Fruitmarket Cafe review, Edinburgh - we try the sandwiches and specials at this newly refurbished gallery cafe

We try the new cafe at this refurbished contemporary art gallery

By Gaby Soutar
Saturday, 19th February 2022, 4:55 am

I can’t believe it’s been over two decades since I worked here as a gallery invigilator.

My job would involve sitting in a chair for hours, while hoping and praying that nobody would ask me any questions or try to touch any of the artworks.

The most high maintenance exhibition we looked after was a Yoko Ono retrospective. One of her exhibits was Amaze - a transparent and interactive maze, first displayed in 1971.

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Fruitmarket Cafe

While trying to navigate it, people would constantly slam into the clear plastic walls, then slide down them like a sparrow hitting a windscreen. We would have to clean snotters, lipstick smears and sweaty forehead marks off the Perspex. The thought still makes my nerves jangle.

Back then, on our lunch breaks, all of us would go to the Tempting Tattie on Jeffrey Street. We weren’t sophisticated enough for the in-house cafe.

Instead, it was cheesy-beanos all the way.

Anyway, I’m back again, in my old stomping ground, but this time I’m eating in, and I don’t have to worry about badly behaved gallery patrons.

Miso aubergine

The punters can do what they want with Jyll Bradley’s Pardes exhibit, in the new warehouse space - formerly teenage disco, Buster Browns - from now until April 18, or the work in US artist Howardena Pindell’s first solo exhibition in the UK, which is in the main gallery until May.

Obviously, I’d much prefer it they behaved themselves, but it won’t be my responsibility.

As part of the gallery refurbishment, the cafe has been extended, and has prints along the walls and some cool lights that look like Stickle Bricks. There was a lively demographic on our lunch visit - families, pals across all age groups, a few business meetings, and it felt like the place to be, with a pleasant thrum.

While it used to be run by Milk cafe, they’ve now taken the catering in-house, with a manager, Eddie Richardson, and head chef Martin Collins, previously of The Bon Vivant. Apparently, there are plans to launch some Friday night supper clubs, starting in March.

Salt beef sandwich

The menu features baked eggs, sarnies, fancy salads and smarter specials, and there are a few cakes up on the counter. Apparently, the fish finger sandwich is one of their best-sellers. However, I went for something a little more interesting, with the special roasted miso aubergine (£8), which I wasn’t that excited about. I was just bored of agonising over the options, as if I was on my sixth Wordle attempt.

It was a vibrant surprise, rather than the virtuous yet bland composting option that might have been the worst case scenario.

The fruit was sweet and sticky with the miso basting, and it came with lovely pickle-y finely shredded coleslaw bits in the undergrowth, sultanas, crispy bits of kale, bulgar wheat and spring onion.

There was nothing boring on my plate. It was a canvas, Eggplant Excitement (2022).

The grilled sandwich (£9) was rather special too, thanks to layers of their own robust salt beef, Russian dressing and sauerkraut, as well as a squidgy thick layer of melted Emmental that was puffing out of the edges of the thick bread slices, like cement between paving slabs. There was also a handful of crunchy, rather than chewy, vegetable crisps on the side, and a bit of mixed leaf salad.

We also ordered some good pop when it came to their Faitrade Lemonaid in Ginger Beer and Blood Orange (£3 each) varieties.

I’m just sorry about the wee crispy potatoes (£4), which were a bit surplus to requirements. I should have scraped them into my Fruitmarket Gallery tote, but that would be a bit weird and they might have got grease on my shop purchases.

We did, however, take away a couple of their cakes in a cardboard box.

Although I am an icing fan, and these were nude ones, I was still impressed by the dense and citrus saturated buttery triangle of polenta pistachio (£3.95), with a roof of scrunched up nuts, and the lovely blackberry and raspberry crumble cake (£3.95), which featured tart and purple pops of fruitiness.

I’m a fan of a gallery cafe, but not all of them in the capital are that exciting. This is a great one. Maybe it always was, but I was too busy noshing elsewhere to notice.

I’d even say the food is as good as a cheesy beano baked potato, and my compliments don’t get much more effusive than that.

45 Market Street

Edinburgh

(0131 226 8195, www.fruitmarket.co.uk)

The Verdict

How much? Lunch for two excluding drinks, £28.90

Food 8/10

Ambience 8/10

16/20

Places to try Nearby

The Baked Potato Shop, 56 Cockburn Street, Edinburgh

Another of our favourite potato-erries or potato-torrias, this vegetarian venue has been on Cockburn Street since the dawn of time. There’s only one table for sitting in, and we recommend the fruity coleslaw and garlic butter.

The Banh Mi Bar, The Arches, 3 East Market Street, Edinburgh, www.thebanhmibar.co.uk

Get your laughing gear round a Vietnamese baguette at this sandwich shop, where fillings include char siu pork. They also serve coffee, summer rolls and cakes.

Nor’ Loft, 6 Market Street, Edinburgh (0131 322 9229, www.marketstreethotel.co.uk)

For something a bit fancier, this place has some of the best views over the city. They’re served with Champagne and small plates, including grilled prawn and blue corn tortilla or red wine and juniper marinated venison.

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