Lady Libertine - away from the numbers
Lady Libertine is an Edinburgh Bar that is part of the Bon Vivant Group. The eponymous bar launched in 2008 and was followed by The Bon Vivant’s Companion (2011), The Devil’s Advocate (2013), El Cartel (2014), Lady Libertine (2018) and Luckenbooth’s (2021).
What distinguishes these bars is that they are homegrown and premium in terms of food, drink, environment, and service. A clutch of independent bars is an operational challenge especially as chains take over the city but these venues stand their ground.
Lady Libertine is the bar I am least familiar with but instantly fall for its city-centre Mad Men feel. In that theme, I can’t see past a martini and LL’s comprises Roku Gin, Plymouth Navy Gin, Cocchi Americano, served in a dinky Nick n Nora; its siren call will see me back.
Simone joins me in the bar and it’s time to order food, Mushroom Arancini and Burrata in Romesco sauce. Both are exemplary. Fungi combined with moreish moist rice is topped with creamy mushroom ketchup. Meantime the milky cheese dissolves into a punchy burnt orange-colored sauce. Scorched focaccia is present for delicious purposes.
This is an Autumn menu so our meal is punctuated with fungi, berries, nuts, gentle spices, and earthy root veg.
I have the ultimate dark night comfort food Baharat Ox Cheek on softly stirred polenta. It’s hearty but I eat it all because it’s irresistible. Across the table is Prawn Saganaki (a Greek fried cheese dish) served with crispy potato, marinated feta, and gremolata. Simone likes the sour notes in this dish and we both comment that the spice in our mains complement rather than overpower the star ingredients.
Deciding which pudding ‘wins’ is impossible. Usually, I would bet on my Pistachio Meringue with its mop top of tumbling forest fruits in a thick Tonka Bean custard but Simone’s Chocolate Ganache Tart over-delivers. It has an inch-thick layer of gooey mousse, crystallized hazelnuts, and a crispy fruity biscuity base. Total draw.
Service is impeccable; our waitress makes looking after the whole bar by herself a breeze and she does it with charm to boot.
Lady Libertine is a sophisticated bolt-hole that draws on Mediterranean cuisine to present dishes that are consistently pitch-perfect.
They are serving their festive menu from November 27 and I would put good money on it being superior to many other ‘festive fayre’ in the city.