There’s much to love about L’Escargot Bleu. Not least that while the UK was getting on its high, er, horse about the horse meat scandal in 2013, Bleu’s chef patron, Fred Berkmiller, was extolling the virtues of equine meat, and using it in one of his dishes (intentionally, and from a farmer in the south of France, who breeds the animals specifically for eating).
Such is Berkmiller’s genial charm that he could say he was Sweeney Todd, and diners would still come flocking to this convivial French bistro on Edinburgh’s hip Broughton Street. Since opening in the home of a former clockmaker in 2008, L’Escargot Bleu has fitted in nicely among trendy coffee shops, independent booksellers and award-winning butchers. Step through the bright blue door, and you’re met with vintage posters of Edith Piaf and full-sized French liquor ads. Blackboards adorn the walls, scrawled with the day’s specials, which vary from traditional French classics to more surprising dishes from Berkmiller’s childhood. Floor-to-ceiling windows and cosy tables at the front of the restaurant create ample occasion for a cosy tête-à-tête, while the bustle of the open kitchen to the rear adds further to the bohemian Frenchness. Although this is a joyfully Gallic affair, the menu merrily celebrates the chef’s commitment to Scottish produce, and Berkmiller is a fan of name- checking the provenance of dishes – from Borders beetroot to Orkney scallops.
Specials change on a regular basis, but there’s always a delicious slab of homemade terrine on the go, presented with the largest jar of pickles you’re ever likely to see. For mains, it’s difficult to outshine the Linda Dicks chicken dish (think coq au vin, with local beer instead of wine). Those with a sweet tooth would be mad to pass on the richly moreish delight of tarte au chocolat and crème anglaise. Just be sure to leave room for the awesome selection of French cheese – from mighty cheesemaker Hervé Mons, no less.