When we arrived in Edinburgh we walked through Hunter Square off the Royal Mile and were surprised to see Banns no longer there. Fortunately Jacqueline of Tinned Tomatoes recommended I visit Banns and directed me to where it now resides in St Mary’s Street. Then my friends Yarrow and Mindy arrived in Edinburgh for the weekend and suggested I come to dinner with them at Banns. It was an excellent choice.
How exciting to be out for dinner in the evening! Most of our evenings are spent either visiting E’s folks or at home with Sylvia. I confess to some soapy evenings with East Enders and Coronation Street or a bit of blogging. We are trying to get Sylvia to bed in the evening (although she has recently decided she doesn’t want to be in bed till late). So, we decided E would stay in the apartment with her and I would go out with Yarrow and Mindy.
Now I think I might have been to Banns in Hunter Square before or looked at the menu and not been impressed. It was a bright little café in a prime tourist area. Hence, I was unprepared for the reincarnation, which is called David Bann, being a more upmarket, stylish restaurant. It is painted in dark greys and reds and lit with little fairy lights and candles. A sphere of broken up light is projected onto one wall. Although vegetarian, there are no hippie undertones. There are no pretty Christmas lights such as the ones I passed on the walk down Royal Mile. This is the haunt of serious diners.
Mindy quite rightly commented that the food was some of the best presented vegetarian food she had come across. I am sorry that in the dim light my photos don't do it justice. The menu was a tyranny of choice (with no vegetarian lasagne or haggis in sight). It is always a treat to go to a vegetarian restaurant and not be confined to the grudging vegetarian choice on the menu. It also means that sharing is an easy option. We decided to begin with two starters between the three of us.
I loved the fried smoked tofu which had been marinated and served with a plum sauce. Yaz thought the lettuce rose garnish worthy of photographing. Its simplicity was a great way to start. I was less keen on the Thai fritters made of smoked tofu, which were just that bit too spicy for my liking, though I did enjoy the banana chutney and plum sauce accompanying them.
We ordered different mains and were able to try each others'. Mindy ordered the Roast Aubergine Chickpea Cake with Mash and Gravy and Yarrow ordered the Tart of Jerusalem Artichoke and Celeriac. Both tasted lovely but quite hearty and rich. My favourite, fortunately, was my choice of the Beetroot, Spinach and Dunsyre Blue Timbale.
Now timbales make me think of earnest 1970s vegetarian cookbooks with faded pictures of virtuously healthy food on chunky stoneware dinner plates. Once I overcame this prejudice I was delighted to discover how delicious they can be. Surprisingly at home in sophisticated modern vegetarian cookery. But I think my meal was one where the sum is greater than the parts. Just my kind of thing - lots of complimentary colours and flavours.
The timbale in question was a souffle (cooked in a timbale mould) of beetroot and blue cheese with a topping of spinach and nutmeg. It was served on a wedge of polenta and accompanied with buttered cabbage, roasted swede. My only quibble was that I would have liked the swede roasted a little more. But it was superb. I had a glass of velvety Argentinian Merlot to drink with it (Michel Torino, Cafayate Valley, 2008).
Mindy and Yarrow were too full for dessert but I eat out infrequently enough in the evening that I could justify the indulgence. I passed up the hot pear and passion fruit tart in favour of the dark chocolate souffle. I think my dining companions were pleased just to look at the gorgeous presentation. It tasted as good as it looked. The souffle was rich with a fluffy texture. The vanilla ice cream with white chocolate sauce lightened the intense flavours.
So I will highly recommend David Bann to anyone - vegetarian or not - living in or passing through Edinburgh. It is one of the best meals I have had during our visit here. We are heading home tomorrow so I might squeeze in another entry before packing the laptop but I must attend to so packing now.
56-58 St Mary's Street,
Edinburgh, EH1 1SX (Off the Royal Mile and the Cowgate)
Tel: 0131 556 5888
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