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Saturday, 17 June 2017

Restaurant Review - Mussels & Wine at The Wee Restaurant, Frederick St, Edinburgh

It's not uncommon for myself and Nicola to jump in the car at the weekend and head through to Edinburgh for a day trip. With its mix of Old Town history and New Town grandiose, the capital has enough going on to catch the attention of tourists and locals alike.
That said, when we do visit Edinburgh, we always struggle when it comes to finding somewhere for a light lunch. Don't get me wrong, there are no shortage of restaurant dotted about with national chains and independents offering plenty of options at lunchtime, although most of them are serving up a two or three course set lunch menu at a cost of anything from £10 per head. By the time a glass of wine or beer have been added on, the lunch bill is running at £30. This is all well and good if you're after a big meal but not so good if you just want something light to keep you going before dinner later.
However, when I was sent a press release with news that The Wee Restaurant on Frederick Street would be serving up mussels and wine for two for just £15, I had to check it out. It turns out that this offer will only be running 3-5pm on Saturday afternoons through June and July. So with little time to waste, I started making plans for a return to the capital earlier this month.
The Wee Restaurant is operated by husband and wife team Craig and Vicki who have a working ethos of serving simple good food and wine in a truly relaxing atmosphere. Chef Craig is well regarded by his peers, having been crowned CIS Chef of the Year 2015 and the original Wee Restaurant in North Queensferry has been wowing guests since it opened in 2006.The Edinburgh restaurant opened last year with Craig installing Michael Innes as Head Chef. Craig first met Michael 15 years earlier at Malmaison when Craig was executive chef and Michael was a young commis chef. The appointing of Michael isn't about sentiment though as he is joining from three-Michelin-starred El Celler de Can Roca in Girona, Spain, where he was head of production.
This was our first visit to The Wee Restaurant and we were immediately impressed by the interior of the 40 cover restaurant. Tan leather seats that wouldn't look out of place in a millionaire bachelor pad dominate the floor space before the eye starts to appreciate the high ceilings, ornate mirrors and sanded floors. The interior design goes some way to creating the relaxed atmosphere that Craig and Vicki promise and as we settled at our table, overlooking a rain drenched Frederick Street, we knew that this wouldn't be our last visit to The Wee Restaurant.
Th summer deal promotes 'Mussels & Wine for 2, for £15' and our waiter explained that we had a choice of white, red or rose wine from three specially selected wines. The deal includes a 175ml each although for a surcharge, you can upgrade and have the whole bottle - which is what we done.
The wine list at The Wee Restaurant is extensive and thanks to working with wine distributor L'art Du Vin, there are a range of wines available from producers that you are unlikely to find on the supermarket shelves.
We decided to go for a white wine with our mussels and the Finca Fabian Verdejo that we chose was a great match. The Finca Fabian bodega is located halfway between Madrid and Valencia and uses organic grapes to produce red, white, rosado and even a sparkling espumoso. Our Verdejo was full of citrus and pineapple notes on the nose, with a slightly acidic, green apple taste - a good match to cut through the creamy sauce from our mussels.
As we waited on our mussels to be prepared, we were served a board of homemade bread alongside a small bowl of homemade tapenade. (This is not included in the £15 offer price but I do advise that you order bread, not only so that you can mop up the sauce from your mussels but also because the tapenade is one of the best I've tasted!)
The homemade tapenade is a wonderful blend of black olives, herbs, garlic, mustard, capers, lemon, thyme, rapeseed oil and rich Orodeal Extra Virgin Olive Oil and is usually served as an appetiser at both restaurants. If you like olives then you'll love this tapenade, in fact it's so good that even Nicola (who doesn't eat black olives) was massively impressed by it.
I half expected the Summer Mussels & Wine offer to be served as a big sharing bucket like you see in Belgium but The Wee Restaurant is a classy affair and it transpired that we would each receive a bowl of mussels. This was great news as we could now try out both of the flavoured sauces that the kitchen serve with their Shetland mussels.
One of Craig's trademarks is his Shetland Mussels with bacon, fresh basil, pine nuts and Parmesan cream which he created 11 years ago and has been serving up every day since.
I could go nuts with superlatives when describing this dish but I'll stop short by simply saying wow! The balance of flavours from the salty bacon, to the delicate basil fragrance and the creamy Parmesan sauce were all a joy, and a wonderful accompaniment to the plump, meaty Shetland mussels. The pine nuts gave a nice earthiness whilst a garnish of fresh garden peas and red onion added another layer of flavour and some much needed texture.
Our other bowl of molluscs was a more classic Mariniére style with garlic, white wine and parsley working well with the meaty Shetland mussels.
As I mentioned earlier, it would be a wise choice to order bread because once you've worked your way through the generous serving of mussels, there is still plenty of delicious sauce left in the bowl for dipping.
So, did The Wee Restaurant serve up simple good food in a relaxing atmosphere? Absolutely! The food was delicious, the restaurant is cosy and intimate, the service was attentive and the value for money was fantastic. This was a great way to spend an hour over a late lunch and certainly the type of lunchtime offer that ticks my boxes and if we can get through to Edinburgh again before this offer ends, we'll be tucking in to more Shetland mussels at the The Wee Restaurant.
I would like to thank the staff and management for inviting us in to try this Summer deal and although our mussels and wine were complimentary, my review above is an honest account of our visit.
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