Owners of new Edinburgh restaurant The Palmerston discuss "whole animal cooking" and announce opening date

They plan to reinvigorate Edinburgh’s west end.

Published 30th Apr 2021
Updated 8 th Aug 2023

There’s a betting shop, Greggs, Boots, a tattoo parlour, and a couple of empty shops.

Trams zip past every few minutes, and the people who are still commuting gravitate towards Haymarket Station.

Apart from a few reliable stalwarts, this part of Edinburgh’s west end isn’t exactly a dining destination, especially since Otro, on Shandwick Place, closed during lockdown.

However, that looks set to change with the opening of The Palmerston, at 1 Palmerston Place, in mid July.

The heavy wooden door of this imposing corner building (originally a bank, then a series of cafes, including Cafe Noir and a Starbucks) is currently shut, and there are Coming Soon banners in the windows, along with their duck head logo.

You can’t see inside, though we imagine that there’s some frantic activity in there.

Owners, Lloyd Morse, 36, and James Snowdon, 33, are preparing the launch of their first joint venture.

Their “neighbourhood restaurant” will champion provenance and sustainability, with a butchery team to help them produce cuts for what they describe as “whole animal cooking”.

In the same spirit as not wasting any part of the beast, they’ve used every inch of the high-ceilinged room.

“We found a place with so much potential and space, which is a rarity,” says Snowdon.

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As well as the open-plan 60-cover restaurant, there will be a bar, a bakery (operating as a wholesale business, as well as providing their own bread and cakes), coffee shop (serving a brew made by beans from Edinburgh’s Obadiah Coffee) and a butchery.

It sounds like the most exciting launch in the capital for a while, with an idea that was born, like so many are, over a casual pint among pals.

“We were having drinks at The Bow Bar one night and the rest is history”, says Snowdon, who’s originally from Edinburgh and formerly front-of-house at The Harwood Arms in London’s Fulham.

He’ll be the restaurant’s general manager, while Morse will lead the kitchen and butchery team.

“Originally from Australia, I’ve spent the last fifteen years traveling the world, working in some incredible kitchens.

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"I’m proud that Edinburgh will be home to the first restaurant for James and I”, says Morse, who has worked under Skye Gyngell at London’s Spring.

“Our aim is to bring something new to the city’s renowned dining scene.

"Whole animal cooking is at the heart of this - it cuts out food waste so is better for the environment and enables us to really honour the time, effort and dedication that went into rearing it”.

Although the building, built in 1868, may look imposing, with stone stairs up to the entrance and the Royal Bank of Scotland’s stone coat of arms, featuring a lion rampant and a unicorn, above the door, they hope the space will have a relaxed feel.

Despite their backgrounds, with 30 years of restaurant experience between them, they’re not angling for Michelin stars or awards, but want it to be an approachable, all-day affair, open Tuesday to Sunday.

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However, it will be stylish enough that a visit will still feel like an occasion.

“Our dining aesthetic is relaxed with a bar for counter dining and banquette seating in the main restaurant”, says Snowdon.

“The colour palette is earthy green with splashes of colour and rich dark wood - an inheritance of the listed building”.

The original bank vault is going to be their wine cellar, and, as Snowdon says, “The building’s simple grandeur has definitely inspired the look and feel”.

Their menu of sophisticated and seasonal bistro-style food should suit the ambience.

Dishes will include East Neuk mutton chops with turnips and bacon; gnocchi with braised greens, chilli and creme fraiche, or whole grilled mackerel with white beans, spinach and Pernod.

Although they’re big on the carnivorous nose-to-tail aspect, vegans and vegetarians are very welcome and will be well catered to.

As far as the more unusual cuts go, Morse hints at what we might expect.

“Pork ribs are a good example of a lesser-known cut.

"They can be slow cooked with tomatoes and chilli for a pasta sauce,” he says.

“Tender and rich lamb kidneys are perfect on toast with bacon. Lamb belly is one of my favourite cuts - we’ll braise it and then crumb it and serve it with sauce gribiche”.

They’ve also done their research when it comes to Scottish suppliers.

Their wild venison will come from Kildermorie Estate in Ross-shire, beef and lamb from Bowhouse, and mutton and hogget from Ardoch Hebridean Sheep.

“Gin from Electric Spirit Co. is definitely a favourite”, says Snowdon. “And we'll have Newbarns beers on tap at the bar - it's brewed in Leith by a fantastic team of beer geeks”.

We are counting down to July. As we get closer, Snowdon and Morse have a few anticipatory nerves about opening their first restaurant, but not about how the pandemic might affect their enterprise.

At that point, they hope people will be more confident about eating out. We’ll have had a bit of practise, and it should feel a bit more normal.

“There’s an excitement of meeting friends for dinner on a Friday night, we’re all missing it. I think people just want to get back out and experience that again,” says Snowdon.

“And frankly, I think everyone is fed up with cooking at home!”

Hopefully potential diners will think about making a bee-line for this part of town.

“On the back of developments such as Haymarket, we’re already seeing new spots open”, Morse says.

“It’s exciting to be part of the reinvigoration of the west end”.

Find out more on their website.

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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