Eat - Bijou
Big in the ‘burbs
Newcomer Bijou is a small but welcome patch of green within one of the capital’s dining deserts
In the previous issue of The List we announced this year’s Eating & Drinking Guide Awards. One of the places we looked at long and hard this time round when judging the hotly contested Newcomer of the Year category was Bijou, located on the fringes of Leith Links in Edinburgh.
In contrast to the ultimate winner, Abstract, the atmosphere in Bijou is low-key, the fittings are low-budget and the dishes are of a style and standard you find in decent bistros elsewhere. Yet Bijou is a bit of a pioneer all the same. It has set out to prove that good, modern food deserves a place - however modest - in even the most unlikely corners of our cities.
Previously, 2 Restalrig Road on the edge of Leith Links had been a newsagent and a barber’s shop. There’s a pub across the road, but this is one of Edinburgh’s dining deserts. Behind Bijou’s big windows there are half a dozen small tables, a couple of stools, a cupboard for a kitchen and a hatch cut in the floor which flaps frequently as staff scuttle up and down to the drink and food store.
It’s open at 7.30am, serving mostly takeaway breakfasts, and last orders on weekdays are at 8.15pm - a touch early, but way better than 5pm for those slouching home from work.
There ain’t much more to it, but Bijou carries a tantalising suggestion that we’re becoming more continental in our attitudes to dining out. On the continent there’s a democracy to decent eating: simple, proper, fresh food is not only the preserve of the rich but is of and for the people. It’s the reason you find unheralded dining gems on the most unlikely of street corners in tiny villages in Spain or France.
In Britain, unlikely street corners have naff caffs, chain pubs and mini-markets - places devoid of simple, proper, fresh food. Bijou may have sausages and mash, chips and bacon butties on the menu but there’s also Cullen skink, eggs Florentine and char-grilled halloumi. The skink is more fish pie than soup - a hint of innovation but basically it’s just easy to eat and tasty.
A pleasantly light yet rich ricotta, spinach and roasted squash tagliatelle or fresh if unremarkable fishcakes offer more of the same. The eight or so dishes are available in three sizes: small (or ‘bijou’ as they’re called here), medium and large: rather than a vast menu to give you options, you’re given portion control. The message is: the food’s good, how much of it do you want?
When decent neighbourhood bistros appear, we instinctively wish them to be in our neighbourhood. Yet Bijou caught our eye as much for where it is as what it is. The restaurant’s own subtitle is ‘A Local Eatery’. Simple but good local eating is a welcome newcomer. More of the same please, Glasgow and Edinburgh.
2 Restalrig Road, Leith Links, Edinburgh
0131 538 0664, bijoubistro.co.uk
Breakfast, takeaway, lunch and dinner menus
Average two-course meal £12. Open 7 days