Your blogger felt a pang of nostalgia yesterday as I stood outside Blackfriars, a new restaurant and bar on Edinburgh’s Blackfriars Street which sprung into life last week.
The new venture sits in the space which, for years, was occupied by Black Bo’s bar and veggie restaurant.
For much of the Nineties, I was employed by The List magazine which has offices just around the corner. The bar at Black Bo’s was a second home for many of the staff and it was the setting for hundreds of raucous nights. Like many others, I have fond memories of the old place.
Nostalgia apart, Bo’s seemed to stutter to a stop last spring and lay vacant until Georgie Binder and Andrew Macdonald took it over last November and set about refurbishing the premises.
Andrew’s last job was as sous chef at Restaurant Martin Wishart while Georgie used to manage First Coast in Dalry. They opened Blackfriars on the grounds that the top end of Edinburgh’s restaurant market was saturated but they reckoned that there was room for improvement in both the middle market and in terms of bar food.
The result is Blackfriars, a separate bar and restaurant which are linked by a basement passage. Stripped brick walls, candles in jam jars and exposed steel joists give both rooms a utilitarian feel.
The no frills approach carries on to the bar snacks menu which is simple, honest and rather tempting. Pork pies, crackling and Bramley apple sauce, salt cod fritters and spiced beef rolls all leap out.
The restaurant menu is similarly straightforward. Featuring four starters, main courses and desserts, it is reassuringly short. Andrew may not agree but it made me think of the sort of hearty food served by Fergus Henderson in his London restaurants.
Think along the lines of starters such as cured sea trout with lemon oil and shaved fennel or ham hough and split pea soup. A grilled ribeye steak with chips and Bearnaise sauce is a classic main course while others may prefer the John Dory served with clams, smoked tomato and salt lythe fritters.
Desserts include custard doughnuts and a quince and almond tart.