Scotsman Review
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  • 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
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September 3, 2023

Spry Wines, Edinburgh, restaurant review - seasonal small plates and interesting wines in central location

Rosalind Erskine enjoys a glass of wine and a dinner of seasonal small plates at this Edinburgh wine bar.

Wine bars have been having something of a renaissance. Having last been popular in the 80s and 90s, they slightly fell out of favour as drinking trends moved towards cocktails - plus the wines were, on the whole, not that great.

Big name bars and shops remained, such as All Bar One and Oddbins, but the independent wine bar is now back with a vengeance, and the wines, atmosphere and food is nothing like their ancestors.

Bar Brett in Glasgow, which opened in 2019, consistently serves up excellent dishes, in a relaxed setting and with an extensive wine menu, as well as many specials and interesting bottles by the glass.

It’s a brilliant, low-key spot and has been mentioned in many a prestigious food guide, including the Michelin Guide (it’s the sister restaurant of Michelin recommended Cail Bruich). Edinburgh too is home to many great independent wine bars, such as Smith & Gertrude, Mistral and Good Brothers Wine Bar.

On a busy August evening, at the tail end of the festival, we decided to visit another well-thought of Edinburgh wine bar, Spry Wines.

Opened in 2019, the wine bar offers a small plates menu as well as a range of organically made wines, free of preservatives.

Owner, Matt Jackson, has a wealth of experience in the hospitality industry having worked behind the bar since the age of 18 in some of the city’s top eateries including Castle Terrace and more recently Timberyard. 

Although we’d not booked, and the city was as heaving as you’d expect at this time of the year, our waitress wasn’t perturbed and found us a seat at the bar.

Inside, Spry is minimalist, with bottles of wine on show on light wood shelves. The walls are white and the bar, and cooking area, is in the centre of the room, with small tables dotted around and high stools at the bar.

The plates are also simple and stylish, and cutlery and linen napkins arrive in a pot. It’s a light and airy space, ideal for the sunny days of summer - and a welcome break from the crowds outside.

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While we looked at the menu, we were poured a glass each of the Staffelter Hof, It’s Muller Time Sandersstruck orange wine, at the recommendation of the waitress, who was attentive and helpful all night, despite being very busy.

This wine was sharp and slightly effervescent - a bit like a vino verde, but with more fruity notes. The small menu included seasonal sharing dishes, and had a good number of veggie options.

spry wines wine bar Edinburgh
Picture: Spry

If you’re hungry, order five between you we were told, so did just that. First to arrive was the Ante sourdough and cultured butter (£3.50).

This bread is from the coffee shop and bakery from the team behind Spry Wines. Four thick slices arrived with a quenelle of thick butter sprinkled with small crystals of sea salt. The soft bread had a lovely nutty flavour and a tint of texture.

Next to arrive was the kohlrabi salad (£6.50) and cured sea trout with Isle of Wight tomatoes and sauce vierge (£10).

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The kohlrabi salad consisted of thin ribbons of this vegetable flecked heartily with dill. It was liberally tossed in a mustard and dill dressing, which gave it an almost horseradish kick.

Crisp and refreshing, it paired well with the wine and it was nice to see this under-appreciated vegetable, which we agreed needs to be highlighted more, in a standalone dish on a menu.

The firm burnt orange slices of fresh sea trout were hidden amongst chopped and halved deep red tomatoes. The sauce vierge brought a tanginess to this taste of the best of summer.

Next up was the egg raviolo with chanterelles and Corra Linn (£12) and a lobster crumpet with pickled white cabbage and samphire (£12).

The raviolo was served as one large pasta square, dotted with oil and shavings of parmesan and a liberal sprinkling of black pepper. Surrounding it was a rich cheesy sauce and thin slivers of mushroom. At the centre was a runny egg yolk.

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A deliciously rich dish, the cheese slightly overpowered the other flavours but it was still devoured. The lobster crumpet was the highlight of the night and, like the pasta, was served as one large crumpet to share.

Topped with a tumble of white cabbage and samphire, the sweetness of the lobster was not overpowered by the soft crumpet or other flavours which were simple and complementary. The cabbage and samphire added some crunch.

I still had room for dessert - and my friend ordered a chilled Italian red to round off the meal - so I ordered the dark chocolate mousse with sloe jam and hazelnuts (£8).

Not too sweet, this dish had a coffee note within the mousse and a tartness from sloe jam, which was right in the centre, and topped with fragrant, toasted hazelnut slivers.

There’s no denying that the food at Spry Wines is very good, but don’t go for dinner hungry as the plates, though diverse and tasty, are quite small.

It’s an ideal place for a quick bite before a show, or lunch with friends or a date - and in that way stays true to what wine bars always were. Just this time round, they’re so much nicer.

Spry Wines

1 Haddington Pl, Edinburgh EH7 4AE

0131 557 0005

Spry Wines, Haddington Place, Edinburgh, UK
Spry Wines, Haddington Place, Edinburgh, UK, EH7 4AE
0131 557 0005
Known for cake making, experimental jam recipes, Champagne, whisky and gin drinking (and the inability to cook Gnocchi), Rosalind is the Food and Drink Editor and whisky writer for The Scotsman, as well as hosting Scran, The Scotsman's food and drink podcast.
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