Friday, 6 May 2016

Review: Dinner at Edinburgh's Oldest Pub, the Sheep Heid Inn

The Sheep Heid Inn is probably one of Edinburgh's better kept secrets. Tucked away at the bottom of Arthur's Seat, most tourists don't venture this far from the city centre so there's always a nice mix of locals & people who've really made the effort to seek it out.

There's supposedly been a pub on the site since 1360 making it Scotland's oldest licensed premises, & despite it now being a pretty conventional gastropub there are still lots of lovely features including the traditional skittle ally, built in around 1870. However, the attraction to Callum & I is its proximity to our flat which is just 5 minutes walk away, making it our local. We've been around five times now in total but I'll never forget the hours we spent there when we first moved in to our flat, sipping at pints & ordering IKEA furniture on the free wifi.

The pub consists of a ground floor with three main areas: the bar, and two restaurant areas, plus a huge dining space upstairs, although we've only ever been seated up there on Sundays when the reasonably priced (but not ground-breaking) carvery means the whole place is packed. 

On this occasion we were quickly seated at a two-person table in the area next to the bar which was nice as it was fairly quiet but on busier nights it's worth asking for a table through the back where there's more space & it feels less claustraphobic. 

The service at the Sheep Heid can be hit or miss with the waiting staff often looking a bit overwhelmed by the number of customers but I don't think we've ever had an awful experience - it's just worth noting if you're looking for somewhere where you'll be waited on hand & foot.

As this was a weekend date night (a rare luxury for two people who spend most weekends in our PJs) Callum & I decided to start by sharing the Sticky Platter (£16.92) which consists of spiced lamb koftas with chilli jam, chicken skewers, BBQ ribs, tzatziki and flatbread. I thought it was fantastic & really generous for two people - good news since it's not exactly cheap. With some olives & maybe garlic bread on the side, this could have easily been a main course & all the individual items were really delicious.

For my main I decided to avoid anything too big & went for an item off the Starters menu which turned out to be a good shout as I was pretty full from the platter. The crayfish & crab pot (£7.50) sounded great on paper - I always tend to go for seafood when we go out because Callum's not a fan so I rarely get to eat it at home - but I was really disappointed.

My best guess is that the crab pots are frozen & mine hadn't been properly thawed because it was ice-cold in the centre & the butter on top was solid. I did pluck up the courage to ask our waitress about it - literally hell on Earth for someone with anxiety - & her response to my tactful "Is it supposed to be cold?" was simply that they get asked that a lot but it is intended to be cold rather than warm. Maybe I should have been more honest but I hate complaining in restaurants so I nibbled on Callum's chips while I waited for it to defrost, & it wasn't too bad in the end. Obviously not a great experience though.

In contrast, Callum's battered halloumi & chips was incredible, & it's great to see a vegetarian option that's a bit more substantial. We didn't end up ordering dessert as we were both full but we've enjoyed the warm chocolate brownie & the strawberry & mango eton mess on previous trips.

Overall, it wasn't BAD & we've definitely had more positive experiences in the past but the unpredictability makes me really reluctant to recommend the Sheep Heid. It honestly feels like they've pushed themselves too hard & have stretched themselves beyond their current abilities. Our waitress mentioned they'd just hired a new chef so perhaps that will help with the consistency but who knows.

I'd be really interested to hear your experiences in the comments below.

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