Lookout (Or Up!) To Edinburgh’s New Sky-High Restaurant
There’s no bad way to experience the enchanting beauty of Edinburgh’s gothic charm…but there is a best way, which is sat inside a wind-protected fine dining restaurant, guzzling wine and enjoying effortless, panoramic views across the city centre (all the way out to Firth and Forth). Thanks to an exciting collaboration between renowned Edinburgh restaurant The Gardener’s Cottage and Collective (the organisation that took on the redevelopment of the city’s observatory into a contemporary art space) this dreamy, high-altitude eatery now exists under the apt moniker ‘The Lookout’, from which my dinner date and I were lucky enough to enjoy the magnificent view.
The building itself, is built on a cantilever and suspended over Calton Hill’s northwest slope so as to maximise views from the inside. It’s not the easiest restaurant to reach but the pilgrimage-like hike (read: relatively easy walk) to its doors, forces would-be diners to see Edinburgh from every one of its captivating angles. Once inside, you’ll be greeted with a warm rush of air, a friendly face ready to take your coat and an electric atmosphere created by the open plan kitchen erupting into flames on a regular basis and the flurry of busy chefs dressing plates, sizzling meats and tending to coals.
The floor’s minimalist design creates a clean space for the food to be the star, while each table’s cute cylindrical arboreams create a botany-like ambience and imbue a sense of scientific intrigue and anticipation for the food. The concentric-cubed pyramid roof completes the look and gives one an elite, king-of-the-castle-type feeling, which I’m not too proud to say I really rather enjoyed…it also looks a little like a sci-fi beehive.
Thick-cut slices of fresh-baked rye bread arrive at our table along with a dollop of whipped butter, mixed curiously with cacao nibs. We order a couple of glasses of Cremant along with a plate of fresh oysters, soaked in a chlorophyll-green lovage reduction and topped with thinly grated shaving of whey to kick off our meal.
My starter of shaved salt-baked beetroot and whipped goats curd, pear and gingerbread wafers is light and subtle, tasting slightly more like a palate cleanser that a stand-alone dish but tasty and refreshing, nonetheless. My delightful dining companion who opts for the rabbit yakitori, tucks into chunks of skewered hare, which have been briefly singed over a charcoal flame and served with plum sauce and a healthy sprinkling of spring onion. The smoky flavour of the charcoal creates a lovely base flavour; however, the meat’s blue-cooked nature rob the dish of any biting texture.
For mains we decide to share the pine-roasted whole mallard with roast parsnips, last-of-the-season chanterelles, curly kale and bramble jus. Before carving, the still-smoking bird is brought to our table for inspection and a quick explanation by the chef. We’re given the option of carving ourselves or letting the chefs be chefs and opt for the latter. The fire and salt-finished crisp of the mallard’s skin is exceptionally moreish and the hearty vegetable accompaniments round the dish off nicely.
Pineapple Tarte Tatin with Douglas Fir ice cream and crumbled gingerbread is the highlight of the meal. The exquisite pastry is light and flaky while the baked pineapple interior remains beautifully juicy and packed with tropical flavour. The scoop of ice cream is the perfect counterbalance to the warm and sticky tarte.
We share a cafetière to finish our meal, while enjoying the sparkling lights of Edinburgh’s dazzling skyline before embarking on our descent from The Lookout back down to Earth.
The Lookout by Gardener’s Cottage, Calton Hill, Edinburgh, EH7 5AA, Scotland.
Tel: +44 (0)131 322 1246
Head to Calton Hill and follow signs up to the top. Once there you will find the entrance to the Collective Gallery and The Lookout is situated at the back-right side of the hill. The restaurant is open from 10:00am to 9:30pm Monday to Friday.
Type of Restaurant: Fine Dining Restaurant
Price Band: High
Insider Tip: Book a table near the window for unobstructed views over the city.
Reviewer’s Rating: 7/10
Melanie Chenoweth has spent the last decade scouring the globe for the best in food, travel and adventure. She loves writing about bold flavours, beautiful views and new experiences.
Photographs courtesy of The Lookout by Gardener’s Cottage