I’ve been wanting to visit The Gardener’s Cottage for a while. Everyone I know who have gone have really enjoyed it but a combination of my laziness with booking and the need to ensure that Christopher, my darling veggie, can eat, means it just hasn’t happened. You can imagine my excitement when I was invited to try the restaurant’s From Root to Leaf menu. ‘Suitable for vegans’ has never sounded so good.
The restaurant is set back from the road: it’s in what used to be a gardener’s cottage in Royal Terrace Gardens. It’s a small establishment: the cottage has two rooms, each with a couple of long tables (seating eight people). Long tables mean sharing the space which means you sometimes need to talk to your neighbours. It adds a convivial, relaxed feel to dinner. Service is efficient and friendly.
The Root to Leaf menu was a five-course tasting menu where the first two plates served at the same time.
First up was a delicate morsel of tomato, pickled cucumber and salad burnet, a foraged, cucumber-scented herb. It came with a side of home-made bread and an aubergine and cumin puré scattered with puffed wild rice. I ate it with the bread. Small but very tasty, even though it’s not the season for tomatoes.
Next, we had the hero dish of the night: fennel, apple, radish and seaweed. A salad dressed with a sweet, herb-scented dashi. It was so fresh and flavourful. I could have eaten a whole big bowl of this and will try to recreate it at home (and fail. Probably several times). The dashi softened the fennel and sweet cicely added aniseed high-notes that lingered on the lips. The radish was cut paper thin and harmonised with the other flavours.
The main, so to speak, was a spelt, asparagus, lovage and wild garlic. My first asparagus of the season! The spelt had a great chew to it and the crushed peas on top were deliciously sweet. It was the very taste of spring. Just the previous weekend we’d been walking along banks scented with wild garlic. The ethos of foraging appeals to me, having to know your herbs, plants and mushrooms, and using what’s local and seasonal well.
The sweet was lemon drizzle cake with rhubarb and lemon thyme. The cake had a great crumb and I liked the little pockets of crunchy drizzle on the top. I’m a huge fan of rhubarb and was positively touched by the pale pink pieces of early stalk on our plates.
From Root to Leaf was a delicious, light meal and I’m so pleased to have finally visited The Gardener’s Cottage. I’ll come back: I’d love to see what else they can do now that I have seen for myself what the hype was about.
Royal Terrace Gardens
1 London Road
Edinburgh, EH7 5DX
Telephone: 131 677 0244
Caroline and Christopher dined on the invitation of The Gardener’s Cottage.