New Edinburgh restaurant The Wild adopts an idiosyncratic approach to sustainability and hospitality

  • The List
  • 2 May 2014
New Edinburgh restaurant The Wild adopts an idiosyncratic approach to sustainability and hospitality

Photo: Caitlin Cooke

The unprepossessing eatery is run by young couple Nico Masecchia and Lili Johnson

You wouldn’t guess from the unprepossessing frontage, but there’s a lot going at The Wild. Having moved into the space vacated by The Wild Elephant, young couple Nico Masecchia and Lili Johnson are developing a unique take on topics that deserve greater status than just the latest food trend: affordable, sustainable dining.

They take ‘affordable’ very seriously, offering three-course menus at £12 or £15, wine between £7.50 and £12 a bottle – barely above cost – and no-corkage BYOB. They admit the hope is to survive, not to make huge profits, and their motivation is allowing and encouraging everyone to eat good food. In tandem with this is what they call The Sustainable Philosophy: a determination to make everything from scratch when ordered (including unmissably good pasta), to use home-grown ingredients where possible – veg from their organic garden, eggs from their rescued battery chickens – and to reduce and compost waste.

The constantly changing menu reads like a series of riddles, but put your trust in Masecchia and you'll discover that he knows what he’s doing. ‘Two-tone soup’ is concentric circles of the smoothest of organic squash and mushroom soups, while breast of duck in lavender and red pepper sounds dangerous, but turns out to be a lavender-hinted sauce, aromatic, inventive and hugely successful.

Some aspects of their philosophy, however, aren’t being realised on the plate – supermarket shopping is in evidence, as are ingredients touting sustainability question marks such as farmed salmon. Keeping prices (breathtakingly) low is a central and laudable tenet of their model, but it could be easier for them, and just as cheap, to build relationships with fishmongers and craft bakeries and to buy direct from farmers, with Masecchia putting his copious skill and imagination to work transforming cheaper cuts of meat.

That said, they are open and honest that their project remains a work in progress: a gap has deliberately been left on the signage so they can declare themselves a sustainable restaurant when they get there. Give them a chance, and indulge the eccentricities: whether the fug that invades the dining room as beef is smoked to order in the kitchen, or the no-budget décor. The Wild lacks the media-friendly polish that abounds on Edinburgh’s restaurant scene, but if they do work it all out it’ll be one of the most heartfelt and genuine places in town.

+ The most charming and expansive service possible
- Not everyone will be comfortable with the quirks