Spoon Cafe / Bistro – I’d spooner not thanks!

I bought one of those Groupon/Itison Vouchers for a little Edinburgh Bistro based up on Nicolson Street, I’m always a little cautious with these things especially when I’ve never heard of the place, however I liked the name ‘Spoon’ and had seen a couple of friend’s Foursquare check-ins there so thought it was probably worth a punt. The deal – 2 courses for 2 people including a bottle of wine for £19.00, seemed a little bit of a bargain, however my experience of these offers (although this was my first food related one) has so far been a little mixed, often hidden extra costs or things/limitations not stated on the original offer as sold so I was hoping this would be one of those occasions we’d not be treated as ‘cheapos’ and given a 2nd rate service because we were voucher holders or be hit with any ‘surprises’.

Optimism is clearly my downfall! We arrived and walked up a staircase towards some lovely old windows, we couldn’t see the Bistro yet but it looked promising so far, we received a warm welcome as we entered into a pretty busy and surprisingly spacious dining area. The decor an eclectic mish-mash of colours, furniture and crockery, reminded me of a cafe in a 6th Form Art college! A waitress showed us to a well appointed table in the window, menus showing the Itison deal were already on the table and off she went. That was the last we saw of any waiting staff anywhere near our table, despite trying to catch someone’s eye, for a good 15/20 minutes, it was a rare hot day in Edinburgh and we were both desperate for a glass of water. At this point, if I hadn’t pre-paid this meal I would have walked out!

Finally, a rather red-faced (sunburn not with embarrassment) waiter came up to our table, laughing and asked if anyone had explained the menu to us yet, we wryly said ‘no’ and that we were very thirsty could we please get some water. We’d already spotted the pretty much expected sting of the voucher – the menu was a restricted one (3 starters, 3 mains & 3 desserts to choose from), none of which was particularly of interest to SB or myself. I had been on the website earlier and spotted a Lamb dish that looked quite interesting but it wasn’t on this menu! On asking about the wine, we were told that the Red was a Cab Sav and the White was French, 2008, we asked him for a little more detail (origin/type) and he came back to add a country to the Red, I then enquired about the type of French white and off he had to go again….

Parched because we still hadn’t received any water, we watched in astonishment as the waiter took a coffee to one table, then took some soft drinks to another and then stopped to clear yet another table. He finally reappeared to tell us that the ‘French 2008’ was now a Pinot Grigio and the reason it had taken him so long was because it had just changed??! a blatant porky pie!

We asked again for the water and ordered. When the water finally did arrive the ice had already pretty much melted, meaning that it had in all likelihood been sat out for some time, probably since we (or maybe even someone else) first ordered it quite some time ago.

The food – the 3 starters available were a soup, cauliflower fritters and a chicken liver pate and Mains, a macaroni and courgette, pesto & tomato dish, a braised pork leg with baby potatoes & spring onion or Organic Char with red rice & quinoa & orange. I went for the paté and the pork and Strawberry Blonde the fritters and the pasta. Both agreeing that the rice & quinoa seemed a pretty odd combination on the same plate! Our wine & water finally arrived as did our starters, actually appearing in less time than it took for someone to even come over to us in the first instance.

The paté was well presented and really quite a decent dish. The fritters weren’t the most attractive plate of food but they tasted good, maybe they were about to redeem their laughable service with their food. The plates were cleared away but we weren’t asked if we had enjoyed our food – pity, as that was the only point during the meal we could honestly have said yes!

The Macaroni was essentially a large bowl of macaroni with 3 courgette slices and 3 cherry tomato halves to break up the colour, run through with mozzarella. It was obvious from the outset that my pork was overcooked, not only that but it was sat in a very thin watery broth along with the potatoes and spring onion. I couldn’t detect any hint of the lemon & rosemary flavouring suggested on the menu.

How do I sum this one up? the service – laughable, it really did feel like being in Basil Fawlty’s dining room! The only apology we received for this farce was for the waiter’s sunburn?!!! We would most definitely have walked out if it wasn’t pre-paid. The food was below par – the starters were OK but the mains weren’t great. For £10 each it wasn’t a financial disaster but for that price I’d rather go to The Dogs and have something well presented, contemporary & really tasty! Would we ever go back? definitely not based on this experience! (I have been advised by a friend that their breakfasts are great but the evenings are a bit hit & miss so maybe one to avoid for anything other than coffee / brunch). Needles to say that, along with Castle Terrace, no tip was left!

On another note, this has really put me off buying any more food vouchers, especially when the actual offer has yet again been found to be not quite as it seems! If restrictions or extra costs apply then these should be stated clearly up front, it’s when you get hit with these things when you use the voucher that you feel scammed!

Right off my soapbox and off out for my own lunch!

Spoon, 6A Nicolson Street, Edinburgh, EH8 9DH, 0131 557 4567

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21 Responses to “Spoon Cafe / Bistro – I’d spooner not thanks!”

  1. Kate P
    July 14, 2011 at 12:27 pm #

    Oh Nadine. This USED to be a great place to go – I used to go every month. Have been there recently and have to agree – it’s been really poor. Overly expensive mains, dry food and TERRIBLE service.

    The breakfast however IS great, as is their coffee. Defo more a cafe than dinner venue.

