Ante, Edinburgh, review - we try the downstairs sister cafe from wine bar Spry
I pass by Haddington Place every Sunday, on the way back from my exercise class.
Just a couple of weeks ago, while people-watching from the top deck of the bus, I noticed a congregation of youthful hipsters at a certain spot.
Then, the weekend after, I watched some others descend into a basement.
Whatever trendy club they were part of, I wanted to be the oldest member. Thus, I investigated and saw, scribbled on the yellow wall outside, the word Ante. It transpired that this is a new bakery and coffee project from the people behind the excellent wine bar, bottle shop and small plate restaurant, Spry, just upstairs.
No secret knock required to see if they really have upped the ante.
It’s very plain inside. Beige, but serviceable, and there’s a counter, with bakes behind it. There’s also a breakfast, lunch and cake menu.
When things are gone, they stamp SOLD on the printed food lists.
I arranged to meet my husband and a pal here, and there were already big red letters on a couple of options, including the soft boiled eggs with sourdough and Connage cheese.
My dates were both 15 minutes late, and my sense of urgency was bubbling up, as the place started to get busier.
I didn’t let them share any pleasantries on arrival. “Order,” I commanded, with my hangry tinted goggles on.
She went for the smoked salmon emmer bowl (£11), which was a vibrant thing of beauty.
The base consisted of lentils and wheat, we think, in a silky, vinegary and miso-ish sauce, and there was pickled daikon on top, colourful white and red cabbage slaw, as well as mashed salmon and a sort of carrot mayo on top. There were lots of lovely textures and zinging flavours.
I had the parsnip pate on toast (£6), which featured a slice of sourdough spread with a sweet paste, and was topped with some olive oil, crumbled walnuts and a bit of rosemary. I could’ve easily eaten two or three bits of this, and wished I’d ordered a second savoury thing. Maybe next time I’d also go for a salad, like the roasted celeriac with rocket and Corra Linn (£8).
Annoyingly, I did discover long after I’d got home that I’d also been charged for a breakfast galette (£8) that we didn’t order. If they read this, maybe I’ll be allowed to go back and eat it. Please?
I attempted to cadge a bite of my husband’s pork and fennel sausage roll (£7.50) and its little ramekin of rhubarb chutney. It was a goodie - dense in the middle, with a crisp and golden pastry bivvy bag. He wasn’t sharing much though, since it wasn’t the biggest portion either.
At least we had plenty of space for cake. The ones available on our visit didn’t look hugely appealing, but that’s only because there was zero icing and they were all Victorian brown.
Anyway, that non-showy shade can be delicious too. My coffee cake (£4) was a joe accompaniment, rather than a coffee flavoured cake, and, alongside a mocha featuring Barebones chocolate (£4), this sultana riddled loaf was a dream, with its brown sugar coated crust. I got a huge slab, as thick as one of Topping & Co’s hardback books, with a massive wad of salted butter on the side.
“If this was wartime, that’d be a whole year’s rations,” said my friend.
While the savoury options are judicious, apart from maybe the main-course-sized salmon bowl, the cakes are served lavishly. It’s like your own granny is suddenly in the kitchen, in charge of portion sizes. The large triangle of pear and frangipane tart (£7) had a biscuit-y base and soft fruit that had been poached in wine, as well as a scoop of creme fraiche on the side.
We also tried the breakfast cookie (£3.50), which was nutty, seedy and oaty, like a delicious granola in chunky but portable rusk form.
The coffee is great. There was a flat white (£3.20) and we tried their oolong (£4), which was administered in “washes”, aka top-ups into our glass teapot from a flask.
Thank you, young hipsters, for alerting me to the presence of this place. I shall follow your trail of brown cake crumbs.
1b Haddington Place
(0131 557 0005, www.sprywines.co.uk)
The Verdict: How much? Lunch for three, excluding drinks, £39