60 Henderson Street,
The Shore of Edinburgh’s Leith area is a bit of a culinary hot spot. No less than three Michelin-starred establishments share the neighbourhood with time-honoured bistro’s, bars serving gastropub fare and a plethora of excellent seafood restaurants. On a fine day The Shore is alive with the sound of laughter and music, crowds spill out onto the street to enjoy late afternoon sun and the air is thick with anticipation of the evening’s revelry which doubtless starts with dinner. Only the very good eateries survive in this neck of the woods as the diners of Edinburgh are a discerning bunch.
With familiar and loved restaurants a well-established part of the dining scene in this neck of the woods, new ventures can be eyed with some suspicion – are they as good as next door? Who owns it? Will they last? This is the environment into which Café Fish opened it’s doors in the summer of last year to a flurry of mixed reviews and opinions.
Set in the site of an old bar, many original features have been preserved and the result is an effective combination of old and new: bare brick walls, stripped wooden floors, original cornicing and heavy gilt-framed mirrors alongside white washed walls, industrial stainless steel and suspended lighting. Sadly, the overall effect is somewhat marred by the gaudy neon bubble scribbling on the mirrors but if a blind eye can be turned to this, the setting is stylish and the environment bustling.
The philosophy behind Café Fish is to offer excellent seafood at affordable prices and a set price menu offers three courses for £23.50 or two for £19.50. (It should be pointed out that several of the dishes carry a supplement). The menu changes daily, which is usually a good indicator that the freshest ingredients are being used. Indeed all their scallops are hand-dived off Kyle of Lochalsh and their crab comes straight from Tobermory.
Our choice of starters, mine Mull crab cakes with cucumber dipping sauce and across the table, razor clams with white wine and chorizo, were both spot on. My crab cakes were crisp on the outside and moist and delicately flavoured with coriander (and no filler-potato!) on the inside, whilst the razor clams were cooked to perfection: soft and yielding and a veritable sponge to the white wine and chorizo flavours.
As for the mains, mine was a little disappointing. Spiced, roasted cod with tomato salsa and olive oil mash was crying out for seasoning, the cod lacking the pleasingly crisp skin I had expected from roasted fish, and the accompanying salsa was cooked and tasted more like a ratatouille. That said, it was a competent and tasty enough dish, but for the slightly misleading description. The seafood broth with noodles on the other hand was excellent. A fragrant and aromatic bisque with just the right amount of moreish chilli kick and background star anise flavour, contained a variety of fresh seafood including mussels, clams and mackerel; noodles which still had a little bite and refreshing herbs. I had a serious case of food envy.
We rounded off our meal with desserts: crème brulee served with shortbread and a pecan pie. The crème brulee might have benefited from having a flavoured biscuit accompaniment – lavender or orange blossom perhaps – as the plain sweet shortbread and the crème rather melded into one another. The cold pecan pie would have been considerably better warmed up in order to allow the rich syrup filling to relax and ooze as it ought to. A couple of good coffees left us happy, as the tables around us finished eating and stayed on to have a few drinks and the restaurant took on an almost continental feel.
With a background in catering and hospitality management (Sodexo, Gary Rhodes), owner Richard Muir’s experience is apparent - the service is friendly and efficient, and even the toilets were absolutely spotless. The cooking is decent and the prices are reasonable and if you’re looking for a relaxed atmosphere in an informal environment, Café Fish will serve you well. Our meal cost in the region of £60, which included a large glass of Douro Quinta Do Crasto for £8.
For more information, please visit: www.cafefish.net
**Reviewed by:** Carine Seitz