After a long hiatus from dining out, and therefore also from blogging (culprit: the money-gobbling double juggernaut that is Christmas and the January sales, and resultant poverty), I banished the drear and misery of an impecunious January with a trip to seafood purveyor The Mussel Inn. Wedged snugly into a truly impressive line of old man pubs along Rose Street, it’s something of an Edinburgh institution, but owing to an only-recently-quashed aversion to fish, this was just my second visit.
An Inn it may be, but none of the stale carpets, fruit machines or grizzled pint-suppers that characterise the resto’s neighbours were to be found when we arrived. Airily done out with pine tables and a chalkboard menu with jazzy fish mosaics leaping across the walls, it felt like we’d found a brave glimmer of summer on that particularly rainswept evening, and we were faintly miffed when we didn’t step out onto a sun-dappled boardwalk at the end of the night.
Similarly unpretentious was the menu. On offer was a selection of prawns, scallops, oysters, a catch of the day and a couple of meat and veggie options for fish naysayers, but both partner-in-dine Ali and I were in payday pig mode and each went for a kilo of mussels in shallot, cream and white wine sauce, with French bread basket (which comes included in the price and is refilled for free) and a large bowl of chips (which doesn’t).
Our food arrived with almost startling promptness, although it was hardly unwelcome as the two steaming cauldrons heaving with glinting, garlic-scented shells were set in front of us. It took me the best part of an extremely pleasant 45 minutes to plough my way through my portion, but I wouldn’t have left even one of those wee guys – these mussels were sweet, pearly tangerine-coloured petals, without a trace or gristle or grit, and not a dud “shuttie” in the lot. They were fresh enough to be fantastic au naturel but it would have been a crying shame to miss out on the sauce – I find seafood and cream can sometimes be a bit rich for my tastes, but this was a light, salty concoction that balanced the wine to cream ratio with alchemic precision. In fact, my only complaint of the meal was having to dig through the heaped pot, piece of bread trembling rapaciously in hand, to get my dunk on. As for the accompanying chips, as moules-frites purists, both Ali and I would probably have preferred a slender fry, but the Mussel Inn’s piping hot and golden-crispy offering was the very best version of it’s thick-cut cousin, and stood up very well to further shameless dipping.
With a kilo of mussels consumed and food coma fast approaching, neither of us could stomach more than a coffee each, but a glance at the dessert menu, which featured apple strudel, sticky date pudding and chocolate crème brulee, suggests that the Mussel Inn applies a refreshingly untrendy approach in all aspects of their cooking. I’d definitely be curious to see whether they can execute classic puddings as well as they do shellfish on a return visit.
So, whilst I know that those old man pubs on Rose Street are loved by many, for an ungimmicky, unfussy and well done old-timer (with a salt air slant), I think I’ll cast my line at the Mussel Inn.
Around £25 per person including coffee, wine and tip.