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Merienda - Small plates with big flavours
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30 North West Circus Place,,
0131 220 2020

Small plates at Merienda come from an equally small kitchen. This means ingredients are turned around swiftly and seasonally and as I swoon over ox cheek gateau from the ‘Farms and Pastures’ section of the menu Chef Campbell Mickel tells me his team are eagerly anticipating more slow-cooked cuts for winter. 

The ox cheek is a stand out dish from our selection of Mediterranean-inspired tapas. Juicy, sweet, rich and intensely flavoured pulled meat is compressed into a slab that resembles a glazed chocolate brownie cleverly balanced by a side disc of neutral neep fondant. 

The ultimate comfort dish for me though probably remains hot potato with parsnip and truffle air (Gardens and Fields). Authentically Italian this is, at heart, whipped potato with shavings of aromatic Alba truffle no less. Furthermore, said  fungi was gifted by an astounded Portobello gardener who unearthed it and in doing so gave a whole new twist to the term ‘Portobello mushroom’. We knew they must be there all along though didn't we!

Out waitress insists that the sous-vide halibut (Rivers and Seas) with assertive sweet lemon oil, dissolving fennel and creamy broken butter beans is cooked ‘very simply’.  Likewise Campbell is modest about the squid which is meaty but tender. I ask if it too had been cooked in the water bath (which he informs me was invented by the Roux brothers for high end airline cuisine) but apparently it was simply boiled with a lot of lemon. The bed of shredded baby gem is refreshing and garlic has been roasted sweet.

The patatas bravas with Dijon and saffron aioli and tomato sauce exemplify Merienda’s offering; high-end tapas Barcelona style where brushstrokes of fiery scarlet and pipettes of sunny yellow nod as much to Miro and Picasso as modernist cooking. Dishes are colourful and insta-friendly. Campbell is not just a technician though; the humble peasant potato with its traditional earthy delights still occupies centre stage. 

Wines come from L’Art du Vin and a glass of Gaillac Blanc Sec, Chateau Clément-Termes, Gaillac, France 2017 has a voluptuous quaffable roundness but also that mineral backbone to complement the squid and halibut. 

Mr Bite drinks an astoundingly good Marshmallow Milk Stout from Barney’s Beer based at Summerhall.  It too is delicious solo or with his pudding of milk chocolate mousse with orange and gingerbread. 

We have to pass on cheese from Mellis across the road but Merienda is the type of place I could easily pop into for a Celtic cheeseboard and a few glasses of vino. 

Where Barcelona meets Edinburgh though the temptations are many and I doubt I could restrain myself to wine and cheese.  (S. Wilson)

 More reviews of Mediterranean restaurants here

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