Scotsman Review
Our criteria 
  • Ambience - It's important that a restaurant is inviting. We rate the decor, comfort and atmosphere.
  • Drink - Is the wine or cocktail list as exciting as the food, or does it fall short? Same goes for soft drinks. 
  • Food - We judge dishes on flavour, but also use of produce, cooking skill and presentation
  • Service - The staff and pace of a meal can make or break a meal out.
  • Value - From the food on the plate to service and surroundings, we check that you get what you're paying for.
November 20, 2019

Nor' Loft, Edinburgh, restaurant review

Champagne and fancy nibbles taste better at altitude, so try Nor' Loft, says Gaby Soutar

Private jets, penthouse suites, top of the podium.

Champagne always seems to be drunk at altitude.

People at ground level can keep their tepid beers and hot drinks, as they need to stay warm while wearing bronze medals at close proximity to the cold pavement.

This champagne bar, Nor’ Loft, continues the vertiginous fizz trend.

It’s on the seventh floor of the new four-star Market Street Hotel – the plushest design hotel in town that nobody has heard of.

It seems ironic it’s named after the Nor’ Loch, which was filled in during the 19th century and later became Princes Street Gardens. Most likely, that stretch of water was a poisonous soup, made danker by the executions, DIY sewage management and, some say, witch dooking, that took place.

Anyway, this space looks like a BoConcept showroom, with art books, white marble tables and a rooftop view which makes it seem like it is squaring up to The Balmoral.

Don’t ask for prosecco, but you could go for a bottle of Cristal, £440; Dom Perignon 2008, £330 or Bolly for £170 (or £29 per glass).

However, how much better can the swanky stuff be than a glass of their lovely and toasty house Justerini & Brooks 250th Anniversary Cuvée (bottle £50, glass £9)?

It slips down easy, as does another flute of Pol Roger Reserve Brut (bottle £75, glass £13.50), which is billed as a favourite of Winston Churchill and has frothy fine bubbles like sea spume.

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Guests here are so busy quaffing that taking food orders is definitely the staff’s secondary priority.

We eventually managed to get hold of a harassed looking waitress, who was frantically multitasking, and ordered a few of their Small Plates.

The first to arrive were more like canapés, tiny stamps of crisp feuille de brick topped with duck liver parfait (£8) and gems of kumquat gel and shallot jam. Just three rather lovely airy bites. It’s not a meal, but you’ll stay thin and fabulous, Eddy.

The smoked chicken rillettes (£6.50) were a fraction more substantial, with three Pringle-sized and very craggily cheesy Parmesan tuilles, each topped with a scoop of roughly hewn smoked meat and a blob of buttery yellow Caesar dressing. Crunch crunch crunch gone.

The three fairy houses of mashed Arbroath smokie (£7.50) were topped with tiny cogs of singed corn, goat’s cheese, crushed walnuts, dried onion and onion seeds, as well as trims of corn purée like the ermine on crowns.

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There was a more substantial dish in the queenie scallops and Ayrshire pork option (£11.50), with a trio of toasty topped bivalves, three matchbox-sized cubes of pork belly and some garam masala-ish curried roast cauliflower purée.

The least sophisticated dish was probably a Nor’ Loch of brie and champagne fondue (£8.50) from the Bites & Shares section. It was decorated with a vortex of spicy red pepper jus, toasted seeds and crumbled up shards of cheesy tuille.

This billowing cauldron came with 10 firelighter-sized columns of Seventies-style fried bread. It defeated us about half way through, so maybe it’s just as well our butternut squash Wellington with spinach purée and dukkah (£6.50) was forgotten.

The puddings include the play on sweet and savoury that is the lemon panna cotta (£4), which consisted of two mini wobbly castles, as well as icy shavings of a goat’s cheese granita, crumbs of smoked walnut, a couple of frozen grapes and port syrup. There was also a pleasant sliver of apple tart tatin (£5), with skin-on apple slices basted in a coconut salted caramel.

So, yes don’t worry that this place is named after the dingiest fathoms of the capital’s past, it’s the place to go if you want to impress someone.

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To bring you out of your champagne fug, the ground floor of the building also houses a new branch of Gordon Street Coffee, which has migrated from Glasgow. We visited for a couple of flat whites (£2.70 each), hewn with their new Edinburgh dark roast.

Nice, and, after a temporary taste of the high life, a kinder way to recalibrate to the pavement level altitude.

Nor' Loft Edinburgh

Market Street Hotel,  6 Market Street, Edinburgh
(0131-322 9229,

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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