To round off my gastro-tour of Scotland I had an obligatory trip to Edinburgh, which readers of the blog will know is one of my favourite cities to visit. Having made friends with fellow food blogger My Monkfish at last year’s My Home Supperclub I was keen for her to recommend to me some eateries for us to check out when we hit the Burgh.
Her first tip off was the brand spanking new Gardeners Cottage, which opened earlier this summer. Housed in (you guessed it) an ex-gardeners cottage within the Royal Terrace gardens on London road, it was a hop skip and a jump from where we staying in the Georgian New Town. Plus it had had a fairly decent review from the Guardian’s Jay Rayner the week before so we were happy to pop down for a feed. It’s run by Scottish chef friends Edward and Dale who have chefed in a number of famous Edinburgh eateries that include the Atrium, the Kitchin; as well working for Mark Hix in London.
The venue itself is the last thing you would expect within the hustle and bustle of Edinburgh’s urban centre. Slightly set back from the main road it’s a cute little dwelling surrounded by neatly planted flowers and vegetables. The internal decor was the last thing I expected. Raw white washed walls were complemented by rough and worn wooden floorboards. Our table, which was shared with the other diners, was a great hulking piece of gnarled wood and our places were set with vintage china and cutlery. It was a bit of a shock at first but completely charming and evocative of another era – cemented even more so by an old record playing retro tunes to us.
The menu was set for us and our only choice was to decide whether or not we had the wine pairings for each course, which we did. The food is all about fresh, seasonal Scottish ingredients, a lot of which have been grown in the grounds of the restaurant or procured from community producers. To start us off we had some deliciously crusty sourdough bread with smokey kipper butter to dip into it. This was accompanied by a less humble glass of French champagne. It was a simple yet effective canape as I loved the contrast of the crunchy bread with the soft, creamy dip. This was followed by soft boiled egg and a remoulade of kohlrabi and celeriac.
Our fish course was a subtly fishy herring that was crumbed with oatmeal and served with apples and red fir potatoes. The crumb gave a fantastic texture to the fish and was really nutty and salty. The apples cut through the oiliness of the fish perfectly although we both agreed that the potato was a bit of gooseberry on the plate and we did not really need it.
For mains it was a beautifully presented hare ravioli with roast pigeon, turnip tops and nasturtium leaves. The ravioli was lovely and moist with a lovely livery flavour. The turnip tops and leaves were a fun addition and I loved the sustainability of using up everything and throwing away nothing. The pigeon, unfortunately, was a little tough for me, but I know how hard it is to cook and get right.
The courses were all very small but it was great to have a little taster of ingredients we wouldn’t necessarily choose in an everyday situation. This also meant that we had room for cheese, which was a tangy and tongue tingling Lanark white – a cross between a cheddar and a brie, apparently. It was a lovely pairing with some crispy homemade rye crackers. This was followed by a simple yet tasty dessert of chocolate puff pastry, roasted plums, and clove ice cream. The pastry was buttery and sweet and the ice cream clovey in a pleasant rather than an overpowering way.
As a diner, you get the impression that the Gardeners Cottage is the brainchild of a couple of friends who’ve got together – through a passion for real and good food and who have stuck up two fingers to the typical posh dining experience. In the cottage it’s all rough and ready, old fashioned and chipped china – but in the best possible way indeed. I loved the fact that I wasn’t in a ‘proper’ restaurant and given that the place was rammed on a Monday night, other people felt the same way as me. Plus I’ll let you into a secret, our five courses of delectable delights was only £25, that’s cheaper than our supperclub!
So if you fancy some food that’s made with love; food that’s sustainable and completely anti-globalisation; meals that use ingredients from days gone by and which test your food boundaries a bit – then get on down to the Gardeners Cottage! It’s simple and unpretentious and extremely satisfying for the stomach and the wallet!