This restaurant is now closed – May 2016
I must confess that the pre-publicity for the Riparian Rooms gave me the impression of somewhere that was going to be a little stiff and full of itself. How wrong you can be!
Ever managing to do things in an unconventional way, I sit down with Head Chef Gary Cromie before I have eaten in the restaurant. It’s just 5 weeks after the restaurant opened.
Gary is one of those chefs that you instantly take to. Here’s someone as passionate about the food as he is with mentoring and growing his staff and encouraging youngsters too (see below). Alex Stewart who has joined him as sous chef from the Pompadour and Galvin’s Brasserie is still only 21.
The restaurant is open all day for breakfast at 8 am through dinner. I ask him about being open for such long hours. He’s pragmatic about it and explains as the staff will be there prepping anyway, why not welcome customers in an any time? Rather than working split shifts, his chefs have a good amount of time off each week, which he feels is very important to maintain their creativity and enthusiasm.
Gary is relishing in how the restaurant is evolving, he’s learning what the customers love most. “I really didn’t expect oxtail to be the most popular dish, but it is the diners favourite”. Could it be part of the trend we’re seeing for nostalgia, for vintage? Dishes we may never have cooked at home, or perhaps even tasted, but we know are will be good and comforting.
Gary shows we round the restaurant and then we head into the kitchen. The chefs love the huge amount of natural light, but as a kitchen it is not large. Bread rolls are proving on one side, preparation of mains to the right and in the corner there’s a rather fancy Pacojet in which they make their homemade icecream.
A couple of weeks later Mr EF and I decide to eat at the Riparian Rooms on a whim. It’s a Wednesday evening and we’re lucky to get a table. A familiar face takes our orders: Peter Adshead who we last encountered as sommelier at the Pompadour.
We’re just having mains. Mr EF plumps for the slow braised oxtail, roast garlic potato and wilted greens , I for the layered confit and purée of butternut squash, poached duck egg, wild Scottish mushrooms topped with truffled crispy potato. Whilst we wait, we sneak a look at what the other customers are eating. The burger looks plump and inviting (and large) – tonight this seems very popular. We could have had a sharing plate but we were hungry.
Mr EF tucks into his oxtail which falls off the bone. It is served with some impossibly creamy mash and a tasty gravy (or should that be a jus?). I personally would have liked just a little more seasoning.
My dish was everything a vegetarian dish should be: tasty, plenty of different textures, filling but not heavy.
Curiously the desserts are on the drinks menu. I often like to choose my dessert then work backwards as to what I will have for starter and mains which I couldn’t do here. I have rice pudding with apple and whisky soaked raisins – warm and satisfying. Mr EF has a honey parfait, seasonal fruits and honeycomb. Next time could we have a little more honeycomb? Because there will be a next time – prices are reasonable, it’s a great atmosphere, everything a neighbourhood restaurant should be.
Calling budding chefs!
The Riparian Rooms is inviting pupils at local schools to create their own dish which will appear on the restaurant menu in the build up to the Edinburgh International Festival.
Gary Cromie said: ‘With the growth in the amount of cookery programmes that are now on television, young people are more interested in recipes, food and how it is sourced. We want to encourage young people to think about their ingredients and so have created this opportunity for one budding chef to work with me here in the Restaurant kitchen and to see their dish on our menu.’
The competition rules are:
Competition is open to boys and girls between 8-18 years old in the following categories – 8-11; 12-15; 16-18 Entrants have to create a mouth-watering main course using local and Scottish produce. The dish should reflect ‘Edinburgh Festival’ should contain no more than five ingredients. The dish should be made within a total budget of £5 and serve 3-4 people and be named appropriately. Closing date for entries is Friday 15th May. All entries should be accompanied by a list of ingredients, detailed recipe and method together with a colour photograph of the dish.
All the category winners will each receive an invitation for their families to enjoy lunch at The Riparian Rooms and the winning cook (selected from the category winners) will spend time with Gary Cromie in the kitchen making their dish before seeing it feature on the restaurant’s menu.
The judging panel will by chaired by Neil Robb, owner of The Riparian Rooms, and include Gary Cromie and Forth One presenter, Grant Stott.
Invitations have gone to all head teachers to participate, however, for further information on the competition please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Photographs are courtesy of Elaine Howie PR taken by Brendan MacNeill