For many, the words ‘French café’ conjure up a romantic tableau of a quintessential Parisian scene; possibly the Eiffel tower made out of baguettes, baskets laden with buttery pastries and the smell of rich coffee coupled with the noise of chatter and clinking spoons. Head down to Victoria street, arguably one of Edinburgh’s most iconic cobbled crescents, and find yourself in La Barantine- only, their Eiffel tower is made up of macarons.
Welcomed with a friendly Bonjour and bountiful menu, the reasonably priced lunch deals, formally ‘Nos formules dejeuners’, caught my eye. Both offer a drink and sandwich then either a mini dessert such as a macaron or their dessert du jour which for us was deliciously smooth flan vanille.
To start, biting into La Savoie I was met with a chorus of crunch. The melted raclette cheese oozed luxuriously from the 2 hands of freshly toasted and buttered baguette (This visit was not my first and I didn’t know they could toast them! Gamechanger). With each bite as crunchy as the last, a sharp cut of mustard combined with a tang from the sun-dried tomatoes, both flavours complimented by the saltiness of the dried ham and the crisp lettuce.
Specially crafted as their sandwich du moment, La Barantine prides itself in exhibiting creations made by their team of pastry chefs and bakers from their Tollcross bakery.
At the moment, their pièce de résistance is a walnut and fig bread stuffed with layers of salami, velvety brie, baby pickles, wholegrain mustard and spinach. Lashes of mustard flatter the nuttiness of the bread, hinting to the slow fermentation preparation of the bread dough.
All the artisanal bread nestled on the shelves and served as sandwiches are made with French flour imported from Les Grands Moulins De Paris in France. Despite the outsourcing of flour, the authentic taste of their bread is wholesome and contains no additive.
La Barantine strives to use locally sourced produce, serving Bruntsfield based Pekoetea infusions and Union Roasted coffee.
Valuing inclusivity, the menu offers the option to go gluten free by turning any of their sandwiches into a salad. Alongside le sandwich du moment is the dairy free, gluten free soup de jour and the plat du jour offering a variety of silky quiches and vegan sandwich. Their macarons are gluten free and dairy free too so there’s plenty to choose from.
Moving from savoury to sweet, lunch was rounded off with a vanilla flan and delicately flavoured hazelnut macaron. I had my doubts with the vanilla flan as I have been disappointed in the past with a rubbery texture that sticks to the roof of your mouth.
But, alas, I was pleasantly greeted with a sinfully smooth and creamy slice of tart. I won’t lie when I say I ate it, envious of the way it was holding itself together. Finally, after much debate we tucked into the crisp almond aliment.
As if you were eating a hazelnut itself, the macaron was perfectly flavoured with a gloriously gooey centre. Flavours of raspberry, chocolate and vanilla are available as well as the more exotic clementine and yuzu, passion fruit and popular salted caramel; all elegantly arranged in the shop window.
With food waste initiatives on the rise with apps such as Too Good To Go and Olio cropping up around the city, La Barantine have partnered with food sharing volunteers to avoid the inevitable wasted food being chucked. Most evenings, a volunteer heads down to collect the leftover and unsold quiches, breads, pastries and sandwiches that are safe to be passed on. Romain, the Victoria Street manager, informed me that they are exploring the idea of recycling coffee grounds and composting food in Stockbridge.
Should you find yourself meandering through Bruntsfield, Victoria or Stockbridge then why not stop in for a dose of French fancy. Whether it’s for a coffee and cake or nos formules dejeuner, with their sandwich du moment changing every few months, with such haute cuisine La Barantine really are serving the crème de la crème.
Photograph: Meredith Bailey