The Water of Leith Bistro sails upstream to Canonmills, Edinburgh

The Water of Leith Bistro.

1 Howard Street, Canonmills, Edinburgh, EH3 5JP

Telephone: 0131 556 6887

Opening times: Tue–Sat 10am–5pm; Sun 10am–4pm; closed Mon. 

water of leith front window

Ana and Mickael Mesle work together as the ideal culinary dream team: Ana, with a long career as a restaurant manager, including Skippers, with her husband Mickael, formerly Chef at La P’tite Folie and Daniels have created the ideal professional partnership.

In 2009 they opened the Water of Leith Cafe Bistro, a very successful business for five years enticing regular diners and rave reviews.

“ Ana provides the warmest greeting front of house while classically trained Breton chef Mickael whips up French dishes – the Croque monsieur is justifiably legendary – and a dazzling array of cakes and desserts”.

But a few months ago, the lease on the property in Coburg Street came to an end. But as they say, when one door closes another opens and the Mesle family has now sailed just a few miles along the Water of Leith to take over the former Luigi’s Trattoria at Canonmills.

The Mesle family sail upstream from Leith to Canonmills

The Mesle family sail upstream from Leith to Canonmills

A change of address perhaps, but what was so fortunate – they could keep the same name for their new Restaurant,  along with the image of a cute hungry duck wearing a bib as their menu logo.

The Canonmills Clock

The Canonmills Clock

1 Howard Place is located right beside the Bridge just along from the landmark Canonmills Clock.

Step inside and enter the sunny yellow, wood panelled Café: With chestnut-coloured tables, comfortable cushioned chairs and banquettes, it’s all freshly decorated with a 1950s-style dandelion wallpaper and mini gallery of affordable artwork (for sale). Two large windows overlook the River. It’s all very welcoming and homely.

Fresh, flowery and artistic decor

Fresh, flowery and artistic decor

The Bistro is open for Breakfast and Lunch, serving an extensive menu of French-Scottish dishes, as well as coffee, home-baked cakes and pastries.

As I live in Stockbridge and my friend Fiona near the Botanics, the Bistro was the ideal equidistant place to meet for a leisurely lunch last week.

The Afternoon menu offers a selection of Gastropub favourites, soups and sandwiches, fish cakes, burgers and steak to suit all appetites. The legendary Croque Monsieur (grilled cheese and ham toastie), served with salad and fries looks like a feast in itself.

For those intrigued by the derivation of classic food names, this famous French sandwich first appeared in a Parisian Brasserie in 1910 and soon mentioned in Proust’s In Search of Lost Time.    … ” en sortant du concert …. ma grand’mère et moi, pour échanger quelques mots avec madame de Villeparisis qui nous annonçait qu’elle avait commandé pour nous à l’hôtel des croque-monsieur et des œufs à la crème…”

Marcel Proust with coffee cup

Marcel Proust with coffee cup

Add a fried egg on top and it’s a Croque Madame (invented around 1960),  which you can also sample here.

We are spoilt for choice as there’s also a Blackboard of Daily Specials –Beetroot & Goat’s Cheese Quiche, Chicken Terrine, Fried Pollock with Mash, basil & rocket veloute. All very enticing. …

I could not resist Moules Frites, especially when cooked by a chef from Brittany.!  (I vividly recall first tasting this dish in the mid 1990s, sitting outside a beach front bistro in the charming resort of Dinard – French fast food in a kilo pot!).

Piled up in a huge bowl, my mountain of mussels were cooked in a creamy leek and cider sauce, with perfect crisp thin French Fries on the side. Across the table, Fiona selected the Sweet Potato, Coconut and Chick pea Curry with basmati rice. This was artistically presented in a large round platter and looked most appetitising.

And the verdict?   “ My curry was just right – a bit of a kick but not too spicy, for me anyway” she said … adding, “ I love the decor and atmosphere; the food is delicious.”

Over our main courses, we shared a bottle of Sicilian dry, slightly fruity, white wine. The list of about half a dozen wines (served by the glass or bottle), is written on a blackboard on the side wall.  I found this rather awkward, having to get up and walk over to read it.   However, Ana explained that the wines can be changed regularly rather than having a printed list.

Wines by the glass and bottle, including lovely Bubbly

Wines by the glass and bottle, including lovely Bubbly

The place was busy and buzzing this Friday lunchtime, and it had only been open for three weeks. Local residents as well as tourists en route to the Botanics have been quick to find it  and already its pretty popular.  Two women at the next table had driven over from Leith, having been regulars at the original  Coburg Street Bistro.

Families with children and babies are not forgotten – kids will enjoy home-made Fish-fingers, mini Gilmore sausages, chicken goujons, beans on toast …. The bag of  emergency nappies on the loo door is, as Fiona commented, “ a stroke of genius!”.    Ana is a mother of a young boy so clearly understands all necessities for a family outing.

Well behaved dogs are also allowed with their owners offered tables at the window near the front door.

Dogs welcome at window tables

Dogs welcome to sit beside owners at window tables

I shall certainly be returning soon to sample Breakfast. It is after all the best meal of the day – Full Scottish, Vegetarian, Bacon rolls, Poached Eggs, or Bagel with cream cheese and smoked salmon. Call in for morning coffee and a croissant or Afternoon Tea with scones and fine Patisserie.  A glass cabinet is filled with tempting tartes and gateaux….

Afternoon Tea and Scones

Afternoon Tea and Scones

The Bistro is also open in the evening for occasional private dinners – an excellent idea as we head into the festive period of socialising and parties with family and friends. The special Christmas menu features, amongst other choices, Celeriac and pear soup; Pan friend Hake, prawn bonbons, saffron sauce; Gateau Breton, apple compote, salted caramel ice-cream.  Reserve your private dinner soon!

Perhaps early next year, once the Bistro is well established at its new address, Ana and Mickael may decide to open for dinner. Meanwhile, I sincerely recommend that you take a trip to Canonmills beside the Water of Leith any time of the day for seriously good food.   A warm, friendly ambience awaits to complement the hearty, authentic Auld Alliance cuisine.

I think Marcel Proust would love this little French cafe.   Bon Appetit!

Homely style with classic French bistro food.

Homely style with classic French bistro food.





About vivdevlin

I am an international travel writer, specialising in luxury travel, hotels, restaurants, city guides, cruises, islands, train and literary-inspired journeys. I review dance and theatre, Arts Festivals and love the visual arts. I have just experienced an epic voyage, circumnavigating the globe, following in the wake of Captain Cook, Mark Twain and Robert Louis Stevenson.

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