Quay Commons: a bold move towards simplicity

Quay Commons review: a bold move towards simplicity rather than stars

Tara Klein finds a new venture from the team behind the Gardener's Cottage stands out for its simplicity and seasonality

It's safe to say the Gardener's Cottage took Edinburgh by storm when it burst onto the scene back in 2012. While the city was no stranger to the concept of the tasting menu, the Cottage offered something altogether different: a no-choice set menu of (then) five courses, utterly seasonal, based around what they had grown, foraged, preserved or sourced from a tight-knit network of local suppliers. That it all took place in a picture-perfect restored William Playfair cottage entered through a flourishing garden, with communal seating, an open kitchen and a cool soundtrack from the pile of vinyl in the corner sealed the deal.

In Edinburgh terms, the Cottage as a venue feels as far removed from the row of modernised, glass-box warehouse units at Commercial Quay as day does from night, so the location of Quay Commons, their second permanent venue, does feel like a surprising choice. But space in the listed Cottage has always been limited – and that seems to have been a big pull towards this second multi-functional site: it's part butchers, part bakers, a prep space, a daytime café, an evening bistro and a wine shop too. Even on quieter mornings, the place bustles with the team prepping, baking and experimenting – earwigging on the action feels like a treat, a rare chance to peek behind the kitchen door.

The clean, bright, simple interior is industrial in feel, with off-whites, polished concrete flooring and a roomy outdoor terrace. Breakfast leans heavily on their fabulous sourdough, including a toasted bacon sarnie, or topped with pea and mint. An open counter displays fresh pastries and cakes, like moist elderflower and gooseberry; all perfect accompaniments to a well-executed Williams and Johnson coffee. Lunch offers a range of sandwiches (although the term hardly does them justice). Packed full of good things like Arbroath smokie and lobster, each comes with three interesting salads. Service stretches into the evening come the end of the week, when sharing platters, hearty meat pies and appealing specials make lingering feel like a very good idea, especially as the carefully selected wines available for off-sales can be opened for a £10 corkage fee. It's all simple and delicious, stylish, informal and, considering the quality of ingredients and generous portions, affordable.

Quay Commons feels fresh – a bold move, towards simplicity rather than stars, community rather than complexity (the lovely waiting staff will have your life story out of you before your order arrives). Uncommonly fine stuff.

+ An informal setting for brilliantly simple food
- The granola could pack more flavour

Quay Commons, 92 Commercial Quay, Leith, Edinburgh, EH6 6LX

Quay Commons

92 Commercial Quay, Leith, Edinburgh, EH6 6LX

An intriguing development from the people behind the Gardener's cottage: part prep space, part wine shop, part café, part butchery, part bistro.