Henderson Street, Leith
This fine restaurant seems to slip in and out of Michelin starriness, but it gives the impression of being above such arbitrary distinctions in the first place. The idea is clearly that you are there to have a good time with some confident and inventive cooking. The genial maitre d’ is one of the most welcoming I have encountered and the two waiters (one German, one Italian) were of the kind you normally only meet in restaurants in France—people who both seem to enjoy talking to you about the food and are knowledgeable about it.
The cooking is very good indeed and conjures surprises out of classic dishes and ingredients. The fact that the tasting menu is cunningly only £10 more than the three-course menu was irresistible, so we embarked upon that.
With some glasses of a fresh, light Prosecco we had some exceptional canapés (great range of flavours and textures in such little parcels) and then one of those dishes that reminds you why some familiar partnerships (pea and ham in this case) are so good—a very classy version with Alsace smoked ham and a perfect expression of green peas. Next a milder dish of scallops with a leek and shrimp risotto that led into (vegetarians look away) foi gras. There is a real attention to the sequence of courses. I’m sometimes a bit cautious about the richness of foi gras, but it was beautifully cut with prunes. (At this point the only slip-up in the service occurred when I asked for some bread but none was forthcoming).
Some tasting menus can get a little tiring by the time you get to the meat course, but this was the highlight of the meal. A pretty simple loin of roe deer with wild garlic and, surprisingly, clapshot! As with the pea and ham, faith in very traditional dishes paid off—the simple, fresh ramsoms and the richer root vegetables (halfway between a puree and a mash) were perfect with the very tender venison.
A cheese course is included (you often have to pay extra at restaurants of this kind). Personally, I would have preferred a little taste of a harder, sharper cheese, rather than the warmed goat’s cheese in a balsamic dressing, but there was nothing wrong with it. It was just a bit much, particularly with the foi gras in recent memory. But the finest moment of all was the arrival of four cherry soufflés—each absolutely perfect and looking as if they might float off the ceiling (an effect that continued in the mouth). One of the best desserts I've had.
The Plumed Horse is a very unpretentious place, given the quality of its cooking. Very good for a night out, and heartfelt thanks to the friends who thought of this and took me out!