I have a list of 30 go-to Edinburgh restaurants of all hues for when friends come to visit the city.
I’ll go through phases when a particular establishment pushes my buttons (current favourites: The Little Chart Room on Leith Walk, and The White Horse on the Canongate), but for many months now my consistent – almost insistent – recommendation has been: ‘Go and have lunch at The Lookout’.
This wonderful restaurant is perched on top of Calton Hill, and that, to be honest, is its single biggest attraction. If you can make sure you get a table next to the massive window, you get a gloriously unfettered view across the whole city and over to Fife. Even were the food rubbish, it would be worth paying to come and soak in this amazing panorama.
Fortunately, the food is not rubbish. In fact, it’s rather good. A sister restaurant to the Gardener’s Cottage, it shares none of its sibling establishment’s hair shirt and mung bean earnestness, and is just a rollicking good restaurant.
As such, I don’t really need an excuse to go back, but still welcomed their recent change of menu as it gave me a guilt-free opportunity to revisit this hallowed spot. What unfolded was a tasting menu of sumptuous simplicity, accompanied by well-chosen wines.
We started with a trio of velveteen Lindisfarne oysters accompanied by a nice fruity Cremant Sans Souffre that had a beautifully long finish, and then moved onto a sea trout tartare which disappeared with indecent haste.
Next up was a dish of five different variations of Isle of Wight tomatoes, served with goats curd and herbs – sounds boring but was sublime. It came with a glass of Sicilian Catarratto, a full-bodied white with nice lemony notes.
After a well-conceived and executed dish of halibut with chanterelles, razor clams and cockles (paired with a glass of Field Blend from Celler del Roure) our main meat course was Goosnargh duck with squash, mugwort and soy (paired with a gorgeous Bulgarian syrah from 2014).
We rounded off with a cheese course that consisted of Lanark Blue (yum) and Dorstone from Herefordshire (why? Doesn’t Scotland have any bland goats cheeses of its own?) that was paired with Furmint, a decent pudding wine from the ubiquitous Tokaji region. Pudding was a chocolate tart with raspberries, served with a fantastic 2013 grenache from Montsant in Spain.
My conclusion? This was a tour de force of unpretentious yet immaculately prepared food from a kitchen which knows its business. At £68 (with an extra £60 for the matched wines, plus £20 of supplements for the oysters and cheese) this new taster menu is eye-wateringly pricey, but the view is still priceless.
The Lookout, Calton Hill, Edinburgh EH7 5AA
0131 322 1246