Dulse, Edinburgh, review - we try the latest opening from MasterChef finalist Dean Banks
This seafood restaurant is near the chef’s other destination
If you’re going to name your restaurant after a seaweed, there are plenty to avoid.
Gut, egg or bladder wrack all get a hard no. I definitely couldn’t eat somewhere called Bistro Eggwrack, as I’ve overdone my daily omelette allowance before and understand the potential suffering.
Thongweed (very uncomfortable), oarweed, purple carageen and laver aren’t the best either.
Kelp is a maybe. However, Dulse - the rusty blood red ribbons, which feel especially slippery underfoot to professional paddlers like me - is one of the prettiest-looking and sounding.
Good choice, and I hoped that the food at this new seafood restaurant and wine bar would dulcify me in more ways than one.
MasterChef: The Professionals 2018 finalist Dean Banks, who also owns Haar in St Andrews and still offers a post-lockdown Haar at Home delivery service, opened his new venue back at the end of July. It quickly scuttled, like a hermit crab, into the former premises of L’Escargot Blanc, which sadly closed during lockdown.
This is a great location, near Waldorf Astoria, The Caledonian, where you’ll find this chef's other Edinburgh restaurant, Dean Banks at The Pompadour. Dulse has been created to provide a more casual alternative.
They both have a similar interior decor thing going on, and the newest place has velvety turquoise banquettes, and succulents on the tables.
Sit downstairs, or go up what they've signposted as the Stairway to Heaven. Sadly, we were seated by the window on the ground floor, so I am yet to see if there are any Led Zep Whole Lotta Love references on the next level.
Alongside the wine list, the cocktail menu showcases Banks’ other projects - his diamond-filtered Mond Vodka and Lunun Gin, and I tried Lolo’s Adventure (£11), which was made from the gin and strawberries.
Their food menu features small plates, and a couple of bigger main-course sized ones, and things come as they’re ready. You know the drill.
Our first was the trout pastrami (£12.50), which was rather lovely, with four thick slices of cured fish that had russet-coloured and peppery dry spices on their outer edge. These came with pieces of crispy melba-toast-ish rye bread, and a scoop of Katy Rodgers creme fraiche, with a little tarn of bright green coriander oil on the top.
Next was the octopus (£14) - a fat single tentacle in a calligraphy-like letter U. It was charred and sea salted, with a tiny bit of heat, and the meat was coiled round an intensely citrussy portion of barley, a sweet burnt tomato jus and more herby oil.
The lobster crumpet (£19) was probably the most sybaritic and rich course. It was as if the crumpet had absorbed a hundred times its weight in butter, like a very thirsty Jiffy Cloth. It was topped by the comparatively light mashed lobster, which was threaded with chives and other herbs. This is the sort of dish you have if you really need spoiling, and you want to feel like a cat on a velvet cushion, being spoon fed Sheba.
After all that, we just went for one main course, with the seared hake (£24), though there was also baked North Sea Cod, Goan curry (£26), a St Andrews lobster thermidor (£28.50 for half, £52 for whole) or, the waiter told us, a day boat special of mackerel.
I wouldn’t say the thought of hake usually fills me with anticipatory joy, but this fillet was just beautiful. It was cooked so the surface looked gilded, and tasted a bit like pork scratchings, with long spirals of carrot underneath. This came with a “kimchi Hollandaise”, which was foamy and had the peachy hue of a Barbie’s skin but with a little spicy bite.
There are just two sweet options for dessert, as well as cheese. We went for the Edinburgh Honey Co set cream (£9) which was lush and clinging to macerated and intensely fragrant quartered strawberries, as well as some green basil oil, sprigs of sweet cicely and chunks of sunflower brittle.
It was a perfect post-fish pud.
There is some lovely seafood to be found on Queensferry Street now.
And you don’t have to take the stairway to heaven, since you’ll find it downstairs too.
17 Queensferry Street
(0131 573 7575, www.dulse.co.uk)
How much? Dinner for two, excluding drinks, £78.50