There are lots of places to eat out in Edinburgh, but it’s always great to find one right on your doorstep. The Piecebox in Polwarth has been an excellent daytime venue for some time now. Recently it reintroduced evening opening – so we had to try it.
On a cold and wintry Saturday night it was lovely to be welcomed by glowing candles and soft lighting – indeed, the cafe had been transformed from its usual bright and lively self to a warm and peaceful bistro, with flowers, gentle music and room to breathe. We were welcomed to our table by Wendy McKenzie, who ran the whole evening perfectly – and apparently single-handedly, though I now know that the wonderful chef, Duncan, was toiling away in the kitchen. Wendy and her partner Scott (who’s the business manager – ‘he can’t cook’) started the Piecebox four years ago, and have now built up a strong customer base in the area. Wendy had always been a keen amateur chef, but she’d never run a catering business before – it was, she says, ‘a steep learning curve’; Saturday night’s dinner certainly proved how much she’s learned.
The menu offers a choice of ‘Boards’, ‘Bowls’, ‘Bites’ and ‘Wee Bites’; all of them sounded delicious, but we eventually chose to start with Mixed Olives, Home Made Bread with Dips and Mini Crab cakes. The olives were served warm, which I have never encountered before – a brilliant idea which really brought out the taste. The bread and crispbreads were a very good complement to the dips, one creamy and one spicy, and the crab cakes were absolutely packed with tasty fish.
My next course was Cod Fillet with Turmeric, Ginger and Caramalised Cauliflower puree – yes cauliflower, which is fast becoming the legume du jour among the gastronomati – and let me tell you, it was scrumptious, as was the cod itself – cooked just to perfection, which is some mean feat in a restaurant kitchen. My companions had Open Minced Lamb Kebab and Venison Haunch with Chimmi Churri Sauce; both got five stars from the consumers. We also shared some very more-ish home-made chips and ‘kimchi’, which is a Korean vegetable dish – I didn’t try it myself as I believe it’s quite hot, but those who did said they enjoyed it!
Puddings – well, only one of us was up for that, and surprisingly it wasn’t me…..sticky toffee pudding with caramel ice cream was pronounced ‘outstanding’ by the person who somehow managed to fit it in.
It’s rare to find somewhere combining such exquisite food with such good service and such relaxing and comfortable surroundings. And for those of you who think Polwarth’s miles away, it isn’t – it’s just a 10 minute walk from Tollcross, and the 27 and 10 buses pass the door. Wendy still has lots of plans for the Piecebox – she hopes to introduce themed evenings , maybe with guest chefs and music, and she’s about to relaunch the cafe’s outside catering, events and cake business. In the next few months a new website will be appearing, and the cafe itself will also be having a bit of a makeover. Go there during the day to see just how good they are at cake. Wear loose trousers.
The Piecebox is at 2 Polwarth Crescent, tel: 0131 629 6284; it is open for evening meals on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays only (open all day every day until 5 – 5.30 at weekends – for breakfasts, lunches and all those stickies…) and is fully licensed. Our bill for three ‘bites’, three ‘boards’, two ‘wee sides’, one bottle of wine, one soft drink and one pot of tea came to about £65 – this included a 15% discount, which is available on all evening bookings in February – so you still have a few days! Even at full price we felt that the meal would have been very good value.
When I first moved to rural Scotland many years ago, I was totally bemused when people talked about ‘fine pieces’. The Piecebox may have started out offering something to eat with your elevenses – and of course it still does, brilliantly, every morning – but it’s now also putting itself on the map as a fine place for dinner in EH11.