We were recently invited to review a new addition to the Stockbridge restaurant scene, Merienda, the Mediterranean inspired restaurant in which diners build their own five or seven-course tasting menu from an extensive list of 30 dishes.
All dishes are created using, where possible, Scottish ingredients. For instance, owner Campbell Mickel, a chef and successful corporate catering business, collects his lobster from local fishermen in North Berwick, while his smoked trout is all supplied by the Tobermory Fish Co.
The first dishes of coriander houmous and pitta bread and sundried tomato focaccia with basil oil were outstanding, as was the plate of 24 month aged Serrano ham. We were certainly off to a good start. Together with the patatas bravas with aioli and rosemary, we were delighted with the Mediterranean selections.
The next few dishes that came from the kitchen were somewhat less Mediterranean; Isle of Mull panna cotta, Lobster cocktail, smoked trout, Waldorf Salad, and barbecued belly of pork.
The Isle of Mull panna cotta was, in itself, good. The strong, sharp cheese was beautifully complemented by the variations of leek on the plate – although we could have done with more than one breadstick. However, the flavour was definitely strong, not exactly Mediterranean and the dishes that followed did not all sit in harmony.
While the lobster cocktail itself was delicious (the tender North Berwick lobster with crisp, crunchy apple was a perfect match), it was exceptionally rich and creamy, and closely followed by Tobermory trout served with a spicy crème fraîche.
We love smoked trout and there is none on the market that we believe to be better than that of the Tobermory Fish Co. So, of course, we were delighted to see this feature on the menu. Instead of being served thinly sliced, Campbell served this as a much thicker cut – and oh my, it was delicious, particularly with the accompaniment of scorched cucumber and cucumber gel. However, after the delicate flavours of both the lobster and the trout, we were disappointed to find that the spicy creme fraiche totally overpowered our palates for some time.
Next arrived the Waldorf salad – and while delicious in its own right, we did wonder why this featured on the menu at all. It felt entirely out of place.
Now, there are few finer things in life than a cold glass of wine and a melt in the mouth, slow-cooked barbecue pork belly, at least in my book. Cooked for over 8 hours, the pork belly was absolutely delicious – soft and packed with barbecue flavour. While the potato salad was also delicious, the plate was crying out for a bit of texture, perhaps a seasonal picked salad or slaw to add some interest.
This restaurant certainly has the potential to be excellent. Together with head chef, Robbie Probert, formerly of Edinburgh’s 21212, Campbell changes the menu every month. While this adds interest, we couldn’t help but feel that sometimes less is more and there are certainly dishes on the menu which may benefit from some tweaking.
While some reviews of this restaurant have been glowing, we left feeling quite happy and content, but not blown away. The food was certainly good, but some elements require further finessing. There was an overabundance of mayonnaise-based or creamy sauces – and featured alongside our smoked trout, lobster and barbeque pork. That being said, the selection of dishes was chosen for us so it may just have been unfortunate that they weren’t as balanced as they could have been, or perhaps as we would have chosen ourselves.
At around £50 per head for seven courses, excluding wine, it’s by no means even close to the most expensive tasting menu in Edinburgh, and the quality is certainly good. However, with an Albariño (which retails for around £16-17 according to Vivino) priced at £44, and a Picpoul at around £41, we felt the prices were a bit steep on the wine front in our opinion. I would note that I haven’t found these exact wines on other restaurant menus, so it is difficult to compare like for like, and they are within the recommended mark up of 3 times the retail price plus VAT. However, we do eat out enough, (and drink enough wine!) to know rough wine prices we would expect to pay in restaurants and there are more competitive wines available that may give them the edge. I would also stress that we ordered and paid for this wine ourselves, and knew the price ahead of ordering – there were no surprises and it was as good as we expected.
All this being said, we were there to enjoy the food – and in the most part, we certainly did. The location is wonderful, and the food could really be excellent, but with only two other tables seated while we were there, there is certainly room for improvement to create an ambience to match the variety on the menu and the epic playlist in the background.
Find them: 30 North West Circus Place, Edinburgh EH3 6TP
*This was a gifted experience, in return for a review. As you can see, a gifted experience does not result in a glowing review – we try to be balanced and impartial at all times and hope this comes across in the blog.