Restaurant review: Aizle gives Edinburgh its first taste of 'bistronomie'
- Donald Reid
- 20 May 2014
The city's first 'neo-bistro' requires diners to surrender control of their menu choices to the chef
When Aizle arrived in early April this year, a lot had to be explained carefully. Aizle rhymes with hazel, we were advised, and the word itself was Scots for 'spark'. A 30-year-old Scottish chef, Stuart Ralston, and his American partner Krystal Goff, an innovative mixologist, were done with feeding and watering Hollywood stars in places such as Barbados and New York City and ready to open their own place in Edinburgh.
What they intended to offer Scotland was a taste of bistronomie, a term coined in the hipper eating circles of Paris. It comes from the blending of bistro with gastronomy — the latter not just in its narrowly defined channel of fine dining, but its better, broader concept embracing all aspects of how we can feed ourselves well. More specifically, bistronomy hints at carefully sourced and cleverly cooked food served in informal bistro – rather than fine restaurant – surroundings.
What it means in practice is a menu that’s not a menu but just an ingredients list, a summary of what’s in the kitchen and, by implication, what’s in season and exciting the chefs that day. Advertised as four courses but running to seven or eight if you include the tasters and bites that come along, the meal is essentially a no-choice set menu conjured up from the list of ingredients and served in dishes full of intriguing combinations, exquisite tastes and tantalising surprises.
A single Carlingford oyster, for example, comes dressed with minutely diced, tinglingly fresh apple and mint, while a cold soup, or gazpacho, is a silky, creamy revelation. Ox cheek is served in a restrained portion deliberately without carbs but braised to a soft, sticky richness, and at the end an oblong of jellied, bergamot-tinged grapefruit pate is a sophisticated, simple and memorable palate-cleanser.
The lack of control over your meal will discomfort some, just as the excitement of simply trusting the chefs will thrill others. For those who tune into the homely, thought-provoking, ingredients-focused approach of places such as Timberyard and the Gardeners Cottage, bistronomy may be a new word but it won’t be an entirely new concept. What Aizle achieves is a decisive further step beyond high-end dining with a great array of our local larder still on board. Who needs menus anyway?
+ Dining adventures without pomposity or eye-watering prices
- Be prepared for small, if well-designed, portions sizes