Wedgwood the Restaurant - review
The Royal Mile might be awash with tartan tat, but there’s still room for good taste where tourists roam
Edinburgh is a tourist city, and for restaurants that’s both a blessing and a curse. Tourists are hundreds of thousands of extra diners appearing at their collective door each year; look too closely to them, however, and you’ll be disparaged for clichéd, twee dishes or hiked prices.
These days the shops on the Royal Mile are home to more tartan tat than ever before. It seems inevitable that the downmarket slide will take restaurants with it, yet there is evidence to counteract that: cafés such as Always Sunday and the one in the Storytelling Centre, and restaurants such as Café Marlayne and La Garrigue, do a fine job on or near the historic thoroughfare.
Into this slightly strange market a series of new eating spots has emerged in the last few months on the Canongate section of the Royal Mile, down from John Knox’s House. Café-bistro Lazy Lohan’s set up at number 158, with a slant towards simple homecooking and good sourcing. In place of the venerable, if troubled, Plaisir du Chocolat at number 251–3 is a poor imitation called Café Douce France, though the chocolate-making element of the new business is more compelling.
Most worthy of notice is Wedgwood the Restaurant, which replaced Reform this summer. A first place of their own for Scots-born and Lake District-trained chef Paul Wedgwood and partner Lisa Channon, you get the sense that they couldn’t quite believe a venue of such prominence and manageable size might be available.
By putting his name above the door it’s clear Wedgwood plans to make an impression in the fine dining stakes. But determined ambition and commercial realities have to meet somewhere. A good start are the £10 two-course lunches on offer – nicely cooked bream fillets with a parmesan crust serve the purpose of introducing the evening menu and contribute to a value lunch. The friendly, warm atmosphere orchestrated by Channon also helps, even if there’s a certain MOR-ness to the art, designer crockery and background music.
The evening menu, though long and reticent about sourcing, reads intriguingly with a range of local and exotic ingredients which raise the spectre of fusion food but steer well clear of tourist clichés (and prices). Typical of the approach are dishes such as smoked venison carpaccio with sweet and sour pomegranates, or lamb rolled in cous cous, pistachio and black onion seed, served with gingered sweet potato purée and a cardamom cream sauce. Bold flavours, lots of preparation, decent ingredients and good cooking.
As the places mentioned previously have shown, there is still room for individualism and high standards on the Royal Mile. The evidence is that tuned-in locals and tourists with taste have taken to Wedgwood with some enthusiasm.
267 Canongate, Royal Mile, Edinburgh, 0131 558 8737, www.wedgwoodtherestaurant.co.uk
Note: the restaurant will be closed throughout January 2008