As chef/patron of cheery blue-fronted L’Escargot Bleu, Fred Berkmiller is immensely proud of his French heritage – in fact, you can almost imagine him cycling down the Royal Mile draped in a string of onions and whistling Le Marseillaise. Everything about this long-standing bistro feels authentically Gallic – from the copper pans glittering on the wall to the vintage poster of Edith Piaf in the front parlour, where the handsome wooden bar and flower-topped, clothed tables look as if they’ve been transported from Montmartre.
Where the restaurant departs from the French script is with its commitment to using ingredients that are sustainably sourced from small-scale Scottish producers, though rest assured that the recipes they are put to use in are comme il faut French.
So while the namesake snails come from the Isle of Barra in the Outer Hebrides, they appear on the menu as les escargots grillé, arriving on the plate with shallots, garlic, parsley, almonds, pastis and almond butter. Beef from McDuff special selection, meanwhile, turns up as entrecote or cote de boeuf with peppercorn sauce and chips, the latter served whole and carved at the table to share.
Elsewhere on the menu you’ll find terrine de campagne, moules marinière, confit de canard and lapin à la moutarde, as well as a couple of cheese-based dishes for vegetarians: goat’s cheese in filo pastry or potato, mushroom and camembert gratin, say.
There’s more cheese on the dessert menu, sourced from the legendary Hervé Mons, as well as classics along the lines of chocolate Nemesis, crème brulée, cherries in kirsch and prunes in Armagnac, as well as a boozy sorbet creation involving two scoops of lemon with Scottish vodka.
Until global warming sees vineyards covering the Trossachs, the wine list, naturally, celebrates the best of the French regions. Prices, overall, are reasonable, but if you want a bargain then good-value sets include two courses for £12.90 at lunch or £14.90 for early dinners.