The Palmerston, Edinburgh
The Palmerston showcases great Scottish ingredients, but it's the bakery that steals a lot of the limelight
In the classic Simpsons episode Krusty Gets Kancelled, the whole town becomes entranced by the arrival of a ventriloquist’s dummy named Gabbo, but all they have to go on initially is the name. Gabbo! Gabbo! GABBO! The Edinburgh food equivalent in recent months has been The Palmerston, the new venture from chefs James Snowdon and Lloyd Morse. The Palmerston! It’s a restaurant! And a bakery! The Palmerston! There’s a bar! They seem to be decorating, must be opening soon! The Palmerston! Where is it again, oh Palmerston Place, that makes sense!
Having visited on the opening weekend, our report is that The Palmerston has largely been worth the hype. The good bits are very very good, led by everything coming out of the restaurant’s in-house bakery. The bread is light, bouncy and flavourful, and the good news is there’s plenty of it going around. The aubergine, goat’s curd and dukkah (£7) comes on a toasted slice, smeared with creamy cheese and topped with extremely soft, mellow aubergine. Throw in some lemon thyme flowers and seeds and you have an extremely tasty and surprisingly approachable bit of food. The grilled sardines (£6.50) do not feature any bread, but they are accompanied by a zesty, punchy blob of romesco. It’s a simple dish but it’s super effective, highlighting really good ingredients and letting you loose on them with a knife, a fork and a 'good luck'.
Throughout, The Palmerston treads the fine line between simple and clinical, uncluttered and overly pared-back. The decor is cool but restrained, all teals and tiles and dark wood. The uniformly lovely staff have lovely uniforms; big canvas aprons on the front, T-shirts with illustrated ducks on the back. We spend a good few minutes focusing on a particularly appealing steak knife; salvaged antique blade, nicely weighted and seemingly-refurbished handle.
When we’re done playing with the cutlery, it goes to work on a plate of roast venison (£20) with white beans and braised chard. It’s brilliantly juicy and tender, and accompanied by some incredibly savoury and meaty veg, but it might have fallen a touch short had it not been for a late intervention from more of that bread. As we’re finishing up, some sourdough ends are brought forth for mopping up, and we’re in business – the business of devouring every single bit of this meal without resorting to licking the plate.
The fish stew (£21) is one example of the approach not quite working – maybe it’s just our palate, but while everything feels very fresh and lovingly-made, there’s just a little spark missing. Or maybe there’s too much spark; there’s an impressive range of sea life jostling for attention in a small pool of broth, with the resultant flavour clashes growing stronger by the moment. The bakery comes good once again to round things off, with a brilliant raspberry and almond tart (£6). Gooey frangipane, sharp berries, a crust so short and crisp that cutting into it creates a snap you can hear over a passing tram – you love to see it.
All in all, The Palmerston is a success, but a qualified one. It’s early days (we visited on their second-ever day of service, and their third day was rained off by a leak in the kitchen) so some growing pains are to be expected, but the high points are excellent. That said, you quite literally pay the price for those great moments – our lunch for two topped the £75 mark, which might give you cause for pause. As a showcase of local ingredients, The Palmerston sets a high bar, and if everything can reach the heights of that loaf of bread, this place could become very special indeed.
The Palmerston, 1 Palmerston Pl, Edinburgh, EH12 5AF; bakery open Tue-Sun from 9am, kitchen open for lunch 12-2.30pm Wed-Sat and 12-3.30pm Sun, dinner 6-9.45pm Tue-Sun