Maison Bleue Le Bistrot – Parisian restaurant in Edinburgh
Sometimes I just know from the first 10 minutes of being in a restaurant that it’s going to be on my featured list. I knew from the first moment I spooned a Shetland mussel out of the still warm starter dish, soaking in a white wine garlic sauce, into my non-mussel liking mouth, and realised that I loved it. There’s not much you can do with mussels – at least that’s what I’ve always thought. It’s a thing in a shell, and every time I’ve tried it in a restaurant it has tasted like boiled, tasteless, rubbery ear cartilage. How can anyone transform that? Yet when I put it in my mouth all I can describe is that I tasted heaven.
It was pillowy, juicy, tasted like it had not just fused with the sauce but like it had grown in it. It was silky, glided in my mouth, burst with flavour. Had an incredible aftertaste, made my belly warm, discover a new sensation I did not think possible. I wholeheartedly believe, having been in Shetland myself and trying the fresh fish there, that this most Northerly point of Scotland has the best fish. (They boast plenty of awards to back up this statement, if you don’t want to rely on just my opinion.) But I imagine that even the best fish can be ruined if the chef doesn’t know what to do with it. Here was a chef, and a recipe which did. And for the first time I not only felt like I was having an amazing meal, but that I was experiencing something created out of respect for its ingredients.
Although it is a Parisian restaurant/cafe, the dishes are a concoction of international influences: French, North African, Creole, Vietnamese together with a ‘Scottish twist’. Despite how crazy that sounds, the food is simply this – amazingly fresh expertly-cooked food. While some dishes are extravagant and inspired, there are no random and outrageous things on your plate like ox eye or a bat’s tail, and the portions are wonderful.
So, what followed after only continued to impress. The chicken was silky, juicy. The lamb was a marshmallow which the knife glided into – meaty, tender, and had a sweeter taste than its usual bitterness. The haggis balls battered in beer, over a cushion of plump creamy potato, was to die for. There was a sweet sauce glazed over it, which made the combination of tastes explode in my mouth. Every plate brought before me was at such a high quality I felt like I was at a food tasting, and that was especially impressive in contrast to its calm, sultry and jazzy atmosphere.
Despite it having striking, trendy decor, with neon signs on the wall and display units lit up in a glow, it felt inviting as well as relaxing. Rather than making us feel stiff, the atmosphere made us feel like we were safely away from the outside world and could finally be ourselves. The French jazz played softly in the background, a group of older women talked contentedly at a long table, near a handful of couples around. As it darkened outside, the main lights dimmed also, and little tea candles were set aflame in vintage, Parisian looking teacups. The waiters were well dressed, polite and accommodating but were also down to earth and super friendly. They weren’t always in your face, seeming to purposely want us to embrace being in our own bubbles.
Laurence and I were there to celebrate his birthday and thus were dressed quite formal, but I got the feeling that even if Laurence and I had come for simple warm refuge after a nice walk, we would have felt the same blanket cosy feeling with the same politeness and respect. And that’s what I ultimately loved about it.
Putting together amazing food, striking decor, and high class warmhearted service makes this one of my favourite restaurants in Edinburgh. Sometimes, when it’s good, it’s just good, and the only way to find out is to go yourself. My only happiness is that after the wonderful evening I had, I found out there are two other Maison Bleue restaurants to visit in Edinburgh – one of which gives 100% of its profits to charity. Amazing.
Check out their website for more information, and to book your table. 😉