aizle (n) [Scots.] a burning coal; a glowing hot ember; a spark. As they reliably inform you it also “rhymes with hazel”. All I know is that when I first set eyes on their website, I instantly knew that a visit to this restaurant was a necessity; primarily because of this caveat: “Please note we at Aizle have no choice of menu or ingredients.”
As it turns out what they actually do have, is an amazing concept. Owned and run by Chef Stuart Ralston, at £45 or £80 per person with wine pairing, Aizle offers a set 5-course tasting menu which changes constantly. Dictated by what is local and in season, a dish or garnish may be on for 6 weeks, while others for only a few days. Nevertheless, this is a tasting menu with a difference…
Located on St. Leonard’s Street, Aizle is a short walk, but a world away, from the hustle and bustle of the Royal Mile. On entering, it’s almost as if a calmness ensues; and I have to say, the team are some of the most genuinely friendly, informative and polite people I have come across while dining. Comfortable seating and cushions, provide that hint of home from home – with the exception of one element…the blackboards.
Tastefully positioned on the walls, the boards appear more as artwork rather than a source of information. But inform you they do; of the wonderfully fresh and seasonal ingredients that are about to spectacularly combine and grace your plate in the form of five courses of culinary delights.
As this was our first visit to Aizle, we had opted for the wine pairing. I have to say I highly recommend this option. Sometimes I find wine pairings a bit ‘hit and miss’; either too expensive or you end up – for want of a better word ‘stockpiling’ wine on the table, as the dishes are brought out too quickly. Priced at a very reasonable £35 per person, this was certainly not the case at Aizle.
Accompanying our amuse bouche, we were presented with a glass of Cuvée Royale Brut Crémant de Limoux. A French sparkling wine from the Languedoc, it was a pleasant apéritif as well as pairing well with the snacks!
Now here’s a little tale of a bread called Roger…
If I’m being completely honest it’s not often I get excited over the bread offering in a restaurant. Yes..I did say bread! However, when your sourdough comes with a story, a name and a date of birth, you can’t help but be intrigued as to the dishes that are about to follow. Needless to say in that short space of time, Roger and I bonded, and as sourdoughs go he made for a very tasty one!
Our first amuse-bouche or snack (as they were henceforth known as) was a dish of crispy kale with black garlic, onion and gomashio. This was accompanied with delicious, deep fried and crispy potato dauphine with miso and kombu. Evidently, with more of a Japanese influence, I did start to wonder what was to follow…
Needless to say we headed back to Scotland with our second snack of Isle of Skye scallops with celeriac and an apple granita. Creamy with a sharp edge provided by the ice cold granita, I simply loved this inspired dish.
Snacks demolished, we were presented with a beautiful starter of vivid orange colours, with textures of heritage carrot combining with ox tongue pastrami, figs and cheese curds. While I would have personally liked a touch more pastrami, the dish worked well. The wine pairing on offer was a Beaujolais called ‘Lou. Y Es-Tu?’, which apparently translated as ‘Wolf. Are You There?’ (or as my dining partner so eloquently put it ‘Wolf. Where You To?’ for us Cardiffians!) To be honest my French is a little sketchy, but I always thought ‘Loup’ was ‘Wolf’ – however, I’ll trust that the non-appearance of the ‘p’ still worked – ha ha! Either way, the wine was almost silky in texture and paired well with the hint of strawberry and raspberry complimenting the carrot and ox tongue. However, I will say out of all the wines it was my least favourite, primarily as its smell didn’t really personally appeal, and somewhat reminded me more of a damp…wolf!
Artfully presented, our fish course comprised of sea bream with sweetcorn, succotash and katsuobushi. Again with the Japanese influence making an appearance, I have to say as a seafood lover, I thoroughly enjoyed this dish. A beautifully cooked piece of fresh sea bream with a crispy skin, which when accompanied with the dried and smoked tuna created a stunning plate of food. Paired with a blended dry white wine comprised of Chenin blanc and Viognier. ‘Saskia’ (named after the elder daughter of Miles Mossop – the younger one appears later!), had hints of almond, peach and apricot which complimented the fish, and left a pleasant (almost toasty) finish on your palate.
With such a wonderful array of ingredients displayed on the blackboards, I have to say the one that had first caught my eye was ‘pigeon’. And this was up next in the form of our main course of wild wood pigeon with rieble (a wheat flour and egg based homemade pasta), celeriac, truffle and Scottish chanterelles. Tender and perfectly cooked, with a sweet and nutty flavour, all of the ingredients worked well to enhance the ‘star of the show’. Throw in what I have to say was a stunning Chilean Pinot Noir from Casa Silva (heaven in a glass!), and this was almost my favourite course…almost…
Now as readers of this blog know…I don’t really ‘do’ desserts (primarily as I am usually full by this point). However, I have to say while I thoroughly enjoyed every dish on the tasting menu, the dessert was simply outstanding. The ingredients of spiced cinnamon sablé with Scottish blueberries, lemon verbena and ricotta, combined to produce what I can only describe as ‘Christmas on a plate…in August’. This comparison seemed apt when paired with the beautiful dessert wine on offer. Rich with aromas of apricot and honey, the sweet ‘Kika’ (named after Miles Mossop’s youngest daughter), is made from 100% Chenin blanc which are perfectly infected with Noble Rot. A superb choice of wine, this rounded off what I can only describe as an unforgettable dining experience, which I will be raving about for some years to come.
N.B. You are presented with the evening’s menu…at the end. Fantastic, and absolutely loved this. It turns out it was also particularly useful when you’re trying to remember what you’ve eaten after all the wine!
- A fine dining experience, without any pretentiousness – brought to you by a knowledgable and attentive team.
- Aizle’s website is very informative, providing an explanation of the seasonal ingredients that will be used during that week/month.
- The large windows in the restaurant, let the light flood in and provide a spectacular view of Salisbury Crags and Arthur’s seat. And while I didn’t go there for a lesson in Geology (apparently it was in the small print and necessary due to my dining partner – ha ha!), I have to wholeheartedly agree the scenery is beautiful.
Would I go again?
100% yes – a fantastic dining experience, where the dishes change regularly and every single member of the team is unbelievably well versed on the different dishes and wine pairings. Love, love, loved it…
Would I recommend Aizle?
Aizle certainly lives up to its name, a ‘spark’ in the Edinburgh restaurant scene and an absolute must if you are local to or visiting the City. I will say, personally I would consider booking to be essential, especially on a weekend – it was extremely popular and I can now see why!
Aizle is open for dinner on Wed, Thur and Sun: 6pm – 9pm, and Fri and Sat: 5pm – 9pm.
Address | 107-109 St. Leonard’s Street, Edinburgh, EH8 9QY
Web | www.aizle.co.uk