    • July 14, 2011 at 12:53 pm #

      It was you I was referencing :o)
      I remember you saying it when we last went out for supper! It’s always SO disappointing when a place lets itself down so badly.

  2. July 14, 2011 at 12:28 pm #

    Sounds like you caught them on a bad day, Nadine. I’d heard nothing but good things about Spoon before now, and when we visited last month, we were very impressed. The staff were delightful, and the navarin of lamb was to die for. We will definitely be going back.

    • July 14, 2011 at 12:55 pm #

      I think that was the lamb dish that I had fancied from the menu (but wasn’t on the offer)! Looks Like Kate P has had a similar experience to myself there too from her comment!
      such a shame!

  3. July 14, 2011 at 1:05 pm #

    The lamb dish wasn’t on the offer, but my preferred main course came with a lemon sauce, which I dislike intensely. The waitress offered me the lamb as an alternative, at no extra cost. Win!

    • July 14, 2011 at 1:13 pm #

      next time, I should go at the same time as you & see if your luck spreads :o) that pie we had before the twestival at The Basement was pretty darn good!

  4. July 14, 2011 at 1:41 pm #

    Aye, indeed it was! Was thinking about that a couple of days ago. Must go back for more 🙂

  5. Sam Currie
    July 14, 2011 at 2:37 pm #

    What a shame, I’ve heard good things about that place too. Isn’t amazing how restaurants can get the simplest things SO wrong.

    • July 14, 2011 at 3:08 pm #

      I know and you just wouldn’t risk going back again after such a rubbish experience! such a shame as if the service had been good we would probably have forgiven the food a little, we still may not have gone back but we wouldn’t feel so disgruntled.

  6. July 14, 2011 at 4:09 pm #

    I used to spend my weekends in there writing, quite happily, until basically they barred laptop use. The service had been on a downward spiral for a long time. Most of the staff very friendly, but I refuse to visit now after the owner was horribly rude. AVOID! Friendly but crappy service, and awful management.

    • July 14, 2011 at 4:21 pm #

      oh dear, the poor service seems to be a bit of a theme……. & why on earth would you bar laptop use?!

      • July 15, 2011 at 12:32 pm #

        They decided they didn’t like folks plugging in their laptops, having been previously perfectly fine with it. I can understand, but the extremely rude manner in which the manager (?) went about demanding I unplugged left me feeling very much like I wasn’t a valued customer – this is despite having dropped several £100s over a few months of sat-sun writing sessions. The serving staff knew me there, were always friendly and asking about my book – until that day. The irony being, as the manager ‘explained’, was that electric cost money and she didn’t want to encourage laptop use.

        Crying shame. Other venues in town actively cater for & encourage weekend & lunch-time workers. As a venue it’s lovely and quiet, and rarely short of places to sit (so, if you wanted to stay hours, you’re not depriving them of covers).

        Even Starbucks lets you plug laptops in.

        They lost me as a customer for good.

        • July 15, 2011 at 3:33 pm #

          oh dear, that seems so short-sighted! most people are seperate to get people like you (& their laptops) in the door!

  7. Rab
    July 15, 2011 at 6:37 pm #

    On the subject of group buying sites and restaurant ‘deal’ vouchers, I found this post very interesting:

    In any case I no longer buy these daily deal offers any more due to being disappointed too many times in the past.

    As for places which welcome people with laptops/notebooks and which have free wifif – that would be a great subject for a blog post as I would love some recommendations. 🙂 Goes without saying that they must have good food, coffee and service too!

    • July 15, 2011 at 6:51 pm #

      Ooh, thanks for the link – very interesting and pretty much borne out by this particular place!

      Great idea for a blog, may have to ask the lovely helpful folk in The Burgh where they recommend and add a page!


    • July 15, 2011 at 7:14 pm #

      I would hope that any business worth its salt would carefully examine what they were about to get involved in by signing up for a deal with Groupon or any of their competitors. I’ve only had a couple of disappointments, and neither of them major, thankfully. Nargile and Ti Amo were utterly fabulous, and Calistoga has never ever let me down. Chop Chop next week too 🙂 Maybe folk need to do a little research before they buy some of these offers?

  8. July 27, 2011 at 3:21 pm #

    It really is ridiculous, isn’t it? We had the same sort of experience with Igg’s on Friday night. Bought an Itison voucher and were treated like second class citizens all evening, our wine didn’t even arrive until halfway through our starter, which itself didn’t arrive until about forty minutes after we’d ordered. It bugs me that companies complain about group buying vouchers not encouraging return customers, but no wonder!

    • July 29, 2011 at 2:49 pm #

      it’s very short-sighted isn’t it! it seems pointless doing the voucher offer if you’re going to alienate any potential new repeat customers, especially when negative feedback spreads a lot quicker than positive!

  9. August 3, 2011 at 1:33 pm #

    That’s a shame that Spoon didn’t live up to much. I’ve been meaning to get along there but I think I’ll just stick to the Mosque Kitchen up the road instead…

    • August 3, 2011 at 2:01 pm #

      the consensus seems to be that it used to be good but isn’t anymore. I see the Mosque Kitchen have opened a new restaurant on Nicholson street itself, hmmm not been there for ages, must be time for a re-visit!

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