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Restaurant Review: Heron, Edinburgh

This new place is in the former premises of The Raj.

Published: August 7, 2021
Categories:
Food: 
9/10
Ambience: 
9/10

Now that I work at home, garden birds are my colleagues.

We mainly have sparrows - noisy, hungry and ramshackle, just like my former desk mates.

The other day, there was a little flock of long-tailed tits, which looked as if they had been designed by Studio Ghibli.

So kawaii, but now we’re back to 97 per cent spuggies and I’m hankering for some avian exotica, or just something that’s not brown and tweety.

Down at Leith’s Shore, you’ll often see the grey and lanky fish-eater who’s the namesake of new restaurant, Heron, which has launched in the former premises of longstanding resident The Raj and, after that, Kcal Kitchen.

I think this is the first time I’ve ever seen this beautiful corner building used to its full potential. At the back, there’s still that strange staircase to nowhere - a perfect metaphor for my life.

They’ve painted the ceiling a deep teal, and it generally looks fresher and more modern than it has for decades, thanks to chalk-white walls, plants and groovy light fittings that look a bit like modernist nests.

The blinds are open just a crack, so you can peer out - the people, dog and buses-struggling-to-navigate-the-roundabout watching potential on this busy corner is amazing - but nobody can see you.

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This place is owned by Tomas Gormley and Sam Yorke, who have various experience at The Lookout, Restaurant Andrew Fairlie and Bonnie Badger, among others. During lockdown, they launched a fine-dining food delivery business, Bad Seeds, which was hugely impressive.

Thus, I knew I was in for some good food. There wouldn’t be any scraping of rejects into my handbag.

For lunch, served Friday to Sunday, you can choose from the a la carte, or they do two courses for £23, three for £29.

Crab claw

I took the pricier option, and went for the starter of crab claw/tomato/rye/strawberry (£13).

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It was a summery riff of sweet shop hues, served on the dove grey canvas that is one of local ceramicist Borja Moronta’s lovely plates.

There were gobstopper-sized peeled tomatoes, looking fleshy and vulnerable in the nude, a berry gazpacho, fiery orange nasturtium petals and little blobs of something creamy that I didn’t pay enough attention to, but which may have been ricotta.

On the side, was a toasted square of rye bread, with a huge dollop of chive-riddled crab.

It worked with my mouth-puckeringly acidic white negroni (£9.50) - bright yellow, like sunshine on Leith, with Lind and Lime Gin, Suze Gentian Liqueur, Lillet Blanc, and a coil of peel.

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beetroots

Our other starter, with a choice of two of each course on the set lunch menu, was The Free Company beetroots.

This was another arty plateful of colour, like Kandinsky’s palette. There were more orange petals, and tender coral beets, as well as tangy buttermilk and a handful of flaked almonds, with a moat of herby oil.

After that, he had a comforting dish of earthy gnocchi, with each of the squashy and tender dumplings coated, like a baby’s beach bum, in a sandy porcini powder, as well as various types of mushroom, from the slender pins that are shiitake to fatter cremini.

It came with a lovely and salty buttery sauce, and strips of half melted and nutty aged Scottish gouda.

duck

I’d gone for an a la carte main of duck/honey/lavender/chicory (£26). I couldn’t really detect the lavender or the honey, but it didn’t matter, they weren’t missed.

The crispy-skinned duck breast was covered in crushed coriander seeds and pink peppercorns, and, on top of some spinach, there was a beautiful coppery pithivier that contained duck leg and pancetta.

The chicory leaves were on a separate plate - served simply, raw and crunchy, like palate cleansers, with a little salt and oil.

There are just two choices of pudding. I went for the chocolate (£9) thing and he opted for strawberries, since we’re nothing if not predictable.

chocolate dessert

Mine featured a single raspberry-powdered dark chocolate globe filled with a light ganache. On the side was a quenelle of pleasingly wersh raspberry sorbet, chocolate soil, and some zingy rasps.

His strawberries were lovely too, and they came with a basil oil and powder, mint sprigs, yoghurt, and the almond-y crunch of a sort of granola-ish base.

We only wished we’d also ordered one of their snacks - perhaps the sourdough, with brown crab butter (£5) - to take home in a birdie bag.

However, I think the food at this excellent addition to The Shore might be too fancy for those cheeky and feathered colleagues of mine. I’ll put some stale crusts out later.

Heron

87-91a Henderson Street, Edinburgh (0131 554 1242)

How much? Lunch for two, excluding drinks, £77

Places to try Nearby

Restaurant Martin Wishart, 54 The Shore, Edinburgh (0131 553 3557, www.restaurantmartinwishart.co.uk)

Available Wednesday to Sunday, this fine-dining stalwart does a three course lunch menu for £42.50. Dishes might include scallop mousse, paysanne of leeks, Champagne and chervil sauce. Book in advance though, it’s still as popular as it’s ever been.

Williams & Johnson, Customer Lane, 1 Custom Wharf, Edinburgh, www.williamsandjohnson.com)

We got our post-prandial coffee here, before we realised that Heron also serves coffee from Santu. Still, if it’s sunny, roastery Williams & Johnson has some outside benches where you can check out the local seagulls’ shenanigans.

Chums, 18 Henderson Street, Instagram @chums_leith

While Heron can serve your fine-dining needs, Chums, from the team behind Solas Neon, will sort your pie and beans cravings. They also offer Fisher & Donaldson’s fudge doughnuts, coffee, empire biscuits and bakewell.

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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