[2014: L’Artichaut is now closed]
Edinburgh is great for vegetarians and most restaurants have vegetarian options on their menus. Sometimes it’s nice to go to a restaurant that doesn’t offer meat at all. There’s Kalpna and Ann Purna, when you want great vegetarian Indian; Henderson’s Restaurant and Bistro for hearty, home-made dishes, David Banm’s when you want a more formal evening. Now there’s also L’Artichaut for when you want excellent French vegetarian cuisine.
L’Artichaut is the sibling of La Garrigue, one of my favourite French restaurants, and offers the same well-prepared food made from good, seasonal ingredients. The interior of La Garrigue is carried off a little more successfully than that of L’Artichaut whose cream and brown rustic crockery felt retro in a bad way, but the service and the food more than made up for that. Intent on a good night, we started with a Kir Royale and continued the pink theme with a bottle of Petit Rimauresq Rose which was fruity and fresh.
Deciding what to eat was difficult. Most everything looked tempting. Eventually, we decided to start with chanterelles in a pastry case. The mushrooms had been picked that morning, had a lovely delicate flavour and were brightly yellow. Cooked with a little butter and dressed with a slick of cream, they were not smothered by pastry or sauce, but enhanced by them. It was so good I was almost sad when we’d finished our starters.
That respectful approach came through in the main courses too. In most, one ingredient is selected to be the focus of the dish and is given tweaks to enhance it, not to hide what it is but to make you see it in a new light. My braised baby fennel had all its licorice-y flavour but was tender and succulent, speckled with creamy-coloured breadcrumbs. I’m not usually a fan of breadcrumbs, they often seem like filler and are hard and pointless. Not these. They were delicately crunchy and made a nice contrast to the fennel. With the fennel came an earthy and compact gratin Dauphinoise and some heavily reduced tomatoes. The spinach and courgette lasagna was also good but I just don’t get excited about lasagna, even when the pasta is fresh.
Luckily, we had room for pudding. The lemon tart was faultless. The lime and pink peppercorn meringues with chocolate sauce a really good idea. Stronger on the peppercorn than the lime, perhaps, but perfectly crisp and a nice foil to the chocolate sauce, the meringues melted pleasingly in the mouth.
We finished with coffee and digestifs.
I recommend the Farigoule, a green-tinted thyme liqueur that reminded me of Riccola pastilles and green Chartreuse. A perfect end to a good meal.
The only drawback with L’Artichaut is its location. Tucked away around the corner from the bottom of Dundas Street, it is not convenient to where I live. Still, there are buses and I’ll be back because it is rare to find a chef that treats vegetables so well.
14 Eyre Place
0131 558 1608
Update: If you want to go to L’Artichat for an all vegetarian experience, hurry up! From January 8th, 2011, it will become La Garrigue in the New Town and have a more mixed menu, although vegetarian dishes will still be served.