At the bottom of Lothian Road, I thought about lying on the pavement, telling him to go without me and letting the seagulls take my eyes.
My average step count has plummeted recently. It hovered around the 10k mark in the pre covid days. Now I barely push 3k.
By the time we arrived at our destination, I had already begged for a collie buckie and we looked like a couple of Rooster potatoes.
In fact, I’d kind of forgotten why we love going to restaurants. If anywhere might re-enthuse me, it’s Aizle.
They were at St Leonard’s Street for six years, but recently upped sticks to The Garden Room at this central hotel. Apparently, their Pleasance-based regulars and fans of sister restaurant, Noto, on Thistle Street, have followed them. Thus, they’ve been booked up since opening and we could only get a 5pm dinner slot.
That made us the first into the greenhouse of a space, with grasses in vases on the tables, and bottles of hand gel that smell like turps.
The menu is a six-course tasting affair priced £70pp, with paired drinks for an additional £50pp.
Course number one incorporates three consecutive “snacks”. It seems daft to use that word, as if they’re in the same category as Wotsits. These were definitely not Wotsits. We shared a fluffy ewe’s curd cheese, topped with nibbly grains, redcurrant and sorrel leaves. This was scooped up using four sweet potato lattices, each resembling leaf skeletons. So gorgeous, chewing them to a pulp felt like delicious vandalism.
Then we had two blocks of aged beef tartare, served on fried bread blocks. These were topped by truffle, a thick mayo, kohlrabi discs, nasturtium leaves and yellow pansy petals.
Equally heavenly, the third snack consisted of diced raw Loch Etive trout in buttermilk with a herby oil, and a dish of wasabi and apple granita. It was all the ozoney things, with dill and cucumber in there too.
Course two was a riff on tomatoes. I’m not sure at what point this humble sandwich fruit stops being a tomato, and becomes a deity, but it had completed the transition.
Some of these were blanched, skins off, and anointed with tiny blobs of purée, and they were accompanied by all their best pals – minuscule cheddar crumbs, basil oil, a mozzarella mousse, pea shoot tendrils, and other gorgeous flowers.
There’s a break at this point for the bread course – a whole harvest loaf, which comes with two types of their own tangy butter, cultured with yogurt. One was sprinkled with sandy espelette pepper, and the other plain.
We tried not to scoff it all, but kept the remainder on our side plates, guarding it like dogs with behavioural issues.
The courses kept coming, each with equal pizzazz. There was no sagging middle. Number three was wild halibut, with Anstruther crab, bubbles of roe, sea aster, sea plantain and a joyous furikake-sprinkled mashed potato. Four featured chunks of pink Inverurie lamb, a mustardy dressing, and a squat little roscoff onion stuffed with lamb neck and topped with breadcrumbs and dots of coral coloured apricot purée.
“Can I take your bread plates?” asked the waitress. Grrr. Ruff-ruff.
We could have added an additional cheese course at this point but, as much as I love baron bigod, we don’t have entirely hollow legs.
Number five was a vampiric looking creation – a raspberry sorbet wreath full of treacly beetroot jus and purple sorrel leaves. It’s mellow earthiness meant we could still handle a proper sugar hit, courtesy of the Michel Cluizel chocolate mousse dome creation, which came with praline shards, mint leaves, beurre noisette ice-cream and toasted barley.
Oh, and the four pretty petit four (a graffiti influenced miso-injected one, a gooseberry tart, blackcurrant jelly and beetroot chocolate, I think) slid onto the table as we were about to put our masks back on.
We were supercharged all the way home.
That’s a meal that’s worth every blister. For Aizle, I would walk 10 thousand steps and I would walk 10 thousand more. n
How much? Dinner for two, excluding drinks, £140
The Kimpton Charlotte Square, 28 Charlotte Square, Edinburgh (0131-527 4747, www.aizle.co.uk)