I recently went on a very brief excursion to Edinburgh to see one of my nearest and dearest. I worked out that if you didn’t count the journey, I was there for a mere 24 hours, but thankfully I took advantage of this brief period to visit The Gardener’s Cottage – one of the city’s most exciting restaurants.
The Gardener’s Cottage is co-owned by chefs Dale Mailley and Edward Murray, opening its doors in 2012, and situated (funnily enough) in a very pretty 19th century ex-gardener’s cottage, which required considerable restoration after laying empty for several years. It has to be said that they’ve done a tremendous job.
The interior has been pared down to emphasise simplicity and evenness, while still keeping a strong impression of the property’s history and individuality. I was surprised to find that the restaurant promotes communal dining, with the space’s main feature being long wooden tables – not something you often find in Edinburgh, but which fits the venue perfectly.
If the interior harks back to the past, then it’s the modern processes, interesting combinations and six-course tasting menu that bring the place firmly up-to-date.
We started with warm homemade curds, olives and fresh bread. The cheese proved controversial: not entirely sure when it was brought to the table hot, but it definitely improved in flavour as it cooled. It was delightfully creamy and drizzled with extra virgin olive oil; had there been a pinch more seasoning I could almost have polished off another bowl.
The pumpkin, apple, chickweed and hazelnut dish was fresh and tasty. I enjoyed the combination of pumpkin and hazelnut (not overly memorable but pleasant enough), and its lightness meant I had room for one of my favourite dishes – prime mutton fillet with pulled slow cooked shoulder, roasted Jerusalem artichoke, pickles and raw cabbage. The mutton was cooked absolutely perfectly, and the age of the cut was very flavoursome. Altogether it was earthy, well balanced and an accomplished success.
The next dish – Douglas fir milk jelly, beetroot granita, barley meringue and frosted pea shoots – wasn’t exactly my taste, but was an interesting combination nonetheless. I felt slightly like I was licking a Christmas tree (perhaps given the time of year, that’s not a bad thing), but my guest really enjoyed it and on a textural level it was satisfying.
I’ve never been much of a wine connoisseur, but luckily my companion chose an excellent vintage port to compliment our Ragstone cheese and chutney, which roguishly came before our dessert of hazelnut cake with toffee ice cream. I think I would be happy to have hazelnuts in almost everything I eat until the end of time, so this dessert was always going to be a winner. The cake was light, not too sweet and perfectly paired with rich toffee ice cream. For me, it was a flawless pudding.
Overall I was very impressed with the experience, the kitchen was calm and service impeccable. Every dish had a confident touch, and I look forward to visiting again when I’m back in Scotland.
The Gardeners Cottage is dedicated to using locally sourced, seasonal, sustainable ingredients and excellent value for money – the tasting menu is £30.
1 Royal Terrace Gardens
0131 558 1221