Review: The Lookout, Edinburgh

Richard Bath climbs Edinburgh’s Calton Hill to enjoy the view and the food at The Lookout.

IF RESTAURANTS are about escapism, nowhere does it better than The Lookout. Sitting perched on the top of Calton Hill looking out over Edinburgh’s panorama, with Fife one way and the Pentlands the other, it’s just possible to forget that covid ever happened.

Sure there’s more distance than usual between the tables, subtly placed partitions and the waiters are all wearing facemasks, but this is a restaurant where there are two overwhelming reasons for forgetting such inconveniences.

The first is that view, which remains comfortably the best in Scotland, especially if you are an Edinburgher. I could spend hours picking out streets I know, pubs I’ve visited, landmarks I’d like to revisit.

The other thing that makes you forget the more mundane details of life is the food. Under chef-patron Dale Mailley this remains as memorable as you’d expect of the sister restaurant of the Gardener’s Cottage, despite the fact that the menu has been changed to a collection of six small starter-sized dishes.

With sommellier Peter Adshead – ex of the Balmoral and Pompadour – starting off the meal with a glass of excellent English sparkling wine from Camel Valley in Cornwall before going on to serve his trademark succession of the quirky and thought-provoking wines, it proved to be an interesting evening.

Once the dishes started, they came thick and fast. Tomato curds with nasturtium, beef tartare, mussels and mackerel with saffron, cauliflower and Cora Linn sheep’s cheese with truffle, and duck and celeriac with summer vegetables. Each dish seemed more delicate and nuanced than the last, with subtle summer flavours in the ascendant, plus the occasional strident tones such as the Cora Linn.

Overall, it was a beautifully composed and well-balanced smorgasbord that showcased Mailley’s skills. This was summer food, although sitting in the window with the sunlight streaming through you’d never know quite how cold and windy it was outside. The final dish – a lovely, fresh melange of rye, chocolate, hazelnut and raspberry – completed the deceit.

Not that there was any disguising the fact that it was profoundly chilly as we left. But a walk down the hill in a breeze was small penance for a hugely enjoyable meal which, at £25 for the set menu, was also a bargain.

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