Skua, Stockbridge [Credit: Stephen lister]
Skua, Stockbridge [Credit: Stephen lister]

REVIEW: Small plate dining at Skua

Rosie Morton tries the latest menu at Skua, a Stockbridge eatery that is celebrating its first birthday.

The other day, I was sitting in the Stockbridge ‘Neighbourgood’ food market, watching seagulls divebomb unsuspecting merrymakers.

Dogs barked, grown men screamed, and chips were sent flying. It was all quite entertaining.

Less entertaining would be being dive-bombed by the bonxies, or skuas, which can be exceedingly territorial if you stray too close to their nest. They’re even known to steal food from bigger birds like gannets.

My thoughts meandered, and took a left turn to the nearby Stockbridge restaurant, Skua. This unassuming hangout, tucked away in what was the Blue Parrot Cantina, was the brainchild of culinary duo, Sam Yorke and Tomás Gormley. They launched it last year at almost exactly the same time as their first Leith-based restaurant, Heron, gained a Michelin star. Since then, it has garnered a brilliant reputation for small plate dining.

Though Yorke and Gormley have now parted ways, Skua is entering its second year with head chef James Aikman – formerly of Michelin-starred Timberyard – steering the ship.

And so, with the first birthday balloons ready and waiting, we tiptoed down the stairs to Skua for what was to be a unique experience.

The moody interiors in Skua Restaurant [Credit Stephen Lister]

It felt like entering a subterranean world. Skua’s black walls enveloped us, and only a few candles and a single neon ceiling light guided us to our table. It is supreme ‘date night’ territory. I couldn’t help but wonder how many coats of paint it took to cover the formerly tropical blue walls from the Blue Parrot era. And indeed how many it would take to cover the black, should the current owners ever plump for a Scandi makeover.

The drinks menu was impressive. Jacob Thunder, head bartender, has curated an extensive list of inventive cocktails. We went for one Bloodwork Orange (with tequila, blood orange, rinquinquin and puro) and a spicy margarita. The latter was my choice, and it was sweet, sour, and perfectly spiced. It had an almighty kick, so I had just the one for fear of needing a winch to remove me from the premises. Water it is.

Monkfish, preserved lemon, turnip and sea aster [Credit: Rosie Morton]

Our lovely server recommended one large plate and four small plates for two people. We followed his advice and began with bread which was served steaming hot with Katy Rodger’s butter (£5). I like to rate a place on the quality of its bread, and as you’d expect from a place that has been listed in the Good Food Guide and the Michelin Guide, it did not disappoint.

Along with this we ordered ‘Coppa’ (£10) – Italian cured meat that had been picked up from I. J. Mellis (a Stockbridge institution and incredible cheesemonger and deli). It was sliced so thinly you could see through it, and was silky, fatty and moreish.

This paired beautifully with our third dish of the night, Isle of Wight tomatoes with gooseberries and basil (£14). Granted, that pricetag might seem steep for a plate of humble toms, but we both agreed that we’d order this colourful plate again in a heartbeat. They were incredibly fresh, served at room temperature, and their natural sweetness balanced well with the tart gooseberries. They cut through the oil of the Coppa and refreshed the palate for was to come.

Isle of Wight tomatoes, gooseberries and basil [Credit: Rosie Morton]

The dish that particularly pricked up the ears of my plus one (and, apparently, those of most diners) was the Skua fried chicken in hot sauce (£15). It was served with a fermented peach and plum sauce which was sticky and deliciously messy. The bowl of juicy, tender chicken was hoovered up at speed, but it wasn’t nearly as impressive as the final large plate – monkfish, preserved lemon, turnip and sea aster. (£30) The fish was seared to perfection, and the mixture of lemon and salty flavours dotted around the plate were pretty magical. The butter-basted turnip seemed a little out of place, but again it had been cooked magnificently.

There was just one dessert on offer – a crowdie, cream and strawberry affair – which we shared. It was the sweet kick that we were craving to round off what had been a wonderful meal.

In all, the meal worked out at around £80 for two, plus drinks, so by Edinburgh’s standards it wasn’t devastatingly expensive.

An added bonus? There wasn’t a divebombing seagull or skua in sight.

Coppa [Credit: Rosie Morton]

Skua has extended its service to six days a week, opening its doors from Monday to Saturday from 5-10pm, with drinks served until late into the evening. Bookings encouraged, walk-ins welcome. 

Find out more on their website