Simplicity is key at Le Bistrot de l'Institut francais d'Ecosse

French Connection

Back to (French) basics: excellent quality food in understated setting at Edinburgh’s Institut français

If you look carefully there’s now a menu attached to the railings of the French Institute, just off Queensferry Road. Walking down slightly scruffy, institute-yellow stairs to the basement feels like heading to a school canteen, and inside Le Bistrot’s décor is limited to French film posters, reclaimed armchairs and small tables pasted over with pages from Le Figaro. Yet it manages to feel entirely French, and, somehow, cool in an hidden secret way.

It offers simple, classic dishes in perfectly accented French, including rich fish soup with roille and croutons, or specials like juicy, slow cooked guinea fowl. There are simple snacks of sardines with shallots, or bread and cheese platters, while eating a flaky croissant in the romantically tousled garden is the stuff of movies.

Run by the team behind L’escargot restaurants, with the same suppliers including Au Gourmand bread and pastries, basic quality is high. With chef Romu doing all the cooking and serving, the food is simple of necessity, but also from a belief that complicated doesn’t always mean better.

Average price for a two-course meal: £12.50 (lunch)