The Gardener’s Cottage and The Lookout are the perfect restaurants for the last weekend of the Fringe
The Edinburgh Festival is coming to an end but thousands of Londoners are set to descend upon the city for its final weekend. And while you come for the comedy, cabaret, magic, theatre and various other barely definable acts, it’s always worth booking a decent restaurant or two before you arrive. Let me introduce you [...] The post The Gardener’s Cottage and The Lookout are the perfect restaurants for the last weekend of the Fringe appeared first on CityAM.
The Edinburgh Festival is coming to an end but thousands of Londoners are set to descend upon the city for its final weekend.
And while you come for the comedy, cabaret, magic, theatre and various other barely definable acts, it’s always worth booking a decent restaurant or two before you arrive. Let me introduce you to The Gardener’s Cottage and its sister restaurant The Lookout…
Set atop Calton Hill, The Lookout is a short but vigorous hike from Waverley Station, a 45 degree stroll guaranteed to either blow away the cobwebs from the previous night, or make you wonder if you will make it to the top before your heart explodes in a fine mist of tequila and Tennent’s lager. Should you reach your destination, you’re rewarded with one of the most spectacular dining rooms I’ve been in for some time, a little modernist cube with floor to ceiling windows that feels cosy despite the fact it’s basically hanging off the edge of a cliff.
Seagulls circle below you and beyond are views across the Firth of Forth to the famous road and rail bridges; on a clear day you can see the little man who’s been painting the latter since it was built in 1889 (a “Painting the Forth Bridge” joke for you there, to get you in the mood for the festival).
Your only choices when it comes to the menu are “lots of food” or “even more food”. Four- and seven-course set menus are available during the day, with the four-course version disappearing after 5pm. This is fine by me – tasting menus are divisive in this line of work but I’m firmly in the “make as few decisions as possible” camp, up to and including being spoon-fed by a trained professional in order to remove any risk of user error.
The enigmatically-listed “Isle of Wight tomatoes, ewe curd, nasturtium,” was in fact an intense gazpacho served alongside a delicate little crab tart. Elsewhere there was halibut from the Isle of Gigha served with samphire, kale and caviar – simple but excellently prepared. Perthshire roe deer with chanterelles and beetroot was autumnal enough to warm you on a rainy Edinburgh evening but light enough to feel just right on a sunny August afternoon.
There was more: a decadent slab of Baron Bigod brie – made in Suffolk but in the style of a classic brie-de-meaux – topped with shaved truffle, and a dessert of chocolate cream, strawberries and some kind of almond biscuit, which was the only dish that could have shown a little more restraint.
The seven courses fly by, partly because that seven includes the bread and the coffee, and partly because they are almost uniformly brilliant. Throw in a well-matched wine flight and front of house staff every bit equal to the kitchen and you have all the ingredients for a delightful afternoon perched above Edinburgh.
Eventually one must pay the piper, of course, and with extras included (£15pp for the cheese, £10pp for coffee and petit fours), our merry table of three managed to rack up a bill of well over £400, although more restrained diners happy to order from the wine list could shave a fair amount off that.
Alternatively – or perhaps in addition – you should look to The Lookout’s sibling restaurant The Gardener’s Cottage, located at the bottom of Calton Hill in a… cottage that used to house a… gardener. While it lacks the immediate wow-factor of The Lookout, it makes up for that in sheer adorability, with two tiny dining spaces that look like rooms in someone’s house with a couple of communal tables tossed in, which is exactly what they are. There’s an open kitchen in one corner and sprigs of lavender dotted about the place. Lovely.
The menu is what you would expect from a restaurant called the The Gardener’s Cottage, with some ingredients presumably plucked straight from the vegetable garden out front (did I mention the vegetable garden, because of course there’s a vegetable garden). The menus are, again, of the tasting variety: this has fallen out of vogue back in London but is still de rigueur in Edinburgh. You can have five courses for lunch or seven in the evening (both including coffee) but here it’s a less extravagant, heartier affair, with dishes painted in pleasant shades of orange and umber: squash with lingonberries and hazelnuts; steak with mushrooms and walnut on a creamy bed of polenta. Once again there’s an excellent selection of cheeses, and this time dessert is a simpler dish of jammy strawberries and buttermilk.
It ticks all the boxes of modern cuisine – local, sustainable, etcetera, etcetera – but does so without ostentation; it’s earnest without being saccharine. It’s great.
By limiting the alcohol consumption to a bottle of pinot noir we kept the bill for the three of us below £200, which felt like a bargain, especially by comparison. And if you’ve already remortgaged your house to secure accommodation in Edinburgh during the festival, what’s another couple of hundred quid? It’s worth it.
The post The Gardener’s Cottage and The Lookout are the perfect restaurants for the last weekend of the Fringe appeared first on CityAM.