10th November 2015 6.30pm
The kind folks at Zomato had invited me to a meet up this week at Howies on Victoria Street. Howies has been a staple of Edinburgh for 25 years but don’t think of that as a symbol of them being set in their ways. Howies’ grounding is of a love of good food and locally sourced food at that. The staff and owner’s knowledge of where the food comes from is important to them and is very apparent. Howies’ aim is to offer accessible, good food. They want their restaurants to be open and available for everyone to enjoy, from young to old. They offer BYOB and also have a very reasonably priced lunch menu.
Upon arrival we were offered a cocktail which sadly, as it had prosecco in, I could not drink. However this was not a problem as they whipped me up a non-alcoholic version, which I have to say was still delicious, even without the alcohol. We were introduced to their new winter menu. A nice part of the menu features specials that rotate depending on availability. For example, there is a fish of the day dish which will be whatever the fresh catch is. There is also a casserole, using the best meats available at that time. They also aim to not waste food and use everything available so they end up with a clear kitchen at the end of the night. After a bit of cooing over the menu, I went for pigeon breast to start followed by the lamb casserole. We were provided with bread, olives, humous and tapenade (made freshly on site) to keep us going but it wasn’t too long a wait until the first course was being brought out to us.
The pigeon came warm on a salad with bacon, croutons and a sherry vinegar dressing. The pigeon was delicious; pink and moist. The texture was amazing. The only downside was a couple of pieces of shot, but that’s inevitable. Perhaps it would be good to have a gentle reminder that there may be shot in it, so I would have been a little more tentative when biting into it (luckily no cracked teeth though!). The croutons were plentiful and the bacon’s presence was almost as a dressing rather than a feature, allowing the pigeon to shine. Elsewhere around the table, the mussels seemed to be a hit in particular.
When the mains came out, my casserole smelt wonderful. This was a very hearty meal and a generous portion. The lamb was incredibly tender and falling apart. The carrots and parsnips were tasty and not turned to mush. The herby mash on top was delicious and worked well with the juices of the casserole. Sadly I couldn’t finish it though (I blame the earlier bread; always my downfall). Again, elsewhere around the table the venison seemed very popular, which was nice to see as it had come recommended.
Being full meant I was unable to embrace a full on dessert. Whilst the banoffee pie was highly recommended, I could only muster a sorbet. I had a choice of 3 flavours; blackcurrant, orange and lemon. I opted for orange. On arrival it looked a little sad as it was not in scoops or shaved like ice but a bit like hacked hunks. It was very orange in colour and packed a punch and was just right for my full stomach as it glided down the sides. It also worked as a delightful palate cleanser, which I thought was a good way to end the meal. Around the table, the banoffee pie was indeed going down well. There was a bit of bewilderment at an additional charge for custard or cream (which was an option for a couple of desserts), particularly when on arrival it was a very small portion and seemed that it needed to be integral to the dish. Whilst it’s nice that it’s optional, a charge seems a little against the ethos of the place.
All in all, Howie’s is performing solidly. Everyone around the table seemed to enjoy their meals and were enthused by the passion Howies has for food. Just because it is set in Victoria Street, locals should take advantage and not feel it’s just for tourists. There is also another restaurant on Waterloo Place, if you ever wanted to try both. Give it a whirl!
Food – 8/10
Service – 9/10
Atmosphere – 8/10
Value – 8/10
Cost – the meal was complementary but would usually be around £25 for what I ate.
Please note that whilst this meal was complimentary, views expressed are my own. Thanks to Zomato for arranging.