‘The best meal Iâ€™ve ever had,’ declared my dining partner, polishing off a perfect plum and nut crumble, vanilla sauce and praline ice cream.Â High praise indeed for The Stockbridge Restaurant and I agree, filing it in my top three* restaurants reviewed for Lothian Life this year.
It feels like stepping back in time as you enter the restaurant, which is tucked away down a cobbled side street in trendy foodie-tastic Stockbridge. Although itâ€™s below street level, down a few steps, and has black painted walls adorned with some seriously tasteful artwork, it is far from being gloomy – Â the overall affect is cosy and romantic. A stone fireplace is filled with candles with layers of dripping, hardened wax. Itâ€™s quintessential Edinburgh.
Itâ€™s the small things which matter here, the attention to detail such as the bed of diced apple for my duck breast, or the miniature jug of thick gravy.
Even the bathroom here is a joy to visit â€“ individual flannels may not be the most environmentally friendly way to dry hands, but they certainly make you feel like a VIP. In fact, the staff had a way of making us feel really special, without being intrusive â€“ a good sign of things to come.
Head chef and proprietor, Jason Gallagher (formerly of The Bonham Hotel, who runs the restaurant with his partner Jane Walker), chose our meal and we hungrily accepted all his offerings, switching the Mellis cheese selection for â€œsomething chocolatyâ€.
This turned out to be a good way of trying new dishes I wouldnâ€™t normally have picked, such as the braised ox cheeks. Served with horseradish potato puree, the crispiest of onion rings and a perfectly balanced jus, the meat literally melted in our mouths. I will be more adventurous in future, not shying away from cheek, and even tongue, which I recently tasted for the first time at a cooking demonstration at Fringe by the Sea. Meats such as these were once popular in the UK, and itâ€™s great to see their renaissance.
My dining partner, Jeanette, and I shared the seared scallops with butternut squash puree, apple salsa, Serrano ham and caramelized walnuts. Absolutely delicious.
Beautifully cooked grilled halibut with crab and scallop mousse, fennel, crushed potatoes and langoustine bisque was a fine medley of flavours.
A generous portion of duck breast with a confit leg gave a contrasting texture, although we both preferred the firmness of the breast to the soft quality of the leg. Dauphinoise potatoes, wild mushrooms, Savoy cabbage with bacon and jus made this a rounded dish with an earthy, Autumnal taste.
The plum and nut crumble warrants another mention â€“ warm, not too sweet, and served in a little ramekin, it was possibly my favourite dessert of the year. Jostling for second place was the chocolate brulee with chocolate brownie, white chocolate mousse and milk chocolate ice cream, although a cocoa overdose like this can be a bit too much.
Amuse-bouches before our starters and desserts were delightful, and a trio of breads with a lip-smacking chive and chervil dipping sauce left us dangerously close to filling up before weâ€™d even started our meal.
The Stockbridge Restaurant has many awards including a 2 AA Rosettes and city chef of the year 2008, as well as various commendations from diners themselves â€“ which is what many chefs value most.
Although the prices at The Stockbridge Restaurant are higher than other places Iâ€™ve reviewed this year, I would recommend skipping a couple of meals out to save up for this one, and keeping an eye on the website for special offers, such as 3 courses on a Sunday for Â£27.95. You wonâ€™t be disappointed.
Prices: Our meal cost Â£80, excluding drinks.
The Stockbridge Restaurant, 54 St Stephen Street, EH3 5AL. Tel. 0131 226 6766.
*Ducks in Aberlady and The Bridge Inn, Ratho, are the other two, in no particular order.