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March 12, 2009

I went out last night to a French restaurant in Edinburgh which is just finding its feet after recently opening its doors. It’s called L’escargot Bleu and it ticks most of the boxes needed for a typical French bistro. From wine served in Paris goblets to strings of garlic hanging by the kitchen, L’escargot Bleu is one place that is definitely not suffering from any sort of identity crisis.

I lived in France for a year and always admired the way in which friends there were absolutely certain that French cooking was the best in the world. Arguing with them was pointless. According to them, Italian cuisine was a pale imitation of French while the diversity of Chinese food was dismissed as frivolous novelty.

They were being deliberately provocative in order to annoy me, their rosbif chum, but, eating out at L’escargot Bleu last night, I could see where they were coming from. It’s not that it was one of the most outstanding meals I’ve ever had. It was good but not jaw-dropping.

Instead what struck me was the sheer enduring appeal of the menu. All the bistro classics were present and correct from moules marinieres to bouillabaisse via steak in a peppercorn sauce.

They were all the sort of dishes that haven’t changed in years because they haven’t needed to. Like every other business, the restaurant scene goes through changing fashions but there is something about simple French bistro dishes that makes them immune to fads.

The following are 5pm members who have more than a whiff of La France about them. Edinburgh is chocka with French restaurants from Café St Honore to Daniel’s via La Garrigue, La Bagatelle, Le Sept, Le Marche Francais and Malmaison.

Glasgow always seems keener on Italian restaurants but French cooking is honourably represented by Brian Maule at Chardon d’Or, La Vallee Blanche and Malmaison again.