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Restaurant review: Timberyard, Edinburgh

Carine Seitz
10 November 2016

Housed in a 19th-century warehouse, this family-run eatery – with its unusual ingredients, clever cooking and imaginative drinks menu – makes for a memorable night out, says Carine Seitz

THE LOWDOWN:
A former timber yard may not sound like an obvious location to set up a restaurant, but the Radford family (of former Edinburgh culinary institutions Atrium and Blue; Ben heads up the kitchen whilst sibling Jo runs the front of house operation) have done precisely that, somehow managing to convert a cavernous warehouse into a warm and inviting space. Ceilings are high, while industrial building materials and bare brick are countered with tartan blankets, natural hues and comfortable seating. The warehouse is flooded with natural light from the south-facing ‘yard’, where you can dine in clement weather and nosy into the little pantry, whose walls are lined with jars of homemade delicacies.

A heavy Scandinavian influence is undeniable – Ben and Jo’s ethos is on a par with restaurants such as Copenhagan’s Noma – and there is a total commitment to local and scrupulous sourcing from small, artisanal growers, producers and breeders (of course). But more than that, a significant number of ingredients are foraged, as well as grown on raised beds to the rear of the warehouse.

Jo and the front of house team have an extraordinary offering of natural, low intervention wines and beers, as well as creative homemade soft drinks (apple & fir anyone?), and simply stunning cocktails. A blend of spruce, stout and whisky results in a heady alchemy, the taste and smell of which conjures up Christmas in a wintery cabin heated with a peat fire, if such a thing would have a taste.

The menu has four sections: bite, small, large, sweet; or there’s a set menu of 4, 6 or 8 courses, each with the option of paired drinks. The carte bears no spin, no fanciful descriptions, but rather confident lists of the ingredients featured in each dish (venison, beetroot, ramson, shallot, wood blewit, kale).

The meal begins with warm sourdough bread and whipped butter, before artfully arranged plates of food begin their arrival. Paired drinks are inspired (introduced by a sommelier whose exemplary knowledge is matched by her friendly enthusiasm), but are not limited to wine: cured trout, cucumber, lovage, fennel, crème fraiche, and rye is served with a beautiful sour beer from Aberdeenshire-based brewery Six Degrees North.

A stand out dish is raw beef, quail yolk, daikon, buckwheat, and shallot – the latter ingredient deeply charred and ground, adding an intense umami note. There follows two further dishes in which hens egg and duck are the respective stars, then a choice of a halibut or venison dish, followed finally by strawberry, oatmeal, and buttermilk, which features strawberry in a number of different permutations, not least dehydrated which intensifies the flavour to an almost mythical degree. The cooking is clever, skilled and technical, but delivered with a simplicity and without needless showing off and dramatics.

THE GOOD:
Without exaggeration, everything is Just So. Right down to the silverware, and the handsoap in the bathroom (Aesop, in case you were wondering).

Wine recommendation: Sebastien Riffault, Sancerre les Quarterons, 2012, Loire, France.

Private dining is available: The ‘shed’ (whose name serves it no justice at all) is a cosy and characterful stone outhouse available as a space to seat 10 people.

THE NOT-SO-GOOD:
Timberyard’s only fault is that it’s closed on Sunday and Monday. But everyone deserves a day off.

THE VERDICT:
With cooking and service like this, Timberyard will undoubtedly remain at the forefront of Edinburgh’s – if not Scotland’s – dining scene.

BOOK IT:
A six-course dinner for two people with paired drinks costs £230. Timberyard, 10 Lady Lawson Street, Edinburgh EH3 9DS (0131 221 1222; timberyard.co)