I’m clearly a bad parent. Wee baby Alex is only three months old, and already Snoogums and I have left him alone with other people on four separate occasions!
Okay, so they weren’t complete strangers. My parents have some experience of child raising, but their techniques are thirty years out of date. My brother and sister-in-law are both smart and sensible, but until Alex came along they’d never held a baby before. How could I possibly entrust the life and well being of my baby boy to these people, even for a few short hours?
What if something happened to him? What if something happened to the sitters? What if there was a fault with my mobile phone? Maybe they’re trying to call me right now, but can’t get through! Quick, where’s the nearest pay phone? No, no! We should catch that taxi straight home to make sure he’s still breathing!
Pish tosh, I say. (I also say: bear with me for a bit. I’ll get to the restaurant soon.)
Human beings are enormously resilient, even at such an early age. Both Snoogums and I take a very dim view of modern trends in paranoid parenting. We have no intention of swaddling Alex in a protective blanket until he leaves home. We are quite happy to leave him alone on the rug or in his bouncy chair nearby while we go off and surf the net, cook, or do the dishes. Sometimes we even (gasp!) let him cry himself to sleep.
Teaching him how to relate to, and behave around other people is part of this attitude. We firmly believe that if he realizes there are other people who take care of him from time to time–and just as well as mommy and daddy, I might add–he’ll grow up to be a more adaptable child.
“Flow with it,” is the motto Snoogums grew up with. To a child, it is supposed to mean that the world doesn’t always revolve around you. Most of the time, there is stuff going on, like trips to the shops, visits to family, and work around the house. You may not be interested. You may even actively dislike these activities. But they’re going to happen anyway. So you can either paddle upstream, resisting the current and causing everyone grief, or you can Flow With It. The latter course has benefits for all: your parents stay relaxed and chilled out, and you get ice cream. Or chocolate.
FISHERS BISTRO (I told you I’d get there.)
So anyway, last week was our eighth wedding anniversary! (This whole lead-up was really an attempt to explain why we felt it was quite acceptable to leave Alex for the evening, and go out and enjoy ourselves on our own again for a change.) Fishers Bistro was the name; a pleasant evening of good food, wine, and intimate conversation was the game.
Fishers is situated on the Shore in Leith, a mere couple of hundred yards away from the Scottish Office, the new Ocean Terminal shopping centre, the Royal Yacht Britannia, and dozens of trendy pubs, bars and restaurants. It is tucked into the ground floor of a 17th century signal tower, and has a pleasantly close, low-ceilinged atmosphere. Fishing nets strung across the walls lend a certain nautical theme, while Victorian prints of gentlemen fishing add a freshwater touch. The plain wooden tables, simple place settings, and a clear view over a serving counter into the small kitchen give it a relaxed, continental air.
We had booked our table for 19:30, and even though this was a Monday evening, the place was almost full already. Our waitress showed us to a nice little table in the very far corner of the room, from where we could observe everyone else. Throughout the evening we were attended to by at least three different servers, and I think I counted five hovering around in total. This seemed quite a lot for a relatively small place (I reckon the whole restaurant would seat about 35 at a push), but it did mean that there was always someone ready to take your order, or pour more wine. Although a lot of the customers were smartly dressed the staff were all casual, which contributed to the friendly and relaxed atmosphere.
Fishers is a fish and seafood restaurant. For people who have been dragged there against their will and insist on having a chunk of meat with their dinner, there was one non-seafood starter (a warm salad of pigeon breast) and main course (roast lamb chops with coriander and lemon couscous) on the menu. But really–you go to Fishers to eat fish, and they have it in abundance.
The menu changes with the daily catch, and on our night we were told they were all out of queenies. Well, shucks. I suppose I would have felt more disappointed if I’d known what queenies are. Everything else, though, sounded seriously tempting, and I had a hard time deciding what looked best. Would it be the baked fillet of sole, stuffed with cream cheese and spinach? How about the stuffed whole sea bass with chorizo sausage, mozzarella and olives? In the end I settled on a char grilled tuna fillet with a mango, red pepper and basil salsa (£5.75), followed by a fillet of grilled wild arctic char with roast pepper mash and lobster bisque (£12.50). Yum!
The tuna was charred to a deliciously smoky crust on the outside. Like a fillet of beef, a tuna steak doesn’t have to be cooked all the way through on the inside, but I felt that mine was a little underdone. I would have preferred the choice to have it closer to “medium” than “rare”. The quality of the tuna was excellent, though, with a tender, melt-in-the-mouth texture and a clean, almost freshwater taste that contrasted beautifully with the grilled crust.
The mango and pepper salsa was tasty, crisp and fresh. Taken on its own it was marvellous, but after a few bites of tuna and salsa together I started eating them in alternation. The contrast between the warm grilled flavour of the tuna and the cool fruitiness of the salsa was just too much for a single mouthful. It’s a bold combination, but too disconcerting for my palette.
The main course was the first time I had tried arctic char, and I fell in love with it immediately. The arctic char is distantly related to salmon, and like salmon its meat is dense and rich. But there is none of the oiliness you get with salmon, and in taste it is probably closer to trout than anything else. Taken with a generous dollop of creamy mashed potatoes and roast red peppers, and a smear of lobster bisque, it made a heavenly combination. If it wasn’t considered inappropriate in polite company, I would have licked the plate to sup the last of the bisque. Fortunately, though, I had saved some mopping-up bread for just this eventuality, and was saved from social embarrassment.
When it came to choosing dessert, I was torn between honeycomb ice cream in a brandy basket with chocolate sauce, and a warm chocolate and pear tart. I’d seen other diners being brought both, and both looked decadent and tempting. The chocolate and pear tart (£4.95) won, but turned out to be a disappointing choice. The pastry was too dense, the chocolate filling was too dry, and it was loaded with nuts that simply overwhelmed whatever pear flavour might have been there. The single dollop of ice cream that came with it tasted bland and supermarket-bought. What I should have had (and what Snoogums wisely selected) was the baked amaretto peaches, topped with white chocolate cream and syrup. She let me have a large bite, and it was awesome.
Overall, Fishers was a fine place to have our anniversary dinner. The atmosphere was relaxing, and the food was good. But to be honest, we could have been taking a picnic on the moon for all it would have affected our enjoyment of the evening. We’ve had a great eight years together now, and the arrival of wee baby Alex has placed us in a blissful state neither of us could have imagined possible. Our senses are heightened with happiness, and every new experience seems imbued with magic. That evening at Fishers will stay with us forever as a sparkling point of joy in the constellation of our new parenthood.