Bueno… magnifico… estupendo… Just some of the words Stewart McRobert would use to describe his meal at the Stockbridge eatery.
Merienda, the restaurant operated by chef Campbell Mickel in Edinburgh’s Stockbridge is based on the principle of ‘small plate’ food that’s common in the Mediterranean.
It seems apt, then, to describe its high standards in words that visitors from that part of the world would readily understand.
Campbell, whose career began back in the 1980s, runs the restaurant with equally acclaimed chef, Robert Probert. The idea for Merienda was inspired by Campbell’s Filipino wife and regular visits to her home country.
But there’s a crucial difference between this establishment and the proliferation of restaurants that specialise in ‘tapas’ – here, the style may be Mediterranean but the focus is firmly on fresh Scottish ingredients.
The restaurant has been open since the summer of 2018 and Campbell has been quick to establish strong relationships with artisanal producers across the country. And he believes his approach gives diners the chance to sample the breadth of outstanding produce Scotland has to offer. “We want to let people have a multitude of taste experiences and the ‘small plate’ style is perfect for that.”
Freshness and seasonality are the Merienda bywords, so much so that every month Campbell and Robert sit down to completely appraise their menu. The aim is to come up with a range of enticing dishes that continually reflect the best of Scotland’s larder.
Of course, it’s easy to make grand claims about your aims and intentions. The proof, as always, is in the quality of the food that you serve up to your customers. I can confirm: Merienda delivers time and again.
On our visit outstanding dish was succeeded by outstanding dish.
To start, we were presented with bresaola and marinated, roasted artichoke hearts as well as the house hummus accompanied with garlic pitta. Put simply, each was a joy. The bresaola was lean and tender, the artichokes soft and subtle and the hummus rich and rewarding.
We went slightly off menu when Robert presented us with samples of pissaladiére, a sumptuous onion tart/pizza that originates from his childhood home town of Nice.
The delights kept coming: from cucumber and lime cannelloni of salmon mousse with a carbon citrus vinaigrette to veal loin with golden oyster mushroom and garlic croute, and candied lemon and black olive chicken with plum tomatoes.
Each was impeccable and it was hard to pick a favourite. However, Campbell was especially proud of the Tobermory oak smoked trout, scorched cucumber and gel with a spiced creme fraiche and it was easy to see why. It was a thick slice of buttery trout that we devoured in seconds. (Main picture above).
To finish, we chose tarte tatin with cinnamon scented sauce anglaise and a rhubarb pavlova that contained an ideal balance of sweet meringue and sharp fruit.
It was notable throughout that great care had been taken to make sure every dish looked as impressive as it tasted. “You eat with your eyes,” said Campbell.
As a very satisfactory evening came to an end, there was only one thing to say: extraordinario.
Merienda. 30 North West Circus Place, Edinburgh.