18th February 2015 6pm
This lovely, quirky restaurant is situated in Newington where Metropole used to live and is the sister restaurant to Three Birds in Bruntsfield. The place is filled with rustic tables and booths with twinkly fairy lights and candles. It still has a bit of the French feel that the Metropole had but is way ahead of the game when it comes to the food.
We had been to the Apiary once before but from time to time they offer ‘tester days’, where diners get 50% off their food bill in return for feedback on the dishes they are trialling to go onto Apiary’s normal menu. We decided to go on a tester day to see what it was all about.
On arrival we were shown to a booth, which was great. Even though these booths can seat four, it’s nice to share one between two. I think we got this as we had made an early booking because the place was pretty packed. The French waitress explained how the tester menu worked. It was all very clear as all the red items on the menu were the ones that were discounted. Looking at the menu almost all the items were red, which was a pleasant surprise. To be honest there were tons of dishes we wanted to try, so much so that we were to-ing and fro-ing between what to have. There were also gluten-free options available if you require it. Eventually I plumped for the chicken hearts to start which were covered in honey and smoked paprika and came with gin smoked cherry tomatoes and garlic toast. I followed this with maple and soy glazed breast of duck, sauteed pak choi, wild mushrooms and a ginger and spring onion sticky rice cake. My dining companion had a rabbit, root vegetable and confit duck terrine with homemade pickles and chutney. She followed this with a baked lime and coconut chicken supreme with steamed herb rice, asian vegetables and spicy coconut cream sauce.
When the starters arrived we were offered extra bread and were told the cost (which was nice because they were being upfront). It was a steal at £1 so we said yes, mainly to go with the terrine. It was a few pieces artisan bread which was accompanied with oil and butter and worked really well with the starters. My starter of chicken hearts was full of flavour. I do like offal but had never tried heart before. My best description is a cross between liver and kidney but I know that this will not to be to everyone’s taste. The honey brought the dish together and the paprika was noticeable but not overpowering. The offal was cooked to perfection and had a soft texture, nowhere near the rubbery school dinner texture some people might expect. The gin soaked tomatoes were a delight. The only comment I made to the waitress in my feedback, apart from how delicious it was, was that the tomatoes might taste better nearer room temperature rather than chilled as the coldness jarred a bit with the rest of the dish. That was me really nit-picking though. On the other side of the table, the terrine looked beautiful. The layers were distinct without it all falling apart. My dining companion is not normally a fan of chutney but devoured the lot. It was a successful dish.
Now, onto the mains. Wow. The maple and soy worked a treat on the duck. It also managed to rejuvenate what I often feel can be a dull, soggy, pak choi to something I couldn’t get enough of. The duck itself was just on the pink side, which is just how I wanted it. The sticky rice cake was just that. Its flavours complemented the glaze well and there was no clash or fight over the dominant taste. The mushrooms were also tasty but might have worked better if they were incorporated into the sauce. Again, that is really stretching to find some constructive feedback for the staff, apart from saying it was amazing. My friend was tucking into the chicken and was pleased that extra lime was supplied as she liked the option to increase the flavour. The asian vegetables weren’t particularly asian but tasted nice nevertheless. Again, the food was really enjoyed.
We decided that we could just squeeze in a dessert, so I opted for the chocolate and amaretto tart with ganache and orange crème fraiche. The portion size was perfect and the casing of the tart was not too hard or dry. The orange crème fraiche was fresher than cream or custard and meant the dish was lifted and lightened. I think this was a good, solid dessert. My dining partner had opted for the drunken pineapple mess, which was charred roasted pineapple, meringue, rum cream and coconut sorbet. This was loved and adored. The alcohol could be tasted but this was deemed a good thing and therefore not overpowering. The whole dessert was quickly demolished.
We had been asked for our comments at the end of each course and the staff seemed really interested in what we had to say, whether it be positive or negative. We were never made to feel as if a negative comment would be a problem, which is good, because I think the whole point of a tester day is to get genuine comments to create the best menu they possibly can. We had a delightful meal and we will certainly be back again.
Food – 9.5/10
Service – 10/10
Atmosphere – 10/10
Value – 9/10 (although 10/10 on a tester day)
Overall – 38.5/10