Franco-Scottish eating and drinking establishment in Edinburgh's New Town, situated on a quiet street off George Street. Broad selection of wines and popular, tapas style snacks.
The perfect city centre pub and hang-out
Reviewed by Euan Andrews
Thursday, June 7, 2012 - 9:36am
Summer, at last. The dial has finally reached temporarily up to the late teens temperature wise, and the people of Edinburgh take the opportunity to bare the flesh and soak up the rays, despite the ever present north east breeze. Which will explain why, on a Saturday afternoon in the midst of these few all too short days, Bon Vivant is surprisingly quiet.
The dark interior possibly doesn’t seem so welcoming on such a bright day, and this is basically a solid looking boozer with exquisitely hip bar staff at the midway point along Thistle Street. Surrounded by restaurants and pubs on all side along this tributary off the city centre, Bon Vivant puts up a good fight by first of all being an excellent drinking establishment, and also serving up great dishes from midday till 10pm.
One of my favourite things about Bon Vivant is the selection of Bites available either as a group of starters or simply to go with a drink as a Scottish tapas-style snack, particularly as at the knockdown price of £1 per bite they cost pretty much the same as your average bag of crisps these days.
M, Robin and I select the salt and pepper whitebait with tartare sauce (lovely salty savoury morsels with excellent side dip), plus black pudding with tomato chilli jam, tempura vegetables with chilli soy and garlic buttered queenie scallops (well, just the one scallop actually, but fair enough, not bad for £1). A lovely start to the meal and it’s a great idea to simply come and graze on these mini platters while having a pint.
Main courses all rumble away at around the £12 point, so not particularly cheap for pub grub, but then this isn’t your average pub grub. Ingredients are second to none in terms of quality, and the dishes are a cut above scampi and chips (although if Bon Vivant did do scampi and chips, I bet it would be dead good).
Robin has white asparagus & summer black truffle tagliatelle with a sun-blushed tomato and pea shoot salad, being the quite perfect summery plate of food. M is slightly disappointed with her gnocchi, having not noticed it was made of polenta. It’s a bit of a mis-step from the chef, as the gnocchi is crisp fried and rather dry and brittle, but the bocconcini and basil salad manages to perk the dish up a bit.
I’m pretty pleased with my pan fried black bream with squat lobster, surf clam and mussel bisque. Although the fish itself has a slightly muddy flavour, and some greenery such as samphire would go perfectly on the plate, the bisque itself is a fishy delight with plenty of clams and mussels bobbing about with a few new potatoes on the go also. Could have done with a finger bowl after sucking the meat from the lobster shells, however, though I dare say one would be provided on asking.
For desserts, it’s back to the bites menu. M and I choose a couple of crackers, strawberry shortcake with chantilly cream plus a white chocolate mousse with orange blossom ice cream. At just £2.50 for these little stunners, that is tremendous value.
The (homemade, I presume) shortcake is perfect with strawberries and cream but still overshadowed by the mousse with ice cream, served in brandy snap casing. I’ve never had orange ice cream before, and find it must now be my favourite dessert in the world. Every restaurant I visit for the rest of this summer, I shall be demanding they give me orange blossom ice cream. Wonderfully zingy and zesty flavours seal the deal on a pretty great lunch and, good as the mains were (portion size and all), it’s the bites that make Bon Vivant the perfect city centre pub and hang-out.