I visited Edinburgh two years ago and fell in love with the place. Coming back for a weekend, I was determined to make the most of the city’s great culinary scene. I’m one of those planning types for whom half the fun of a holiday is in planning what to see, do and most importantly eat beforehand. As a child I constantly moaned when my dad stopped to check the menu of every place we passed or brought us across cities to find a place he’d read about and now I do the exact same. Genetics, eh?
The Gardener’s Cottage was high on my list of places to try, and we scored a last minute 9:30pm booking. Despite being in central Edinburgh, the name is not a nod to the faux-rustic vibe. The restaurant is actually in a Victorian cottage in the middle of a park. A kitchen garden leads you in, with all sorts of interesting vegetables and herbs on display.The place is pretty small, with probably enough room for 30 or so people in the two front rooms. You’re dining at pretty close quarters to the people around you, this is not a place for the claustrophobic. The decor is cosy with some industrial style finishes and graphic artwork. Like the living room in a cool interiors magazine.
Our table was slightly delayed, but we promptly found glasses of cava put in our hands as we waited at the picnic benches outside. After a week of mainly American fast food in DC I was excited by their wholesome sounding menu. We ordered a bottle of reasonably priced Picpoul de Pinet, and were promptly presented with an off-menu starting dish of roe deer rilletes and sour dough bread, that could easily have been a starter in its own right. Our actual starter was a vivid purple borscht with a tangy cheese straw. I’m guessing the smokey flavour from the soup could be credited to the home made smoker I spotted out in the garden. This was followed by a refreshing little salad of barbecued leek, quail egg and apple. The main course was a perfectly pan fried piece of hake, balanced with a creamy celeriac puree and bright green parsley puree, the combination of which tasted like a fresh and modern take on your grandmother’s parsley sauce.
A palate cleansing sorbet and granita with apple, lemon and fresh garden herbs prepared the way for cheese and dessert. The cheese course consisted of my personal favourite, goats cheese, along with some homemade crackers and honey. Finally there was pleasantly tart and creamy mix of rhubarb, meringue, rye bread and homemade junket (a kind of strained cheese we were told). It was a very pleasant ending, not too sweet or overwhelming.We were also presented with a gorgeous Riesling dessert wine, again to apologise for our very brief wait for a table.
While the food was lovely, the staff and general atmosphere really made the evening. It felt more like the best dinner party you’ve been to then a restaurant. It’s cosy and informal, the staff are friendly and chatty, and very accomodating. From our vantage point we could see the food being prepped in the kitchen, which I always enjoy. We traded stories about living in Holland with our waiter (all of us had spent time there) as we paid the bill, and felt very at home. So much so, that I rather conspicously whipped out my ridiculous giant camera to take some pictures of the lovely space. My phone photos of my food did not fare so well in the soft light, so you’ll just have to trust me that everything looked, and tasted great.
The Gardener’s Cottage
1 Royal Terrace Gardens, London Road , Edinburgh ,EH7 5DX
Tel: 0131 558 1221