Is there an unspoken law in Edinburgh’s moneyed Stockbridge that you can charge more for food and wine than elsewhere?

Tom Kitchin set the bar with his “pub”, the Scran and Scallie. His prices aren’t pub prices in my book, but the cooking level there justifies them.

I suppose Merienda, located a short hop away, reflects the Scran and Scallie diffusion effect: an assumption that local wallets can take a serious hit, even for a pretty informal meal.

I may have missed it, but I can’t see a bottle of wine under £30. Thankfully we’re concentrating on the food: “Mediterranean-inspired small plate dining using the finest artisan Scottish ingredients”.

Our loquacious waiter makes a song and dance of the menu, down on his hunkers, interacting with us like a needy actor in a very small theatre who’s desperate for the people in the front row to clap. I could do without playing the bit part to the lead actor, but my mounting irritation will wash off me if the food lives up to the script. I try not to be disconcerted by the prominence of what looks to be microwaves in the kitchen.

I try not to be irked by the lazy metallic clatter of cutlery being dried then dropped into their drawer.

Our first couple of dishes are of supermarket deli standard, heavy, salty sun-dried tomato bread that doesn’t have the airy texture to merit the description “focaccia” with a reasonable basil oil to dunk it in, and oddly greyish, matt-looking slices of what strike me as machine-cut ham- apparently 24 months-aged Serrano- with fridge-cold “oven cured plum tomato”.

“Oven cured?” Isn’t that an oxymoron? But I’m still hopeful. I detect more linguistic imprecision with the “Aberdeen Angus carpaccio, aged Pecorino, and vinaigrette Raffaelli”. Carpaccio is Italian; traditionally dressed with good quality extra virgin olive oil and lemon. This rendition is so vinegary it obliterates the flavour of the meat, kills the little wine we’re drinking stone dead, and the oil is so straw-pale it reminds me of refined vegetable oil.

“Thessaloniki chicken with walnut and apricots” intrigues us, and the free-range bird comes from estimable St Brides, so I’m up for that. The dried fruit and nuts, mixed with feta, form a stuffing, some undercooked pancetta or streaky bacon puts a pink collar around each slice. It’s pleasant enough.

And apart from the decorative leaves of wild garlic that have wilted and clamped themselves to the heated plates, there’s a lot to be said for the herb crusted Biggar lamb. Its succulent, rosy flesh looks lovely and works well with a suave, moss green, wild garlic purée.

We give the “seared” asparagus in its pretentiously named “lemon and honey emulsion” a chance, but it tastes bitter. And sorry, I’d say that honey does nothing for asparagus.

I finally part company with Merienda when the purple sprouting broccoli in Roquefort sauce are placed before us, five spindly, fibrous stalks, in what might have been a sound blue cheese sauce if it weren’t for the cooking water that’s leached in to it. £7 for this, that's £1.50 a stalk. On another plate, three small mouthfuls of roast monkfish cheek served with “courgette ribbons” that look as dated as radish roses, sit in a puny, faint-hearted “lobster bisque” that barely tastes of shellfish, let alone the said crustacean.

Desserts arrive slowly, mainly because our server is performing at other tables. “Burnt cheesecake?” It’s meant to be cooked at 220c to form a “bark”.

Actually, it just tastes like deadly plain baked white cheese. Weird though it is to hear myself saying this, it needs more sugar. It comes with “caramel Grand Marnier mandarins”, a singed take on those tinned segments I adored as a child.

We can’t taste the orange brandy. Once again, Merienda’s idea of a common dish, rhubarb fool this time, doesn’t correspond to mine.

This is a stingy spoonful of under-sweetened fruit, topped with ultra-plain cream almost whipped to butter consistency, and chunky biscuit crumbs that are hard enough to crack a dental crown on.

Maybe well-heeled Stockbridge has embraced Merienda. For me, the cooking acumen and the prices just don’t stack up.

Merienda, 30 N W Circus Place, Edinburgh 0131 220 2020
Food: 6/10
Atmosphere: 6/10
Service: 5/10
Value for money: 5/10

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