Comfort comes in nostalgia-sized portions, and for the eponymous ‘Mum’ that nostalgia is focussed on the 1970s. This is evident in the decor at Mum’s Great Comfort Food in Edinburgh, in the period TV quotes on the menus, rendered in appropriate typefaces, and to some extent in the menu, although it is probably more characterised by the things that have come to be regarded as comforting in subsequent decades. No faggots or Angel Delight here, although bangers and mash is a mainstay of the menu, with two house sausages, an extensive sausage-of-the-day list, three types of gravy and twelve(!) kinds of mash. Burgers, pies, fish and chips and so on are all here, as well as a predictable but welcome breakfast menu, embellished with immigrant dishes such as an American style pancake stack and eggs Benedict. This is a hangover cure in the form of a building.
We have made tentative attempts to eat here twice in the past, only to be deterred by a twenty-minute wait for a table – this was at peak evening mealtime during the Fringe, so it’s hardly surprising. On this occasion we (myself, Spouse, Spawn, Friend of Spawn, and Other Friend of Spawn) were seated without difficulty, and with an informal friendliness that seemed appropriate to the ostensible character of the establishment. While rock and pop hits of the seventies and eighties played at a moderate volume, Spouse and I drank some delicious beer and we made our selections.
Spouse chose chicken Balmoral, a deeply comforting assembly of chicken breasts stuffed with haggis and wrapped in bacon, which I can well imagine eating if I had some guarantees as to the welfare of the bird (prior to slaughter, obviously: subsequent is a bit moot). Spawn had gammon with pineapple (a favourite), I forget what Friend and Other Friend had, and I had macaroni cheese. This is a quintessentially comforting foodstuff, which I make extremely well myself using high quality pasta, Italian cheese and plenty of nutmeg, but I am quite partial to the comforting qualities of less fancy versions. Mum’s is a very solid entry, with a tangy unctuousness and a satisfying heft, and it came with, wait for it… chips. That’s right, carbs with a side of carbs – I can imagine how that kind of culinary utterance would read in the fine-dining world, but here it was more or less exactly on point. I think the intention at Mum’s is that you’ll leave some food on your plate, which is not ideal in a society which throws away 30.8% of the food it buys, but it’s basically an eatery’s only option for reproducing the sense of abundance that comes at home when there’s as much lasagne again going in the fridge after you’ve finished.
Anyone who complained at Mum’s, or questioned the quality of the food, would have entirely missed the point of the place. The service was uncomplainable, in any case, since we were made to feel like we were known and expected, and our waiter was comfortable enough in his skin to engage in some amusing banter. Everyone reported a delicious meal, and mine was superb, crispy-fluffy chips setting off the creamy mac ’n’ cheese to perfection. Like Ronseal, Mum’s Great Comfort Food does exactly what it says on the tin – our entire experience was both comfortable and comforting.
Postscript: On a subsequent visit we were served by Mum herself, and aspects of the establishment made more sense (although they made a lot of sense already) when considered as extensions of her personality. She’s roughly my age, I guess, and speaks to everyone who comes in through the door as though they were old friends. She correctly predicted almost everything we ordered, and appears to be permanently switched on and turned up to eleven. ‘You wouldn’t want to live with me,’ she told us when we went back for breakfast. Perhaps not, but I certainly do want to be entertained by her.