Gardeners Cottage - A Foodie Haven All Year Round

29 August 2014

Gardeners Cottage2

A foodie with a fresh view of our city, Siobhan Dunn is from New York but has lived in Edinburgh for over 10 years.

My favourite place for lunch or dinner just now is the enchanting and totally idiosyncratic Gardener’s Cottage. It’s hard to say if it is more charming in summer or winter. The menu is gorgeous and in the warmth of the summer it really shines with fresh grown produce picked each day.  Winter is a cosy time to visit too. There is something so quietly amiable about the tiny dining rooms – just two, the record player slipping through Bennie Goodman and Fats Waller, the long communal tables of reclaimed ship’s decking and the ease with which things like sea buckthorn, beremeal and sweet cicely are incorporated into the daily changing menu.

Yes, it changes daily. Sometimes the menu is created that morning with the day’s delivery. Does this sound nice but not terribly amazing? If you’ve ever had anything to do with restaurant life you’ll have an inkling that changing a menu daily is no mean feat. Most restaurants never change their menus and ones that make a song and dance of it still rarely change the core menu more than three or four times a year. The tiny Gardener’s Cottage goes much further than claiming to have a seasonal menu. They have really put their money where their mouth is and they cook, on a daily basis, what the surrounding location has to offer. I’d guess that almost everything on the menu is sourced from within 50 miles of Edinburgh, a good percentage within 10 miles and then there is the actual garden outside the front door from which things are sprouting.

An eclectic mix of tastes

Here is what got us going on the Gardener’s Cottage, aside from the record player, the mismatched but lovely china and the excellent daily cocktail (yes it also changes daily) it was the smoked butter and freshly baked bread.

My mother always says that you can tell the quality of a restaurant by the quality of their bread. I’ve only to add that the quality of their butter is a good second indicator. Sweet, unsalted and smoked outside the kitchen door. This is food made by people who really, really like food. We go whenever we can, with friends and if we’re lucky just my husband and I, and sit at the long tables – social dining at it’s finest – and eat things we didn’t know we wanted to eat. It’s not just that the ingredients are coming from our doorstep that makes the Gardener’s Cottage an utterly Edinburgh experience, it’s the Playfair rooms, matte white walls, botanical prints on loan from the Ingleby Gallery, foraged herbs and flowers, friendly but slightly shy staff, the feeling that you are dining at a very old friend’s dinner party that has been going on for years. Everyone is comfortable but still excited and interested to see what they’ll eat and what their guests have to say.

We take every visitor or guest out here. Or we send them there with our recommendation. And we’ve yet not to be thanked for it profusely!