May 9, 2017
The Gardener’s Cottage
As in last week I found myself managing the Natbee’s e-mail account and posting schedule (hello if you send us an email, I promise to come back to you asap 😉 !) With Anastasia leaving us to finish her studies I am left with a bunch of Natbee’s related responsibilities and to be perfectly honest with you I quite fancy it. I never had the chance to see how it really feels to run your own online magazine before so I am quite excited about this new role of mine. From talking to contributors to sealing deals with brands and reviewing restaurants I am constantly amazed by how much work there is to do and I love it! But just before Anastasia left, we took an evening off to visit the Gardener’s Cottage in Edinburgh, a place I’ve always been curious to visit for many reasons. And the said reasons are:
–> I have read the BEST reviews about it, the Sunday Times critic said the food was ‘exceptional’ and The Scotsman journalist said that the restaurant is ‘a pretty magical place’, so if it is good for them then it must be good for me!
–> The building itself is such a cute cottage, I’ve always wondered how they have managed to turn this small space into a famous restaurant. I mean, where do they even fit the tables?
And so all of my questions and curiosity got answered that day!
Where: Gardener’s Cottage, Edinburgh
When: April, 2017
Saturday night, we hoped into a taxi and stepped out just near Calton Hill. We wanted to explore the area as much as possible and also get a few outfit shots. Now, me, I am an introvert but Anastasia is quite the extrovert, so I tried my new lens while she posed for me in front of strangers doorsteps. With the exception of a few weird looks through the windows-especially when I played the director and asked Anastasia to climb up these stairs-we managed to get away without many comments from the residents. I suppose two girls innocently walking around with cameras hanging around their necks would be perceived as two curious travellers rather than two troublemakers, hehe, little do they know!
At 6 o’clock we made our appearance at the cottage where we were greeted by the mini herb garden just in front of the restaurant’s entrance followed by a warm ‘hello ladies, could I please get your jackets’ from the lovely waitress. We were shown our table that was a long, wooden table shared with another couple. It felt like we were invited at an 18th century garden wedding. There were candles on the tables, flowers on the window frames and a vintage disk player in the corner playing ‘The very best of Marvin Gaye’.
In case you have never visited the Gardener’s Cottage before let me tell you how it works. You book a table and before booking confirmation you are being asked on the phone about any food allergies and also about your dietary preferences. The chef produces two set menus per day (one for vegetarians and one for people who fancy everything and anything), so in case you are a vegan or have a bunch of food allergies then maybe this is not the place for you as you might leave with an empty stomach. The menu has a set price of £50 per person, excluding the drinks, so averagely expect to pay around £60-£75 per person including the tips.
Fortunately, me and Anastasia are 90% vegetarians with a chance of eating fish, so they offered us the pescetarian menu, which we gladly said yes to!
After ordering our drinks we were offered some sourdough bread with soft spread made out of creme Fraiche and chives, some venison and salami nibbles, and a jug of water. We were once again asked if we have any food allergies before having the waitress explaining to us the seven course dinner that would follow.
Our first dish was a mushroom soup that was exceptional! It was sour and full of herbs (from the mini garden outside) in the right portions. It was so delicious, after we devoured it, we looked at each other and said that if this was a palate wake-up call (as the waitress suggested) then what might it be next? Our expectations immediately risen and our stomachs were looking forward to the next dish….
…that was, wait for it, baby food, served in a fancy way! Root vegetables (carrot and cauliflower) served on carrot puree and topped up with slices of pickled carrots and fresh cheese. We tried it and both fancied the pickled carrots but not quite the dish we would have expected from such fine dining restaurant. Out of the 7 courses it makes sense that some we will like and some we will not, we agreed and impatiently looked forward to our next course!
Next it was halibut served on an interesting sauce with potato wedges and sea weeds on top. As we are both fish lovers we devoured it and agreed that this is the kind of food we would be expecting from this restaurant- an interesting combination of flavours and something my mum wouldn’t think of cooking in her kitchen.
Being in the middle of the seven course experience, our waitress said it was about time we clean our palate with a Springtime broth! She brought us two bowls and poured into them some pink-ish broth for us that was quite refreshing and tasted rhubarb and refreshing herbs like basil and mint. We got a feeling of fresh breath after eating it (sort of like brushing your teeth in a way) which was a delightful sensation before getting ready for the next course!
What followed was an unusual dish of rhubarb, cider glazed potatoes and a rolled squid filled with asparagus and beetroot sauce. I personally prefer my seafood to have a bit of citrus flavour so having to eat another dish with root vegetables was a bit too much. However, it was a pleasant dish that I would gladly eat again.
In between the dessert and the squid dish, there was a small dish of Caerphilly cheese and pickled carrots. I love fermented flavours accompanied with cheese, let alone if the cheese is a tiny bit burned on each side to exaggerate the flavour! This dish was mini but flavoursome!
And then it was finally time for our dessert, that was Apple marjoram with cinnamon and brown butter, that was quite delicious and filling. The chef cleverly combined some good old favourite flavours that work together-apple and cinnamon brings so many childhood memories back to me-and presented us with the dish.
Lastly it was a tiny dish of some petit fours before it was time to give our table to the next couple who was waiting in the door.
I have been thinking a lot before writing this review as I am not a food critic or a top contributor on TripAdvisor, plus we all try to write a positive review here at Natbee’s and focus at the good bits rather than complain about the details. However, the Gardener’s Cottage for us is over-rated and barely gets a 6 out of 10. And if it wasn’t for the polite stuff and beautiful atmosphere this score would be even lower.
The interior was cute however sitting in a table with another two couples at an arm’s length distance is not something I would like to experience when I book a table at a high rated restaurant. On top of this, the food was nothing exquisite. The combination of flavours was unsual and on some occasions quite unique, hello delicious mushroom soup, however overall there wasn’t a dish that left us speechless. Not a single one!
All of the ingredients in the courses were fresh and literally out of the garden, however for a restaurant of such popularity, we were expecting something more than a dish of carrots and cauliflowers (that cost maximum £2 to buy the ingredients and cook), or a broth of 50 ml to be included in the seven courses as it is merely a dish! Trying not to sound too much of a spoiled person and being as honest as I can get, I think the Gardener’s Cottage is substantially overvalued. The courses were delicious however out of the seven courses I would say that genuinely we enjoyed only the two. Having visited many fine dining places I thought of leaving my two cents here. We have always been honest with our reviews here at Natbee’s, not willing to deceive any of our readers, however this is my personal opinion and I seriously hope this was just a coincidence and it just happened that the menu of that particular day was not representative of the average quality of the restaurant.
With stomachs semi full we bought some Oreos on our way home to accompany our Earl Grey tea by the kitchen window…
What do you think of the the Gardener’s Cottage and fine dining? Have you ever visited the place?