The Shore Bar & Restaurant
Shore and steady
New owners have brought renewed dignity and culinary assurance to a much-loved Leith venue, finds Donald Reid
Leith is one of those hologramatic places that’s both new and old at the same time, depending on which particular angle catches your eye. Weathered sandstone or flash flats, docking cranes or design studios, venerable eating spots and new Michelin stars. Of the numerous lived-in dining institutions, both the Shore and the Waterfront have a newness to them these days. Like the Waterfront (now A Room in Leith), the Shore has new owners expanding their small empires from elsewhere in town, though in the case of the latter the new proprietors are immediate neighbours Fishers, in one of those takeovers which makes you realise how some restaurants both respect and covet their rivals.
The Shore has one of Edinburgh’s most appealing old interiors, the separate bar and restaurant areas both featuring extensive dark wood paneling, huge mirrors and worn brass fittings. In the changeover nothing much more radical than a clean and polish has occurred, and the place proceeds with an air of dignity and ease with waiters in pressed white aprons gliding by and music (sometimes live) drifting through from the bar.
More significant are the changes to the menu: seafood hasn’t been purged entirely but, with Fishers next door, what’s now in place is a grown-up, French-slanted bar-bistro menu fronted up by ‘Shore Specialities’, which serve a similar role to ‘Fishers Favourites’ in the sister restaurants. On this list are dishes such as brown onion soup with gruyere crouton, oysters cold and hot, ham hash cakes offering an obvious but still uncommon variation on fish cakes, and a large, piping-hot steak and kidney pie made in-house as a pie rather than a dollop of stew with a straw hat.
The same menus are served in the bar and restaurant and, alongside the specialities, the à la carte menu offers slightly more complex yet still assured options: chargrilled fennel with broad bean and pancetta salad cut through by the strong, fresh tang of fresh mint, scallops served with pork belly or lamb shank in juniper jus. Occasionally daunting portions and a heavy hand with the salt detract from what’s mostly a composed, satisfying and eminently reliable dining experience. With ales and a good wine list, it shouldn’t be forgotten that the Shore is also a very pleasant place to drink, if clearly a middle-age comfort zone.
If you turn up or get peckish after 10.30pm when the chefs have left, they’ve the intelligence to keep a late supper dish such as mutton stew or cassoulet available for £5 a bowl up to 12.30am. It’s easy for the bar staff to serve and it’s considerably more civilised than a kebab on the way home. New thinking in an old setting? It’s great to see, but surely it shouldn’t be the preserve of Leith.
3 The Shore, Leith, Edinburgh
0131 553 5080, www.theshore.biz.
Smart dining pub serving confident comfort food.
Average two-course evening meal £17;
two-course lunch £8.95