The Bon Vivant (Edinburgh)

Location: Edinburgh, Scotland
Address: 55 Thistle Street
Website: http://www.bonvivantedinburgh.co.uk/
Type of Meal: Dinner


Located on a small street, The Bon Vivant is a restaurant you may miss unless you know the look for it down the cobblestone laneway.  Inside the restaurant, the dining room is much larger than expected but still small enough to provide a cozy intimate feeling. With dim lighting, candlelit wine bottles and tables placed in cozy nooks this is a great date place.


The first portion of the menu offers appetizers in "bite" or "starter" portions.  The bites are for £1 each while starters range from £3 - £5.  In reality, the pricing makes no difference as the starters are just a multiple of the bites - those £3 contain 3 pieces while £4 dishes contain 4 pieces. We ordered a few starters to share amongst our table of four.   

First up were the vegetable fritters (£3) which had a great golden brown colour.  The crust was outstanding with a crispy texture without being overly hard.  The inside consisted of shredded carrots,   zucchini and salsify (?) which in itself are not strong flavours but offered some nice contrasting colours. I found the batter to be a bit lumpy - it wasn't unpleasant just unexpected. A spinach pesto topped the fritters giving it a bit more flavour. Not a bad start and a favourite amongst the table. 


My favourite tapa dish was the steak and peanut meatballs (£4) which had such a rich flavour to it.  The Bon Vivant used steak cuts of meat as the base providing a much beefier essence while still being relatively lean. The peanuts sounded like a weird ingredient but were subtle and appeared to be ground into the meat with just some small soft bits throughout.  The tomato sauce was great flavourful sauce that's a mix between marinara and gravy, nice and mellow and not too acidic.

The chorizo in cider (£4) was not my favourite, but then again I never really liked this sausage.  It’s much milder in flavour likely due to it being boiled in the cider.  The sauce was a nice mix of briny tanginess and good for dipping the bread into. Strangely, they only provided us with two wedges of bread despite there being four of us and the appetizer portion equivalent to four "bites".  It would have been nice if there was enough for one per person.  

My main was good but not my favourite.  Wanting to try something different, I opted for the seared hare loin and bridie (the leg of the hare)(£16.50).  The dish was quite a substantial portion despite the small size of the hare and the meat very tender.  The meat has a gamey flavour and is sort of like duck but stronger.  

Normally, I would have been enjoyed the dish but the accompanying ingredients, sweet potato mash and salsify, were just too sweet and similar for my taste.  Additionally the sauce consisted of chestnuts jus which also did not contrast the rest of the ingredients.  The only thing that differed was the wood sorrel but these are very light tasting mushrooms so didn't stand out.  If only there was something else - a vinegary or savoury sauce or a fresher vegetable I would have liked it much more. The empanada like pastry on top was a bit unexpected but was good with its flakey crust.  The filling, I believe was the bridie, could have been flavoured more as was sort of bland.

Without a doubt, the best dish of the night was the haggis (£9.50) which actually looked appetizing. Seriously, travel shows have done this dish injustice by showing it served in the stomach, The Bon Vivant serves theirs in a formed shape on the plate and actually looks nice.  The texture was thick and smooth but still had some pieces with bite to it.  I found it to taste like a thicker sheppard's pie mixture with richer flavours.  It didn't taste like offal at all and was actually delicious. The accompanying gratin dauphinois (scalloped potatoes) were amazing and rich, just the right consistency (soft throughout but still a bit a bite in the potatoes) and had a hint of horseradish in it that gave it a wonderful zing. The roast neeps (turnips) and leafy greens were a bit plain but I think that's necessary when the rest of the dish is already so heavy and flavourful.

We also ordered a side of triple cooked hand cut chips (£3) for the table that were some of the best fries I've had.  I’ll admit, I’m a bit of a fry connoisseur and have tried many throughout Toronto.  Up until now, I thought I like the thinner fries (my favourite being the ones served at Beer Bistro and One) and generally detested the thick and filling wedges.  My perception has changed as the ones in Scotland were still light and crumbly yet had such a great crunch and rich potato flavour to it.  Something about their potatoes are amazing, the flavour so pronounce without even using the skin.  In Canada, we often only get the strong potato taste if the skin is left on the spud, but the skin also leaves a metallic zing to it.  In Scotland, their chips have such a lovely essence without needing the skin. The Bon Vivant’s chips were simply salted and arrived burning hot … I couldn’t stop eating them because they were so delicious.

Being voted as one of the top bars in Edinburgh, they also offer are a variety of beers and wine at reasonable prices - approximately £6/glass for wine and £3.50/pint for beer. 
What made Bon Vivant outstanding was their service.  Everyone was welcoming and attentive right from the beginning. Knowing we were tourists, our waiter took the time to explain what ingredients were as many were named differently - "swede" for turnips and "tatties" for potatoes.  Another employee, Kyle, also took the time to offer pub and attraction suggestions even plotting it on a map for us.  Given this was our first meal in Scotland we had a great welcoming experience into the country – thank you to the Bon Vivant for showing us the “good life”.
Overall mark - 8 out of 10



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____________________________
Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • 6 - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
  • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
  • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!

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