Rosie Morton meets with Chef Gordon Ramsay to chew the fat about Scotland, its fare and its people, and tries out his new culinary venture in Edinburgh’s St Andrew Square…
‘Obsessed is a word the lazy use to describe the dedicated.’
It’s a quote that has stuck with me since I was a rowing-mad teen, and one that re-emerged from the old grey matter as I sat opposite Gordon Ramsay at his new Edinburgh restaurant, Bread Street Kitchen & Bar.
‘Obsessed.’ ‘Straight-talking.’ ‘Fiery.’ However the critics choose to label the Johnstone-born chef and restaurateur, a dogged determination to make his new family-friendly venture a success was all I could sense.
‘I grew up watching Mum have three jobs,’ says Gordon, who opened Bread Street in the capital’s prestigious St Andrew Square in November last year. ‘You never forget that. Ever. That shapes you. I’ve never been scared of hard work anyway, and I’ve always rolled my sleeves up to get it done. That was a strong Scottish ethic that she taught me: “Don’t sit and cry over spilled milk. Get out and look for the next cow”.’
As we took our pews on caramel-coloured sofas upstairs in the restaurant, I glanced around. Not only did Gordon’s passion for Bread Street exude from every pore, the venue itself buzzed with energy and added some sparkle to a dreich afternoon with its metallic accents, moody lighting, parquet floors, and striking floor to ceiling windows framing the historic square outside.
But hold on a minute. This is the man with a host of hit TV shows in America, an empire of restaurants around the globe, and enough Michelin stars to light up the skies. Why set up shop in Scotland? The answer is startlingly simple.
‘It’s in my blood,’ he says, talking of his childhood holidays in Gourock, Greenock and Port Glasgow while reminiscing over camping trips to Loch Lomond and Loch Long. ‘There have been some incredible occasions in Scotland, whether that was playing for the youth team at Rangers or whether it was at Holyrood getting my OBE.’
Needless to say, Gordon is putting the country’s abundant larder to good use, ensuring that Bread Street’s menu features the cream of the crop. Beef comes from Gilmour Butchers in Tranent, venison comes from Highland-based game stalkers, and hand-dived scallops are sourced from the West Coast. Thinking back to his days as a junior chef in the early nineties, Gordon witnessed this same produce being used in Parisian kitchens.
‘I used to smile seeing these Dublin Bay prawns, langoustines coming off the West Coast of Scotland, and hand-dived scallops from Oban,’ laughs Gordon. ‘I used to see these line-caught sea bass coming from the North Cornish coast. And the venison – in the French kitchens in those days they were tearing off the Scottish flag on the side of the boxes. Those memories stood out. They still stand strong now. But above all else Scottish produce is unique.’
Executive Head Chef of Edinburgh’s Bread Street, Dan Ashmore, who was a Scottish Chef of the Year finalist, is adding a local twist to the menu (think Cullen Skink, haggis bites, and Perthshire steak tartare) which has already gone down a storm. In fact, the restaurant took £100,000 a week in the first month.
‘Bread Street is unique family fare,’ says Gordon. ‘Whether it’s a late lunch, a Sunday roast, or whether it’s an evening with friends with cocktails and an extraordinary beef Wellington, it’s family fare.’ Gesturing down the winding staircase, he continues:
‘I have my son sat downstairs now and he’s a beast. He’s a Royal Marine Commando, 21 years of age, and now he’s trained at that combat intelligence – it’s extraordinary. All he wants to sit and eat is a plate of wings.’ (Noted. Will be sampling those later). ‘It’s a tamarind glazed wing, and it’s got that acidity and that spice. If I can bring delight to my son’s face as a Marine that eats 7,000 calories a day, I’m doing the right job.’
And so, to the menu. Returning to Bread Street to sample the goods on a Monday evening, the 140-seat dining room was packed with revellers that were keen to dispel any notion of the ‘January blues’.
Welcomed by Jessie-Flora McKenzie, the restaurant’s Assistant Manager, we swept past the bar (making a mental note of the top notch whiskies that adorned every inch of the counter) and sat down with a lip-smackingly good Grey Goose Royal cocktail made with vodka, Aperol, lemon, passion fruit and Prosecco. (£11.00) As we perused the extensive menu, freshly-baked bread and sea salt butter arrived at the table. Frankly, if they had closed the kitchens there and then we’d still have been deliriously happy. This place – housed at one of Edinburgh’s most iconic addresses – was made for cocktail dates.
Still, Jack Ramsay’s favourite tamarind spiced chicken wings with spring onions and coriander awaited. (£10.50) Now, there is nothing pretty, nor dainty about a wing. They are not first-date-ready, and they are not going to win you any prizes for table manners. But should you order them? One hundred per cent. Leave your inhibitions at the door, order a plateful (or two), and embrace the mess. These are an absolute delight.
My (long-suffering) plus one politely tucked into his rather more delicate crispy duck salad with watercress, mooli, chilli, radish, ginger, sesame seeds, and orange and soy dressing which was fresher and lighter than my mountain of wings, but still packed a punch with its aromatic flavours. (£9.00) He agreed, having swiped one from my plate, that he would be ordering the wings next time.
Jessie’s recommendation – the delicious-sounding roasted cod in red wine – was sold out. (Proof, if it were needed, that the fish is landed fresh every day). So, instead I opted for the butter chicken and cashew nut curry with saffron rice. (£18.00) A curry and a cocktail is an unlikely combo, but as it happens it’s one I would happily indulge in again. Besides, I get the sense that all rulebooks have been positively hurled from the window at this place with its eclectic menu. That’s my kind of joint.
Across the table the Bread Street Kitchen burger with dry-aged beef, Monterey Jack cheese, sriracha mayo and Koffman’s fries was too much to resist. (£17.50) In between appreciative noises the words ‘so juicy’, ‘quality meat’, and ‘doesn’t even escape from the bun when you eat it’ were uttered, so we can call that an all-round success.
Bread Street is known for its sticky toffee pudding, but the very fact we were straightening up in our seats to ‘make room’ suggested it was time to roll home.
Next time? Just try and stop us…
In the April 2022 issue of Scottish Field, Gordon Ramsay has shared seven delicious recipes for you to try at home. Be sure to pick up your copy to find out more! (Available in shops from 4th February)
To view the Edinburgh menu, CLICK HERE.
Find out more about Bread Street Kitchen & Bar, Edinburgh, by visiting their WEBSITE.Bread Street Kitchen & Bar,
4 St Andrew Square,
Restaurant reservations: 0131 252 5200
Group reservations: 0207 592 1373