Rick Stein has Padstow, Heston Blumenthal has Bray and, increasingly, Tom Kitchin is starting to get a stranglehold (albeit it a very gentle and polite one) on Edinburgh. With the opening of Southside Scran in the Bruntsfield area of the city, Kitchin now has four restaurants, each with a different proposition, dotted around the Scottish capital, from the docksides of Leith to the old town, overlooking the castle.
With Southside Scran, Kitchin and his wife Michaela have succumbed to requests from diners from the south side to open up in their part of town (which is made apparent in the restaurant’s name). Yet, once again, they have been at pains not to replicate their existing restaurants, this time creating a Parisian-Scandi-style bistro that sits somewhere between the Michelin-starred The Kitchin and The Scran & Scallie, the casual gastropub they opened in the Stockbridge area of the city in 2013.
That said, there is a comforting consistency about Southside Scran, which has a similar aesthetic to the aforementioned restaurants (but not Castle Terrace, the restaurant helmed by chef Dominic Jack that has its own identity) thanks to the keen eye of Michaela, who is responsible for the design of the restaurants in the group.
Here, the dining room has a hint of a French bistro to it, with a low brass rail and voile curtains that cleverly obstruct the view of the BP garage opposite, a rich dark green and grey colour palette, brass fixtures and light fittings and a compact rotisserie. As Kitchin, who has worked with French legends Alain Ducasse at Le Louis XV restaurant in Monte Carlo and Pierre Koffmann at La Tante Claire, says: “We have created a bistro in the sense of our love of Paris, but not to copy a Parisian bistro. The rotisserie is something I’ve always wanted to have in the restaurant, it creates vibe.”
At his flagship restaurant, Kitchin was one of the youngest chefs to win a Michelin star when the red book recognised the restaurant only six months after opening, and Southside Scran has the feeling of being backed by someone with a Michelin pedigree. The restaurant is big on using the best-quality ingredients, which is reflected in the price, and isn’t afraid to serve some classical dishes alongside the more expected burger (made with wagyu beef) and fish and chips. Thus, pig’s head terrine with a celeriac remoulade; and game pithivier with quince feature as starters while the rarely seen duck a l’orange has also made a comeback, even though it is called the somewhat less Gallic mallard with orange sauce.
The menu is surprisingly large – almost brasserie-esque – with dishes from the rotisserie and grill sitting alongside ‘southside comforts’ that also include the return of another long-forgotten French classic, the vol-au-vent, this one served with artichoke and cheese. What makes it larger still is Kitchin’s self-confessed love for sides, with Southside Scran serving no fewer than a dozen, ranging from macaroni cheese; ragout of lentils and lardons; and pumpkin and Jerusalem artichoke to a French bean salad with hazelnut and shallots. The unquestionable star of the sides, however, is the restaurant’s potatoes, that have sat at the bottom of the rotisserie collecting all the juices from the slowly turning ingredients above.
Edinburgh’s burgeoning restaurant scene has welcomed the likes of London big hitters The Ivy, Hawksmoor and Dishoom in the past year or so, and has nurtured talent such as Fhior, Timberyard and The Little Chartroom, whose head chef Roberta Hall-McCarron previously worked at Castle Terrace and The Kitchin. Yet the Kitchins seem to have found a niche with this formal-meets-informal style of restaurant that doubles as both an every day neighbourhood dining spot as well as a more special occasion restaurant.
The couple’s next venture, a small hotel and restaurant due to open next month, isn’t in the city, but a half-hour drive away in the village of Gullane. This means Edinburgh won’t become like Padstein any time soon. But with this formidable pair, you can’t completely rule it out.
On the menu
West coast octopus carpaccio, lemon dressing £12.50
Pig’s head terrine, celeriac remoulade £9.50
Borders game pithivier, quince £12.50
Mallard, orange sauce £25
Shetland mussels mariniere £14
Highland wagyu tail, shallots and parsley (for two) £52
Chocolate tart, milk ice cream £8.50
Rotisserie pineapple, rum sauce £8.50
This is a web version of an article that first appeared in the December issue of Restaurant magazine, the leading title for the UK's restaurant industry. For more features, comment, interviews and in-depth analysis of the restaurant sector subscribe to Restaurant magazine here