery light, appetisingly bubbled, very skilfully seasoned and what with the concasse dripping rich tomatoey juices into the bread, we are off to a flying start.

“How does a Frenchman make Polenta,” says Le Manager as I move onto a fillet of firm white Coley, on said polenta cake. More tomato this time, pepped with cumin and squid to drag fat, fresh, gossamer white fish flakes through. Very well, is the answer.

Now. If I had only stopped eating after this? I would have skipped out that door and back into the madness that is Edinburgh in full-fat-tourist mode filled with Le Joi of a light lunch, well served, fully enjoyed.

But… I don’t. Like a lemming I do something nobody should ever, ever do. I order from the a la carte. At lunchtime. Eek. On my plate from Les Entrees then is L’Oeuf De Cane, a herb crusted duck egg, splitting to reveal perfectly oozing yolk to dip my crispy, crusty cheesy parmesan tuille into.

Okay at £8, it’s an object lesson in how to turn a duck egg into a goose egg (as in golden) but we’re paying for the skill. And I’m not a complete idiot, I hope, and for the main I tried to pick something that the kitchen would have already started preparing for the evening service: Le Cassoulet Languedocien.

It’s certainly pretty enough. Though overhead Zazie has gone and we have moved onto something called Manhattan-Kaboul, by Renaud and Axel Red. Prophetically.

Because I am tasting, um, completely bland and unseasoned Lingot beans in tomato, with a hunk of pork belly, another of Toulouse Sausage and a leg of confit duck plopped hurriedly, it looks, in the beans.

All at different temperatures, none of the participants tasting like they haveever, in any way met each other before. And this for £22.50.

Hmmm. And here comes the dessert. I love a proper clafoutis, especially with plump cherries and an Amaretto Ice Cream, but before I even taste this one, I’m gazing disappointingly at the small, terracotta dish it’s served in - not even supermarkets use these now.

And on into a flat, pale dessert, that tastes suspiciously cold, then tepid, then gooey, claggy and is therefore absolutely awful. For £8.50. Nul points.

A tale of two meals then. One great. The other, meh, not so much.



31 Jeffrey Street,


Tel 0131-557-3032


Opening: Tuesday to Saturday, Lunch 12.00 to 14.30; Dinner  17.30 to 21.00


Menu: Reassuringly, still almost fabulously French hovering between bistro comfort and cool class with mackerel, concasse, L’Oeuf De Cane, supremes brochettes and terrines. Menu Du Jour one to have though. 3/5


Service: Very relaxed, warm, friendly, chatty and accommodating - pretty much exactly how it should be. A usually reliable, stealth lunch spot in the capital. 4/5


Price: It’s one of Edinburgh’s oldest and, generally, most relaxed and refined restaurants so £18.50 for two courses on the Menu Du Jour is okay value. A la carte not so much. 3/5


Atmosphere: Belies its awkward shape with swooping murals, gently seductive Frenchness and a fabulous view. 5/5


Food: A tale of two meals: the Menu Du Jour dishes were light, fresh and skilfully cooked, the a la carte, foolishly ordered at lunchtime, were largely a culinary car crash. 6/10

Total: 21/30