REVIEW : Lady Libertine

The Edinburgh Grand which opened late last year in the old Royal Bank of Scotland premises and the descriptions of splendour, magnificence, impressiveness, resplendence and grandeur are carried throughout the building - the fabulousness is carried over into the steakhouse restaurant Hawksmoor, the exclusive Registry Club and the upscale Lady Libertine.

Lady Libertine is comfortably at home in this building and is spread across 2 floors. There is a cafe and wine bar on the ground floor and a bar and restaurant in the basement. It can comfortably seat 150 covers and is open from 8am to 3am, for breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner and cocktails.

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A few weeks ago, I enjoyed a few cocktails at Lady Libertine in their wine bar which is a cosy wee spot with booth like seats.

We started off with Neglige Rose (£8.50) - Laird’s Apple Brandy, Xeco Amontillado Sherry, grapefruit, strawberry, Whites and soda. Served in a Highball with strawberry dust.

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And then the Danseuse (£8) - Ketel 1, bergamot, vanilla & grapefruit sherbet Coupe served with block ice and a fennel aroma.

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But on this occasion, we were heading downstairs for dinner, passing the private dining area (the walk in safe) and settled on a table at the back. Firstly, you’ll notice that it’s quite dark downstairs and secondly that the diners/guest are a mixed bag. There is a mix of older couples, gentlemen and older ladies drinking cocktails either seated or standing at the bar whilst the younger ladies, draped shoulder to top thigh in silky ‘going out out’ dresses sashey between the restrooms and the DJ/live music booming from beyond the dining area.

Besides people watching, eating food is one of my favourite past-times, so onto the food.

The food at Lady Libertine has a strong Persian, North African and Mediterranean influence and as I read through the menu, I so wanted it all to be fabulous.

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From the Mezze ~ Baba Ganoush (V, VG) £6 : Roast aubergine, basil, walnut and pomegranate.

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A nice enough Baba Ganoush to start. There was an ingredient in this dish that kind of fizzled on my tongue and I became a bit wary of this dish. Overall the dish was good but it just lacked that bounty of layered flavours.

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From the A La Plancha ~ Spiced cauliflower (V, VG) £10 : Sumac, olives, tomato and pine nuts.

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Now this was more like it, this was what I was expecting. The flavours in this cauliflower just built and built. The cauliflower was al dente and served on a warm flatbread. The whole dish is quite earthy but fresh. The olives providing the briney flavour, the sumac the tangy lemon and the pine nuts a mild, sweet nutty taste.

A great combination of flavours that left you wanting more. The flatbread was soft and easily torn off to help shovel all that goodness into your mouth.

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From the Small Plates section, Chicken Merguez Meatballs £8 : Salmorejo, cannellini beans and green onions.

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Tasty morsels of more-ishness. The chicken balls are quite dense but soft and succulent. The salmorejo is a type of puree using tomatoes and traditionally bread and olive oil. It’s the thicker, richer and deeper in flavour to gazpacho and coated the cannellini beans. The spring onions gave it a nice fresh lift.

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Spiced Chips are served with mezze dishes. These are super fine and extra crispy, ideal for scooping up all the goodness off the plates.

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Halloumi fries (V) £6 : Red tahini and smoked paprika.

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I can never see past Halloumi fries. If they are on the menu, they will be ordered. The presentation was a little on the messy side and the coating/batter was patchy and tasteless which I know is a contradiction because halloumi doesn’t taste of much but these were just flat. However, we did eat them - they were halloumi after all.

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From the Large Plates section, Beef shoulder kofta £14 : Plum tomato, aubergine, pistachio and herbs.

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Another dish that hits the presentation and flavour high. The kofta is fairly spicy but well balanced and the yoghurt cools down the heat. The aubergine/baba ganoush type dip was sweet and cool against the spice of the kofta.

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From the Mezze section, Lamb Hummus £6.50 : Pine nuts, zhoug and za’atar.

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Absolutely spot on with this dish. The lamb was gorgeous, well seasoned and tasty, with all that natural fatiness dripping down onto the hummus. The hummus was slightly chunky and the zhoug spice just enough to give it a little kick. The za’atar is quite herby and tart but combined together especially with the deep savouriness of the lamb, make this a superb dish.

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From the Small Plates section, Ox Cheek Fritters £8 : Pickled onions, baby radish and turmeric mustard.

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Loved this dish. The crispy casing they came in, broke away like two halves of shell revealing shredded ox cheek that was so tender and unctuous that you wanted to cry when you’d polished off the 3 fritters. The onions and the radish added a lovely touch of freshness and a peppery zing.

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From the Dessert section, Orange Crème Brûlée £6 : Sumac spiced shortbread.

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Bow down to the Creme Brulee gods - this is sensational. A wee pot of smooth custard creaminess that is neither too sweet or sickly. An absolute 10/10 for the caramelised topping, thin but releasing a beautiful ‘crack’ when tapped with your spoon. Shortbread, delicious.

We had 7 plates of food between us and were slightly embarrassed when the waiter delivered them all to the table at pretty much the same time, but it was so worth it. There were 2 dishes that for me didn’t quite stand up to my expectations (as in they were good dishes but I’ve had better), but I tucked into them all the same.

Overall Lady Libertine is producing some lovely food. Go in for cocktails and end up having a few mezze dishes just to round off your night. The service was fantastic, friendly but not overbearing with the correct amount of check backs and attention to drinks orders.

Lady Libertine, The Edinburgh Grand, 25 W Register St, Edinburgh, EH2 2AA. Tel : 0131 322 1020 www.ladylibertine.co.uk

My Spoon Award : Gold Spoon Award 9/10

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I was invited by Lady Libertine to review their menu.

Food and drink were complimentary but the views are very much my own.