I never thought I’d say it but I’m becoming bored with brunch. Look, it has its rightful temporal place in any day’s eating, but so many restaurants have ‘brunched’ their all-day menus. Everything comes with an egg, or a smashed avocado, morning, afternoon and evening.

I get the appeal to café proprietors. Anyone- part from me, that is- can poach an egg successfully, fry bacon, grill tomato, make toast. No need to employ a trained chef. You can keep the price quite low, relative to most main courses, and cooked breakfast, infuriating though this reality may be to idiot public health ideologues still hawking bankrupt “healthy cereals” orthodoxy, is always a crowd pleaser.

Of course the issue with brunch breakfast is provenance. Are the eggs organic, or at least free-range? What about the pork in the sausage and bacon? By the time I’ve grilled my server on those questions, the muesli often looks like a simpler option. But here at Ostara, I can let my guard down. A humble make-do-and-mend neighbourhood café, yet its sourcing is impeccable, from small, local producers, seasonal, animal welfare-aware. When I see that the milk is cream-lined non-homogenised, grass-fed from Mossgeil Farm, that the sourdough comes from the Company Bakery, the pork from Puddledub, I truly relax. And, here’s a bonus I wasn’t counting on, the person at the stove in Ostara can really cook, with creativity, imagination, a talent that tastes embedded in intelligently cosmopolitan eating experience. Ostara works hard for our money too. There’s so much effort and care in all our dishes.

We ooh and ah at the savoury pancake, a chickpea take on a masala dosa.

Cut diagonally, one half sitting at a jaunty angle on the other, it’s a stunner. From its soft centre spills out a sweet potato, cauliflower, peas spring onion, seasoned with an earthy, to my mind Jamaican-style, spice mix that’s freshened by the presence of mint leaves. Under a bird’s nest of pea shoots, and with a crunchy pink pickle, and coconut yogurt, this pancake is a talking point that doesn’t disappoint in the mouth. Kimchi chilli scramble looks more familiar- essentially scrambled organic eggs- but the spicy, fermented cabbage adds interest to the eggs’ suitably sloppy consistency, while the former tames the kimchi heat. It comes on that fabulous Company bread, decked with a tangle of dark-fried onions, refreshing coriander, and slender sprouting broccoli stems.

Makhlama hash is ultimately the dish that rubber stamps for me just how unusually special Ostara is. It’s a sight to gladden the heart, a crumbly mound of spiced, minced lamb and softly sweated onions, interspersed with chunkier roast vegetables, fried potato, splashed with yoghurt, decked with fresh coriander, and crowned by a daringly crisp-fried organic egg that’s been dusted with za’atar. For good measure this magnificent hash comes with a homemade flatbread. See what I mean about effort?

Rhubarb and custard French toast? Take a minute to let the magic of these words sink in. We’re eyeballing a big, fat, hot brioche sandwich, custard-stuffed. It comes generously flanked with poached pink rhubarb and rhubarb compote- so many restaurants treat rhubarb as if it’s rationed. There’s extra custard, and a scattering of crumble topping too, just in case we weren’t already gurgling with satisfaction.

You could come to Ostara just for tea or coffee and home baking. We toy with the treacle tart, impressed by its short, crumbly pastry. This is one of the few places that understands how to serve top quality Darjeeling tea- the estimable Pekoe supplies it-and you pay less for it here than many other places will charge you for a rubbish teabag filled with the sweepings off the grading room floor. That splash of gin in the Worcesterberry jam is a revelation, an idea to copy. Lots of this jam, with ample butter and two craggy slices of Company bread costs only £2.50.Despite all its obvious virtues, Ostara isn’t expensive. The dearest main course for lunch is £10.95. If it were on my patch, I’d never be out the place.

Ostara, 52 Coburg St, Leith 0131 261 5441
Food: 10/10
Atmosphere: 8/10
Service: 8/10
Value for money: 10/10

Joanna Blythman, Guild of Food Writers Food Writer of the Year 2018