24 Oct EdinBurger Quest: Bells Diner
A long-time member of the Stockbridge culinary brigade, Bells Diner has cemented itself in the local culture. Situated at the mouth of the particularly blessed St. Stephen Street, there is something quite unassuming about the place, despite its years. Inside, the décor could mislead, with garish red walls and a random array of cheaply-framed artwork, but the word of mouth would have you believe the food does the talking here.
Bells’ USP lies in the butters that they offer in place of the usual array of sauces. These range from peppercorn to garlic to chilli and more, slathered generously on burgers and steaks alike.
I had the 8oz Beef Burger topped with Emmental, Crispy Fried Onions and Pepper Butter.
Good but nothing amazing, if I’m putting it succinctly. Bells know their trade and ply it well, cooking up great burgers that are moderately seasoned and given a charcoal finish on the grill.
The butter I was less receptive to. Although the variety on offer is respectable and creative, as butter the majority of it simply soaks into the bread as soon as you put the bun on top. On a steak I can see how this could be a draw, dripping off the meat succulently, but in order to get the same flavour and richness as you would, say, a sauce of the same variety, there would have to be a hell of a lot more butter than the nob on offer.
As above, there was nothing to moan about here but nothing to really sing and dance for. The butter certainly adds a decent amount of moisture to the offering, but on this occasion my patty came a little too chargrilled and so certain edges were a touch crisper than my personal preference would be. Could have been much better.
8oz is the largest patty on Bells menu and this is ample, served up on a muckle plate with a healthy heaping of fries (see below), and what you get is a decent feed. I’m also sure if one asked, one would be able to double up for some extra coinage.
VARIETY / TOPPINGS
The butters are the main draw here, but Bells offer other mainstays on the menu, such as haggis and fried egg. They also have a specials board that offer ‘guest’ cheeses and toppings that are frequently refreshed.
Although this might seem restrictive, the thick side of the wedge would be in the continued variety a feature like that provides. On our day the guest cheese was Emmental, which I took full advantage of, and the guest topping was Black Pudding. Both were sizeable portions of quality produce.
Size-wise, these sat somewhere between skinny fries and oven chips but were no less well-cooked, lovely and crisp on the outside and suitably fluffy elsewhere. Again though, this was a case of lovely, but I have had better. The amount dished up however is a copious portion so there is something to be said for the generosity here, too.
VALUE FOR MONEY
At £13 for burger, toppings and chips, the value is evident. The crispy onions came as a side dish for the table to use at their leisure so this was an additional £3, so the impact of this really depends on the size of your party and how many bowls of onions are required.
For the three of us though, this proved good value.
All in all the individual categories have summed this one up. Bells offer a reasonably priced local burger fix but aren’t blowing any minds. If they were to expand their range of butters to a saucier alternative things might change, but in future – to see the benefit – I’ll probably opt for the steak.