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Campbell Mickel of Merienda by Kirsty
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Merienda
30 North West Circus Place,
Edinburgh,
EH3 6TP
0131 220 2020
OPENING HOURS Tuesday: 5:30pm – 9.30pm Wednesday – Friday: Noon – 2:30pm & 5:30pm – 9:30pm Saturday: 12 noon – 10pm Sunday: 12 noon – 6pm

Stroll the cobbled streets of North West Circus Place, and you'll come across Merienda. Aka a light meal (if you happen to be in the Mediterranean). Aka the Mediterranean-inspired newcomer on the Stockbridge dining scene. 

The fading afternoon light streams through the eatery's floor-to-ceiling windows, white tables and chairs placed strategically around the relatively small space. The bar area, whisky bottles lining the shelves, leads straight into the kitchen, chefs Campbell Mickel and Robbie Probert (of 21212 fame) visible as they work, Campbell joking with guests between courses.

The menu the pair create is intriguing: constantly revolving small plates – up to 30 at any one time, which change every four weeks and are uniquely designed by Campbell and Robbie.

We caught up with Campbell for his culinary insight … 

The concept: small plates

The genre certainly caught my eye. For me personally, I want to eat small plates: exciting food with a story, textures, flavours. And it's time now for healthier, fresher dishes with less volume and assured provenance. A lot of people prefer to eat light, with interesting flavours. 

Small-plate dining allows you free rein to mix and choose dishes, to create your own tasting menu. We’ve served customers four or five plates between two, while some couples enjoy a degustation menu over several hours and can easily have 18 or 19 plates. You make the rules.

The inspiration: seasonal produce
The menu development is a fluid process. Every day, chef Robbie and I trial items and practice dishes. We're continually talking to suppliers about ingredients for the menu the following month: what's in abundance, what's in season? What are the new techniques and interesting ingredients? We try to keep everything local – and we're always on the lookout for produce.

The wine: Picpoul
For our wine list, we have to choose versatile wines as they are sampled with many different plates. We have nine house wines, which we sell by the glass at 125ml, and we’d like to double this number.

The Picpoul, l’Equilibristes, Languedoc, France 2016, for example, is sourced from a small estate in southern France. Generally, the Mediterranean coastal vineyards prove difficult due to lack of quality and overpricing, so we were lucky to come across this wine. 

The producers purchase a select amount of grapes from which they create terroir-driven, organic cuvées that express a clear identity and sense of place. Florent (the winemaker) steers away from added sulphites and intervention techniques, instead allowing the grapes to define the wine.

[Ed’s note: the wines at Merienda are sourced from L’Art du Vin.]

The dish: parsley risotto, salsify and oyster mushroom 
We're still in the winter season for salsify, a Mediterranean root we can cultivate in Scotland as well. Its roots, however (no pun intended) are in southern Europe, and we wanted to get it onto the menu this year before the season was over. This dish is braised in red wine, vegetable stock, honey, star anise and garlic, and then twice cooked by roasting it off with butter (which gives it a sticky, unctuous glaze and a slight oyster flavour). 

We were looking for something simple to serve it with as we wanted the salsify to be a stand-out item, so we chose a light parsley risotto, which boosts its earthiness without overpowering it. Funnily enough, the other "oyster" we serve in the dish is an oyster mushroom, and they all combine really well. 

The flavour: um … 
That’s like asking, "Who’s your favourite child”! 

That said, one of my favourite flavours right now is our burnt cheesecake with caramel Grand Marnier mandarins, boosted with a little bit of Madagascan fresh vanilla. And it’s not an accident that it’s burnt! The caramelised bark gives the dessert flavour and texture.

The curveball: Campbell’s most unusual ingredient
Quorn. Only joking. 

While I was on holiday in Palawan, I discovered raw sea grapes (a type of seaweed known as green caviar). It tasted of the sea … Sweet, salty. I made an amazing salad with it using tomatoes, mango and a vinaigrette. It was lovely. The flavours were incredibly refreshing. But it’s something we just can’t ever get over here.

Read editor Sharon Wilson’s review of Merienda online here.

K. Lee Wilkins









 

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