The Edinburgh Fringe is how some comedians, me included, choose to spend August. We perform every day, usually numerous times. Adrenaline riddled, we maniacally grasp for reassurance that there’s a point to it all. It’s a pretty gross experience. The outside world often gets forgotten. A month is a long time to exist in this manufactured bubble of self-importance. However balanced your life is usually, staying healthy here is hard.
Most comedians temper their mental chaos by having at least a few booze drinks each night, to decompress. I’m seven-and-a-half-months pregnant. On the one occasion I did treat myself to a spritzer I got such violent acid reflux for the following 24 hours, it wasn’t worth it. Other comedians go noggin over hooves into a heavy exercise regime to keep their cool. I did this last year and it was brilliant. This year though, I’m sometimes out of breath just from being awake. But I, like everyone else, need to feel like I’m being good to myself. So this year’s decadence? Amazing food in excellent company.
I compiled a huge list, from many Edinburgh aficionados, of recommended eateries. The very first place I tried couldn’t have set the bar higher. My friend Kiri and I went to The Dogs. What a knockout. I honestly can’t remember ever having grub this fine that was so affordable.
Up a staircase, which feels like more like you’re heading into someone’s boutique apartment than a restaurant, is one small square room, littered with little wooden tables. It’s light and airy, though we were lucky to get a table for two, even at 5.30pm. We had to agree to have shifted by 7pm. Served us right for having cockily not booked.
Time didn’t allow for starters, most of which are also available in ‘big’ for a mains. I’d have wrestled a dog to try their ‘mussels, cider, bacon, (little) cream’. All the more reason to go back.
Kiri had ‘pan-fried fillet of hake, creamed leeks, chorizo, green curry’ for £9.50. I had ‘wolffish, ling and mussel casserole, herb potatoes and garlic bread’ (tomato based) for a similarly puny £10.10.
We did swap-tries, naturally. The hake was so perfectly molten under its crispy skin it really ruled the plate. The curry was super dainty so the fish could still be the winner. And the leeks – oh the leeks! I don’t understand how they made a leek taste even more like a leek than a leek already tastes. All together it was a giant fork-load of mouth pampering of the very highest order.
My casserole was spot on too. I’d never heard of a wolffish, it sounds like the sort of word a cretin like me would make up, meaning ‘really hungry.’ Turns out it has a sturdy pink, trout like flavour which jumped out of the sweet, rich tomato broth. The mussels were huge, salty and meally. The herb potatoes were silky and buttery. Conducting this whole orchestra of loveliness though was the masterpiece, the garlic bread. The fried shard sat proudly jutting out, herbs and oil and garlic run right through it like the best savoury version of a stick of rock, ever. All together, disarmingly scrumptious.
We’d nattered and cooed so slowly over mains, so charmed were we, that we only had 20 minutes left. Pudding? Even if we essentially had to breathe them in? Course we had bloody pudding.
Kiri had ‘honeycomb, brownie, marshmallow mess’. It tasted like someone had smashed up a Crunchie, scattered it through a cloud and run it through with liquid chocolate. We were both baffled as to how it was physically possible for it to taste like that but to be so light. I think a good witch must have made it.
I had ‘rhubarb and pink peppercorn mousse, yogurt sponge’. At the bottom of a bowl was a dark red liquor or intense rhubarb reduction. The sponge was a neat square of warm, moist, cake sponge. And behold, on its roof was a mighty dollop of mousse sprinkled with light, crunchy peppercorns. Again, what sorcery they done to them? They lifted all the subtle rhubarb-iness out of the mousse, nothing jarring, just ringing out together. Again, mind-bogglingly dainty and delicious all at once.
This was undoubtedly food cooked and devised by extremely skilled and loving chefs. The tastes but also the appearance, it was all together artful. And all for the same price you’d pay for a Nando’s. Incredible. I hope it never changes. I considered not writing about this place because it’s so incredible I want it all to myself. I’m smitten.
Factfile: The Dogs
Address: 110 Hanover Street, Edinburgh, EH2 1DR
Tel: 0131 220 1208 (booking advised)
Access: No step free access, big set of wide spiral steps to get into the restaurant which is a small busy room full of tables and there’s no adapted toilet – just a standard men’s and ladies’ which are medium sized.
Jess is currently performing her show, Imaginary Colin, at the Voodoo Rooms in Edinburgh. Until Aug 30.