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Flavour Profile Q&A: Stuart Ralston, chef and owner of Edinburgh’s Aizle and Noto

Aizle recently made its debut in the Estrella Damm National Restaurant Top 100 Restaurants in the UK, where it placed at number 92

Published: June 20, 2022
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What’s your favourite ingredient?

That’s a hard question, as I have lots. However, the one I use tons of is koji (cooked rice and/or soy beans that have been fermented). We use it to culture our butter and we make our own miso from it for both Aizle and Noto. We also use it to make amazake - a traditional sweet Japanese drink - which we use for lots of things at both Noto and Aizle like sweetening our house churned ice creams.

Do you have a guilty food pleasure?

I never feel guilty about eating anything. However, my indulgence, every so often, is a Five Guys cheeseburger. My order is always a double cheeseburger teamed with grilled onions, mustard, ketchup and mayo. No salad.

Tell us about your first food memory?

I was lucky to have grown up with both my parents working in the food industry so from a young age I recall lots of good home cooking. As kids we ate everything from steak and kidney puddings to snails and my mum’s recipe of stuffed pancakes. My mum is from Cornwall so I remember getting lots of fresh crabs and fish from the harbour in Newlyn on the shore of Mount’s Bay.

What’s your favourite Scottish restaurant, deli or cafe?

For fine dining, I’m a fan of The Cellar by Billy Boyter in Anstruther, Fife. For casual, I love Eusebi Deli on Park Road in Glasgow.
 

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What would be your last supper?

It would possibly be a helping of the crab butter that we serve at Noto. It’s a very simple choice for a last supper, but bread and butter is probably my most favourite combination in the world if the two are done properly. I’d have that with a fancy bottle of white Burgundy from the Beaune region in France. 

Starter or pudding? 

See above! I’ll go for the bread and butter to start.
 

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Do you have any food hates?

I hate turnips, as they’re the devil’s work. The reason I can’t stand them is because they are just so gaseous and bitter tasting. When I was a child, my dad used to cook them and make me eat them, despite me not being a fan, so that totally sealed the deal for turnips.

What starters, main and dessert would be served at your dream dinner party and who would you invite?

My dream dinner party would include a variety of the most amazing BBQ food, including smoked brisket, ribs, rotisserie chickens, tons of salads, grilled corn and loads of sides. I would invite my family as we don’t spend enough time together.

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What’s your favourite geographical foodie location?

It has to be NYC, where I lived and worked when opening The London for Gordan Ramsay. It was the food that I enjoyed after hours that inspired my restaurant, Noto. It’s such a melting pot of cultures and cuisines that will always have a special place in my heart.

For more information on Aizle, which is in the Kimpton Charlotte Square, 38 Charlotte Square, Edinburgh, see www.aizle.co.uk 

Noto, 47a Thistle Street, Edinburgh, www.notoedinburgh.co.uk

Gaby Soutar is a lifestyle editor at The Scotsman. She has been reviewing restaurants for The Scotsman Magazine since 2007 and edits the weekly food pages.

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