One of Edinburghâ€™s newest restaurants pays homage to a literary giant who briefly lived in the city â€“ the author of Wind in the Willows.
The themes of Kenneth Grahameâ€™s books start with the name â€“ Badger & Co. â€“ and continue through the artwork, private dining area and lend inspiration to the cocktail list, with the likes of Pimms in the Willows, Picnic on the Banks and Badgerâ€™s Burrow.
Open just a matter of a few months, this Castle Street burrow wonâ€™t be a hidden secret for long â€“ already news of the quirky bar on one side and restaurant on the other is spreading among the city dwellers and legions of visitors.
At this time of year, the few pavement tables outside, cordoned off with a fake hedge, will be stowed out, however I would urge a visit indoors to soak up the stylish vintage decor; blending the old with the contemporary, such as the faux antique radiators and beautiful cornices brought to life with a lick of fresh paint making an ideal backdrop to the vivid blue leather chairs and neon Badger & Co. sign. Photos of badgers, toads and other river dwelling creatures populate the walls and a painted riverbank scene has been created downstairs on a wall in an outdoor covered eating space.
Itâ€™s all very quirky and will appeal to a wide range of tastes. My 13 year-old daughter was certainly taken by the design, although the food was a little out of the normal price range for her and her friends with a pocket money allowance.
A two-course lunch is Â£10 and 3 courses Â£13, however we chose from the a la carte menu. At first my daughter declared: â€œI donâ€™t know what half the stuff is!â€ with more unusual ingredients making their way into the offering â€“ Chimichurri sauce on the duck heart skewers and Finnan Haddie pie, for example. However, she soon found familiar ground (thanks to Lidl introducing more unusual foodstuffs to our larder) and ordered the wild sautÃ©ed mushrooms on toasted brioche, roast garlic and chervil butter. It was demolished within minutes. It didnâ€™t take me much longer to devour the Smoked Borders Chicken and Avocado Croquettes with watercress, chilli and lime mayo â€“ light, tantalising and a nice little warm-up to the main event.
Badger & Co. is big on pies â€“ and the pies are huge, certainly for a teenaged appetite â€“ she managed around half of the Borders Chicken and Leek Pie, with a creamy leak and tarragon sauce and a deliciously flaky puff pastry lid. Our excellent server informed us that her friend also struggled to finish one of their pies, and heâ€™s a full-grown athletic type. The side of triple-cooked beef-dripping chips was in hindsight excessive, so watch how much you order here.
My Chermoula and Almond Baked Hake with quinoa tabbouleh and saffron yoghurt (â€œisnâ€™t saffron really expensive?â€ my daughter quizzed) left me comfortably full and feeling like I could polish my healthy eating halo.
Neither of us could manage a dessert, although we contemplated the cheese selection, banoffee crumble, elderflower jelly, poached pears and vanilla ice cream, and chocolate orange cheesecake for quite some time, imagining what we would devour, if we had had the room.
Instead, a large cup of frothy coffee rounded of the meal.
With a frequently changing menu, much local sourcing and heaps of creativity, Badge & Co. is the sort of place Iâ€™ll return to regularly â€“ for coffee, lunch and cocktails (without daughter in tow). There is a great buzz being created around our furry friends and there seems to be room enough for another quirky restaurant in the cityâ€™s foodie landscape.
Prices: starters:Â Â£5-8; mains: Â£8.50-16.50; desserts: Â£6-8.
Bader & Co. 32 Castle Street, Edinburgh, EH2 3HT. Tel. 0131 226 5430
Photographs courtesy of Elise Stewart