Ninety Nine Bar & Kitchen
A lazy Sunday lunchtime brought us to Ninety Nine Bar and Kitchen on Back Wynd. It’s perfectly located on a direct route between Waterstones and the vinyl section at HMV, which are about the only shops my beloved enters voluntarily.
The atmosphere is mellow and few places have staff who are quite so passionate about their food and cocktail ingredients.
We started with the cocktail menu. I had intended to try a Kiss on the Cheek, but it seems like half of the city had been smooching away on Saturday night, so a key home-made ingredient wasn’t available. Instead, I was asked what I liked and was shortly in possession of a faultless Fresh Raspberry Bellini, thanks to the expert mixologists behind the bar. Beloved opted for a Respect Yours, which proved to be an inspired blend of elderberry, plum elixir, champagne and a foamy topping made from whisked aquafaba.
A surprising number of the dishes on the well-balanced menu are vegan and anyone with a gluten intolerance will be bewildered by suddenly having 16 different dishes to choose from. Local meat and fish feature and you can even have oysters on Fridays and Saturdays if available. Add in 14 dishes that are suitable for vegans or vegetarians and it’s clear that the staff here want everyone to have a great meal.
The food is pretty relaxed and robust. It’s well presented without being fussily elaborate or piled with incomprehensible twiddly bits. If anything, it’s clear that a tremendous amount of thought has gone into each dish. If Katie Melua, Alicia Keyes and Norah Jones cooked instead of singing, this is the kind of food they’d produce. It’s an intensely soothing and de-stressing place. Even the salt and pepper came in upcycled empty miniature spirit bottles and the colourful tulips, scrubbed wooden tables and mismatched vintage crockery gave an instantly comfortable, homely feel.
We opted for Ninety Nine’s uniquely Scottish twist on tapas. Beloved rated his Cullen skink as one of the best he’d tasted, while the earthy flavours and velvet-smooth texture of my garden pea and mint soup were excellent. Beloved swiped both hunks of the rustic wholemeal organic bread, but he did say that he enjoyed it!
There’s a wide selection of dishes on the menu, so some interesting combinations are possible. Portions tend towards the substantial, so you won’t be disappointed with whichever you choose. My chickpea curry dhal came with some great naan bread on the side and was topped with fresh chilli and coriander. It was well spiced, but would have made a main meal by itself.
Two mini-Portobello mushrooms topped with blue cheese and crunchy, mealy chestnuts proved to be perfect comfort food, resting on a bed of rocket and micro-greens. Beloved opted for Guinness-soaked Toulouse sausage which came as chunky slices with Dijon mustard mayo and could cure almost any hangover. His third choice was stovies, which came as a bread-crumbed croquette. Who knows how they got the stovies in there, but we took it as further proof of kitchen wizardry, an opinion founded on the fact that they do proper chips!
A suggestion that Beloved’s rowie and butter pudding, which came laced with a winter falernum syrup and was sprinkled with cranachan, was ideal for sharing was met with stern disapproval. I snuck a bit anyway and it was delicious, even if there must have been roughly a million calories in the sizeable wodge dished up.
My cheeseboard perfectly demonstrated the kitchen’s attention to the quality of their ingredients, with a selection of mini oatcakes, home-made fruity chutney and several Gaelic cheeses, including
a tangy goat’s cheese crottin and a superb Scottish brie.
So, Ninety Nine Bar and Kitchen – let’s just say it’s pretty close to a hundred!