Great Places to Eat in Scotland
- The Standard, Howe Street, Edinburgh

The Standard

The Location
As long term New Town residents and regular patrons will remember, the site now occupied by the snazzy new bar and bistro, The Standard, was previously the very popular and long established The Laughing Duck. Howe Street is just a five-minute stroll down the hill from George Street in the centre of town. Over recent years it has changed names a couple of times, became an Irish pub, a wine bar called the Howard but then switched back to its original name, The Laughing Duck. Early this year it closed and had a major £2.1 million refurbishment and radical face-lift. Now owned by Billy Lowe the award-winning entrepreneur behind Saltire Taverns, this is a fantastic and lively new place to eat and drink, ideal for locals and visitors in town.

Howe Street is just a five-minute stroll from the corner of George Street and Frederick Street - head towards the landmark building, St. Stephens Church at the foot of the hill and you'll find The Standard on the way.

The Restaurant
The sign above the front door has the word Standard etched in glittering neon upside down. Why? - because this new venture is "turning standards on their head". It's a clever slogan. Although this is a modern bar and restaurant for the 21st century, the interior design takes its lead and style from the original architecture of the building - circa 1850 - complemented with a playful art deco mood along the way.

The Standard It's all very sophisticated, sleek and smooth, from the oh so, polished parquet wood flooring, shiny burgundy leather banquette seating and armchairs stretching the full length of the room, lined up neatly against black square tables. All around are ornate pillars, classical moulded cornicing, mirrors, uplighters, artwork, vintage black and white photographs and tall vases of fresh flowers. In the evening, the light is soft and low with table candles and an easy listening, laid back jazz soundtrack - the music changes tempo and rhythm as the day and night progresses. At the far end of the long elegant room is the long elegant bar with high stools, perfect for an ice cool cocktail - this is such a classy joint that you feel you could be in a trendy, cosmopolitan Soho (New York) hotel bar.

The Food
The Standard While you can soak up the ambience at the Standard with just a drink or two, the food here is so good and reasonable you must pop in for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Yes, it's open from 8am (9am weekends) till 1am so every excuse to come and eat here. Let's start with dinner and work backwards. The flexible menu has been very well thought through, with a real understanding and appreciation of the range of people's appetite and taste. Many dishes come in small or large portions, as a starter or main. Very sensible. Start perhaps with West Coast mussels, steamed in a delicious creamy white wine and garlic soup and served with crusty bread. Ask for the large size with a basket of fries on the side and it turns into a hearty dish of Moules Frites, which I devoured in a few minutes. Alternatively a Caesar Salad - classic, as well as with crayfish or chargrilled chicken. Elsewhere the menu illustrates a clever blend of French bistro dishes alongside gourmet pub comfort food: Standard Burger, Crispy Beer Battered Haddock and fries, Rib Eye and Sirloin steaks, Chicken Pie and Vegetarian lasagne. My dining companion selected the Roast Scottish Salmon Fillet - nothing out of the ordinary there perhaps. It arrived in a large bowl, the fish covered in a crust of olive tapenade, laid on a bed of creamed potatoes and green beans. The verdict? "I could not fault the salmon at all", he declared. I tasted a bite and it was cooked to perfection with mash to die for.

The Head Chef is the very talented Alasdair Ritchie who has created a fabulous, innovative Scottish/French menu and he certainly knows what he is doing in the kitchen. A couple of years ago I raved about his cooking at Melville Castle hotel, near Edinburgh, where he used to work. There, I was equally impressed by the imaginative breakfast dishes as by the superb dinner. So come to the Standard for breakfast, 9am-12 noon weekdays or brunch 9am - 6pm at the weekend. Sample the divine homemade potato scone, topped with goat's cheese, tomato and oatmeal, Smoked Haddock and spring onion fishcakes, Bagel with smoked salmon, Eggs Benedict or the Standard Breakfast - the full Scottish egg and bacon fry up served with freshly squeezed orange juice, coffee - and style. The bar specialises in fruit smoothies such as the Pink Lady, banana, raspberries and cranberry juice. Have one of these with a freshly baked croissant for a healthy start to the day.

At lunch time many of the dinner favourites mentioned above are offered as well as lighter options such as Open Sandwiches, soups and salads. Puddings are treated with great respect with a choice of Baileys bread and butter pudding, chocolate brownie with pistachio ice cream, as well as fine Scottish cheese.

The Bill
Contactthe restaurant for current menu and prices.

I am delighted that The Standard has opened around the corner from where I live in Stockbridge. I shall be visiting regularly. From the moment I walked in I was impressed immediately by the atmosphere, stylish décor and friendly staff. Here you will enjoy exemplary freshly prepared food, excellent wine list (knowledgeable bar staff), comfortable seating and great (quiet) background music so that you can talk to friends. The prices are extremely reasonable for the high quality cuisine. Classy but casual, elegant but informal, it's without doubt a new concept in wining and dining. It's not a typical pub or wine bar, it's not a restaurant with a capital R. The Standard is definitely turning standards on their head.

Vivien Devlin

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