It’s like assembling a jigsaw puzzle of an Arctic landscape.
We have about 30 unlabelled vacuum bags, five or so of which are in various shades of snow white, from nicotine stained polar bear to virgin drift.
No wonder Gardener’s Cottage provides lavender shortbread as an amuse bouche to kick off their Thursday to Saturday takeaway. You need a blood-sugar-boosting precursor to the DIY elements of this four course (plus extras) £45pp feast.
They also have a vegetarian option (we go for one of these, as well as a standard) at the same price, and our meal for two includes a cocktail for two and a bottle of wine, though there’s also a boozeless £25pp option.
Delivery is free within Edinburgh, but we collected our branded tote from their hedge-fringed square of garden, where there’s a masked manned table of goodies-to-go. Thanks to packaging including WoolCool insulation fleece, they can to send their meals UK wide for £15.
Once home and half de-jiffy-bagged, I uncork the balmy gorse collins, cutely presented in a Drink Me-style glass bottle, and containing gorse syrup, Sweetdram Escubac and tonic.
My plus one takes on the chef-ly role and sorts the Pantone chart’s worth of bags into guestimated courses.
The instructions for the snack course of “cured sea trout, combu” are that “the chicken skin is best slightly heated and the trout is good cold”.
Hmm, we rummage. There is no chicken skin or kombu, but there are leaves of pink fish that must be trout.
I’m supposed to be having the vegetarian menu, but we share this with the crusty sourdough, which was warmed in the oven, and comes with olive oil and a salty dukkah.
The chunky organic beef tartare, for the meaty starter, is easily identifiable, with three little sachets of seasoning – smoked sea salt, fermented wild garlic buds and other bits – to mix in. We find its accompaniments of octagonal rye crackers and feathery and fragrant wild herbs, featuring campanile, sea sandwort, sweet cicely and fat hen.
These leaves are full of interesting notes for a palate dulled by iceberg, and some of this greenery is to go alongside my pot-bellied herb-speckled raviolo, cooked for three minutes, and containing a popping egg yolk, and a smooth paste of wild garlic and potato.
As per the directions, we heat up another load of white filled packets and a random orange one, all of which simmer in their bags, and stick some other stuff in the oven.
While my galley slave sweats, I sample the Johannes Trapl Carnuntum Weiss 2018.
The main course is ready, but I think we need to invest in bigger plates. Mine is piled with milk and hay poached celeriac, black truffle, pheasant back mushrooms and a fluffy artichoke purée, as well as a surprise batch of buttery asparagus. His includes a fillet of poached Gigha halibut, garlicky spinach, more of those dappled mushrooms and purée, asparagus again, but also two langoustines with a rust coloured bisque. We both have a wedge of summer truffle potato terrine.
Since someone, who got flicked with a tea towel, had forgotten to put the mushrooms in the oven, we’d overcooked the fish and asparagus. Still, it was all such good quality that it was only slightly marred.
Their signature is so strong that all the flavours reminded me of the good old days at a busy Gardener’s Cottage, with candles lit and LPs spinning on their turntable.
Our pudding options were the easiest to assemble. Just one box to open and two bags to snip.
We had a buttery pastry tart shell each and we plastered their insides with an almond elderflower cream. This was topped by halved macerated strawberries, which had juice as sweet as dragon’s blood.
And, for a petit four, there was a striped bag full of chocolate almonds from Edinburgh’s Chocolate Tree.
Beautiful, though I’m marking them down on ambience for the label shenanigans.
If I was to stick one on them, it’d say, “Most excellent and definitely worth the concentration required”.n
1 Royal Terrace Gardens, Edinburgh (0131-677 0244, www.thegardenerscottage.co)