In a nutshell
‘Simple good food and wine’ is the ethos of The Wee Restaurant by husband and wife team, Craig and Vikki Wood.
Following the 10-year success of The Wee Restaurant in North Queensferry (13 miles north of the city), this latest outpost brings an informal but smart bistro vibe to Edinburgh.
Craig Wood, Catering Scotland’s Chef of the Year 2015, has been at the helm of The Wee Restaurant since 2006 and although now split over two locations he remains as hands-on as possible at both sites.
Craig previously worked for Restaurant Martin Wishart (one of Edinburgh’s Michelin-starred establishments) also Malmaison, the Belmond Royal Scotsman train and the Crinan Hotel.
Joining him in the Edinburgh kitchen is Michael Innes, whom Craig previously worked with at Malmaison and who has since gained experience at the three-Michelin-starred El Celler de Can Roca in Girona, Spain.
What are they cooking
Sourcing is everything here and so the menu is created using only the finest seasonal ingredients.
Champagne in hand, we read the menu. It certainly ticks all of the ‘eat local’ boxes with starters including Anstruther (a Fife fishing village) oak smoked salmon; Shetland mussels; smoked Strathspey (near Aviemore) pork belly; and mains including rump of Perthshire Lamb and new-season asparagus with herb gnocchi and soft poached egg.
We ordered seared king scallops, boudin noir, celeriac remoulade and endive salad; and smoked Orkney beef fillet, crisp vegetable slaw and horseradish sour cream for starters.
You can never go wrong pairing scallops with black pudding and when it’s done as well as this it’s truly great. The scallops were succulent, the black pudding crispy and accompanied by a well-seasoned remoulade, a classic extremely well executed.
The beef had the perfect amount of smokiness to it, but the slaw was slightly disappointing – too much red cabbage in the mix.
For main, a whole lobster and a 14oz T-bone steak leapt off the menu and were tricky to get past. For a school night they seemed a little too extravagant, though, so we ventured elsewhere on the menu.
The grilled sea bass, spiced crab and spring onion risotto served with baby artichokes and salsa verde was utterly delicious. A vibrant yellow risotto that screamed comfort food hit the spot on flavour, the plate was almost licked clean (when front of house weren’t looking), while the skin on the sea bass was perfectly crisp.
Confit duck salad did what it said on the tin. Served with grilled chorizo, new potatoes, puy lentils and fried duck egg, the component parts were put together well. Runny egg oozed into the new potato and chorizo, that was hastily mopped up with some homemade bread.
A Baked isle flottante with raspberries, toasted almonds and crème anglaise came with meringue, so light it nearly floated off the plate and away into the Edinburgh sunset. Scotland produces the best raspberries in the world by far. It’s a fact.
What’s the room like/atmosphere
The Wee Restaurant has a bistro vibe, with very dark walls, cool mirrors and filament light bulbs. Wee, in the truest sense of the word, it seats up to 40 people, but grab the window seats for prime people-watching opportunities.
Menu must-orders and misfires
The sea bass with crab risotto is a must-order and will almost definitely be our ‘re-order’ next time. If you want to push the boat out and your wallet can handle it then you can’t beat a whole lobster or a perfectly cooked T-bone steak.
Apart from the sea bass with crab risotto, which is worth returning for alone, we would make a beeline for any of the fish dishes available on the menu.
The wine list has been put together by Fife based L’art Du Vin. There’s some great wines on there ranging from a South African chenin blanc, an organic rosé ‘Lo Bartas’ Domaine Bassac from Languedoc right the way up to a Margaux Segla 2nd wine Chateau Rauzan priced at £70.
The one major disappointment is the lack of wine by the glass. Only three of each (red and white) are available by the glass, not ideal if you want to explore the wine list a bit more. Dessert wine, sherry, beers and liquers are well covered, though, as are the bubbles.
What else did you like/dislike?
Absolutely loved the dining chairs, the most comfortable seating we’ve experienced in a restaurant for quite some time. Apparently the team did ‘a lot’ of chair research and this has clearly paid off! We could have sat there all night (which we pretty much did) and still been more than comfortable.
The front of house team were great, nothing was too much trouble and we later learnt that most of The Wee Restaurant team have been with them since school and worked their way up. It sounds like Craig and Vikki have created a fantastic working environment too.
The Wee Restaurant has more than earnt its brownie points in North Queensferry over the last ten years and it deserves to do well in the big city. The investment in the team and the dedication to serving local seasonal produce is a winning combination.
It’s a great addition to the Edinburgh dining scene – and the three-course menu du jour, served lunchtime and evneings, Tuesday to Thursday for £20, is more than likely to lure us back.
61 Frederick Street
Written by Hilary Sturzaker (mymonkfish.com), June 2016
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