I first stepped foot in a Ma Potters restaurant over ten years ago - there used to be one at Whiteleys in London and I remember dining there with my husband when our daughter was tiny.
When we moved to Edinburgh we noticed one at Ocean Terminal but never went in bar a visit to the bar area while my husband was alive, as he preferred to dine at Zizzi's there.
Since he died I have been with my daughter a few times and the name of the chain changed to Potters before I finally paid a visit in 2008. I have visited a few times since then, and now feel able to write a decent review of the place.
Potters Bar & Grill is located on the upper floor of Ocean Terminal - and it is ideally located for a pre or post cinema drink as it is very close to the Vue Cinema. You can reach this level easily by lift or by escalator.
Ocean Terminal can be found in the Shore area of Leith and is home to Royal Yacht Britannia and a host of shops and other restaurants. There are two multi storey car parks which are free to use. If you need to use public transport, the number 22 bus runs here from Princes Street very regularly.
Potters offers a casual dining experience and has a spacious bar area at the front, which is ideal to use at busy times if you need to wait for a table, or if you just fancy a drink.
The interior is quite neutral with use of red to warm things up a bit and a natural wood floor.
The menu has recently changed and I have to say on my 2008 visit I was really impressed with the meal we had - my daughter had a meal from the children's menu on that occasion while I had a particularly nice fillet steak.
Upon returning recently I noticed the menu has changed and the fillet steak has gone, to be replaced with a rib eye steak.
The kids' menu is still available but as my daughter is nearly 13 she turns her nose up at such things.
You can choose from classic dishes such as fish and chips, chilli con carne, steak and ale pie, lasagne, macaroni cheese and pizza. There are several basic pizza varieties available and you can add extra toppings but bizarrely they don't do a plain margarita pizza which annoyed my daughter as that's her favourite pizza.
There are a large selection of burgers available, along with grill items including the rib eye steak, a mixed grill and gammon steak.
Vegetarian options aren't great however - you will find yourself limited to only a handful of dishes on the menu including a mushroom stroganoff and vegetarian bangers and mash.
There is always a soup of the day and a few specials available, including a roast dinner on a Sunday.
Prices aren't dirt cheap here but nor are they going to break the bank. The rib-eye steak is £14.95 for instance and burgers are around £7.95. The average price for a main course seems to be around £10.
There is a lunch menu which offers sandwiches, soup and jacket potatoes which is only available Monday to Friday lunchtime and offers lower prices than the main menu.
Starters are available too but I haven't yet sampled them so cannot comment.
There is a fairly decent dessert menu which includes such delights as banoffee pie and chocolate fudge cake, and most puddings come in around the £4.50 mark.
I like the Potters restaurant at Ocean Terminal because it offers lovely views out over the River Forth. The vast majority of seats in the dining area do offer views out over the river but you might struggle to get a table here at busy times. It's worth noting that the bar area doesn't have any views towards the Forth.
On my visits I have always been able to get a table quickly - my visits have always been at lunchtime however.
Service I find can be variable. On my first visit the original waiter serving me vanished halfway through without any explanation leaving me with no idea who was actually serving us when I wanted to order a dessert for my daughter.
By and large I have found the staff to be pretty good although service can be slow - you will get your first round of drinks pretty quickly but expect a wait of about 20 minutes for your main course to arrive. Similarly you will have a bit of a wait for your dessert.
I had a burger recently and was quite impressed, although I felt the portion of chips I got was a bit paltry. I had chosen a cheese and bacon burger and was pleased to get back bacon with my burger as I really think streaky bacon just isn't as good.
On my most recent visit I had the rib eye steak with my daughter option for the chicken breast.
Both meals came with a salad garnish, mushrooms and chips, with my daughter's chicken breast coming with a knob of garlic butter. At £9.99 this seemed a good deal. Bizarrely I had to pay an extra £1.95 for a knob of garlic butter with my rib eye steak, which is what you pay if you wish to add a sauce to your steak. The words "daylight" and "robbery" spring to mind here.
I have to say both times I have had steak at Potters I have been very impressed. I like my steak well done - but by that I don't mean incinerated - and Potters chefs understand this perfectly. Both steaks have been juicy and tender, and a steak knife has been given without me having to ask for one.
What has impressed me less is the chips. They look lovely - they are always a glorious golden brown but this cannot mask the fact they taste powdery and have a texture that would suggest they haven't been fully cooked.
Similarly the tomatoes offered with grill items are pale and tasteless - the sort of cheap salad tomatoes I desperately avoid at the supermarket.
The mushrooms were pleasant enough but there is no denying these are frozen mushrooms which were cultivated quite some time ago.
Another issue I have with Potters is the portion size. Now don't get me wrong, I hate huge portions I can barely eat but some of the portions seem decidedly paltry, perhaps because this restaurant is savvy enough to use quite small plates.
I took the time to look at what other diners were getting and noticed that the Sunday roast was particularly small, and the macaroni cheese was served in a dish which looked large due to its diameter but was actually quite small due to lack of depth.
Similarly some of the starters and side dishes are small, with onion rings served in small dishes which can only hold about six rings.
I did notice that the soup portions seem to be more generous however.
The desserts were nothing spectacular either - the banoffee pie I had was clearly mass produced and left a quite nasty aftertaste. I was left wishing I had taken a leaf out of my daughter's book by having her favourite, the chocolate fudge cake.
Lastly this restaurant commits the cardinal sin of adding on a service charge to your bill, so be aware of this and don't leave a tip. You wouldn't pay for your meal twice, so don't pay for service twice.
So why do I go back?
Well, the views are stunning and the location is very handy for me. Also, in December they handed out coupons to customers to use in the first quarter of 2010. The January coupon offered 50% off all food purchases, enabling my daughter and I to have a decent two course lunch for under £25. In February I can get 2 for 1 on main courses, and in March will get £5 of £15 should I choose to go.
I am under no illusions that this is a gourmet restaurant. At full price it is actually quite expensive especially when you consider the less than generous portion sizes and fact much of the food is processed. The staff do know how to cook a burger or a steak but the processed vegetables served loses the place marks.
Like any chain restaurant offering a reasonably large menu you have to accept that some dishes will be better than others, although it is a shame that accompaniments seem to suffer across the board. Similarly some the desserts are quite clearly mass produced with the banoffee pie's chemical aftertaste being testament to this.
However it offers a pleasant ambience, family dining and fairly decent service and it is worth a visit now and again - but it's not a place I would visit on a regular basis.
Potters also has restaurants at Xscape and at Braehead in Glasgow, at the Trafford Centre in Manchester and the Meadowhall Centre in Sheffield.