Three Birds (Edinburgh, Scotland)

After a long day exploring Edinburgh, and a relaxing afternoon nap at the New Club, it was time to head out for dinner. Three Birds, a pleasant little bistro (with approximately 20 seats, so call ahead) with a relaxed atmosphere located in the Bruntsfield neighborhood about a 20 minute walk from downtown Edinburgh. Focusing on local ingredients and in-house food preparation (smoking, pickling, and roasting), Three Birds is based upon doing a few things really well. They don’t have a huge wine list or beer list, but a well-selected group of decently priced wines and Scottish craft beers. They have about half a dozen appetizers all designed for passing and sharing, and a small list of entrees focusing on local, fresh ingredients.

Starting things off was a nice appetizer of bread and dukkah. Every time I come to the UK, it’s interesting to see what culinary concept seems to be making the rounds. In 2015, it seemed that every third restaurant was offering up bone broth. Back in 2014, it was kale. In 2016, one of the common trends with Dukkah: the egyptian dry nut, herb, and spice mix. But I’ll have to say, Three Birds did a good job with this: the dukkah was obviously house-made and fresh, with a pleasant smokiness as well. Served up with some good crusty white bread and a nice virgin olive oil and some smoked vinegar, this was actually an enjoyable appetizer.

Next up, it was time for some mezze. Assembled from a rather nice mix of in-season vegetables, this was a nice presentation of roasted squash, hummus, baba ghanoush, deep-fried halloumi, pickles, eggs, and mushrooms. Shared among our table of four, this gave everyone a decent assortment, and all the components were flavorful: the hummus was smooth and garlicky, the pickles nice, crunchy, and sharp, and the mushrooms well-marinated.

Our other appetizer was little slices of pigs ear, breaded and fried up and served with a basic aioili. Nice and crunchy, without being overly greasy, these were a pleasantly pork-tasting appetizer with just a little bit of toothiness, and the lightly-seasoned aioli proving a nice herbal note with a bit of moisture. As far as fried appetizers go, these were another hit.

My main course was “chicken supreme”. I always find a name like that slightly unfortunate, since to me that can mean anything from a proper “suprême” (filet of chicken served up with a nice cream and broth reduction sauce), to something out of mom’s dog-eared 1953 Betty Crocker cookbook (like a Cream-of-chicken concentrate based approximation of the same), to the Pizza Hut pizza of the month (I’m certain that I’ve actually ordered a pizza by that name). But despite the name, this was actually most similar to the first version: a pleasantly-prepared stuffed chicken breast, filled with a nice stuffing of corn and chorizo, and served with a light creme sauce over a bed of lentil-and-rice salad. This dish actually worked quite well: the chicken was nicely crisped but tender and juicy, the stuffing adding a nice bit of sweetness and spice without overwhelming the chicknen, and the salad was made out of small lentils cooked right to the pleasant point between “too soft” and “too firm.” Really, quite a nice dish.

For dessert, we ordered the Rocky Road, which was a UK-inspired variation of the American concept: house-made marshmallows and bits of shortbread, embedded in a block of chocolate Turkish delight, served up with chocolate sauce over peanutbutter and strawberry ice cream, this was a nice dessert, although I probably wouldn’t have picked strawberry as my first choice of ice cream. The result was a pleasant variation that got the basic combination of rocky road down (chocolate with nuts and marshmallows), while retaining a bit of the British feel of a dessert (I can’t really describe what exactly makes British desserts different, they just have a different feel about them).

Overall, a very pleasant meal at a reasonable price on in one of Edinburgh’s quieter neighborhoods, Three Birds was a pleasant little bistro for dinner. I’d love to try them, or one of their sister resaurants (Apiary and Educated Flea, both also in Edinburgh) on a future visit.

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