In retrospect, The Blonde and I could have picked a better day to review Edinburgh’s Badger & Co: the sort of warming, hearty food, with a seeming emphasis on pies, that the restaurant specialises in seems better suited to a drizzly Sunday like the one I am writing this on, rather than the glorious summer Monday evening on which we actually visited.
But then, if The Blonde and I were any good at arranging dinner dates, I probably wouldn’t have felt the need to invite her to this one with a message that read: I’ve been asked to review this restaurant in Edinburgh. You are coming with me. We are catching up. NAE EXCUSES.
I’ve been experimenting a little of late. Perhaps, it’s fair to say, since my last night out with The Blonde, the one that prompted me to write at length about how important my friends are to me and why we ought to be going out of our way to make more time for each other. These days, when I bump into somebody I haven’t seen for a while, or we trade back-and-forths on Facebook, and somebody says, as they inevitably do, we should catch up – I try not to leave it with a yes, lets. I try to leave it with a date in the diary. It doesn’t always work, and there are some people I still miss dearly, but it’s a start. That little bit of extra effort that means so much.
Once you get over that little it-being-through-in-Edinburgh detail – you know, a place where only a handful of my friends are – Badger & Co comes across as an ideal location for those casual, weeknight, inevitably-staying-out-later-than-you-intend to catch-ups. Loosely themed around The Wind in the Willows (the book’s author, Kenneth Grahame, was born in what is now the restaurant’s 32 Castle Street premises), Badger & Co promises local, seasonal food and exciting cocktails – plus what I’m willing to bet is Edinburgh’s largest collection of badger-themed artwork.
After coming to terms with the fact that there was no way either of us were about to order the delicious-sounding pumpkin and chorizo soup of the day on a hot summer night, we decided on a cold, refreshing cocktail and settled in to peruse the menu. The Blonde opted for the delightfully-named Pimms in the Willows (plum and vanilla Edinburgh Gin, Pimms, plum and mint shrub, ginger ale) while I ordered a Lav’ Gin El’Do (Beefeater gin, strawberry, lavender, elderflower, citrus and soda). While mine was lovely and refreshing, The Blonde was definitely the winner here: the Pimms arrived in this gorgeous, goblet-style glass, and she noted down all the ingredients so she could recreate it at home.
Badger & Co prides itself on hearty, simple cooking using local, seasonal ingredients. Pie is, of course, the perfect encapsulation of that – there’s a pie section on the menu, plus a special of the day – but even the “Summer Veg Hot Pot” option was too much for a summer’s night.
The Blonde decided to order the least Lis-like thing on the menu, like the perfect dinner date that she is: the roast rump of lamb with seasonal vegetables. I opted for the sirloin steak from the grill with a cool, vinegary chimichurri sauce, because it gave me an excuse to order beef dripping chips. I do get a bit resentful of restaurants that don’t include a side order with your steak, particularly ones that charge as much for the meat as Badger & Co do – but it was a really tasty, perfectly grilled cut so I wasn’t sulking for long.
By the time we came to order dessert, any pretence of ordering different things for the sake of the photos had gone out of the window thanks to the little in-house magazine (The Badger Herald) on our table which had been trumpeting something called an “upside down apple pie” (complete with a recipe to take home). Served with toffee sauce and vanilla ice cream, this dessert was the perfect way to round off our dinner date – and neither of us were in the mood to share.
The Blonde was delighted with the evening, telling me as we left that she could see herself returning with her husband or for some after-work drinks. While I felt the same overall, being a Glasgow girl I did wince a little at some of the prices – but everything was cooked so well, and presented so cleverly, that it’s worth it for the overall experience. Besides, you don’t get this sort of early evening view back home…
Our reservation was pretty early to give me plenty of time to get home, but it’s worth pointing out that as the night went on the restaurant filled up to the point of the right kind of busy, which is sometimes all the recommendation you need about the place. With its laid-back vibe, cosy booths, outdoor “riverside” garden area and all sorts of hidden away private dining areas (one of which, I kid you not, is called Toad Hall), it’s hard to think of an occasion that Badger & Co wouldn’t be the answer for.
We were treated to a meal for review purposes, but all views are my own and unbiased.