Journeying Through Scotland & Beyond at Taisteal, Edinburgh

Surprisingly for Scotland's capital, exceptional Scottish restaurants are increasingly hard to come by. But maybe that's because the purveyors of Scottish fare are thinking too inside the box; haggis, meat pies, and black pudding do not wholly represent Scottish cuisine, after all. In fact, you'll find more Indian and Asian food influences around Edinburgh than you will provincial British.

There's a new restaurant in town, however, that truly hits the nail on the head when it comes to embodying the Scottish spirit, and representing the melting-pot that Scotland's metropolitan areas really are. Taisteal, located in the uber-hip and unmistakably upscale neighborhood of Stockbridge, is the brainchild of Michelin-trained chef Gordon Craig, and seeks to meld together Scottish cuisine with flavors from around the world. The Gaelic word for "journey" or "travel", Taisteal delivers on its promise with a refined menu of unexpected culinary mastery.

If you're a purist looking for the most traditional of Scottish fare, then Taisteal isn't your place. But what you will find is that nearly every morsel of food on your plate is locally sourced- and, in my opinion, that's truly Scottish.    

Nab a spot at the window for a particularly "aww"-inducing view of Stockbridge's seemingly endless parade of dogs out for their Sunday afternoon walks. Many of whom stopped by the front with their owners for a peek at the neighborhood's newest hotspot.

Nibble on some warm, spiced popcorn while you peruse the menu, letting the detailed descriptions of each dish excite you for what's to come. As I had won this meal through a Twitter contest, the lovely waitress brought us each a glass of Champagne as a little welcome treat.

While we had enjoyed our fair share of whisky the night before at a Burns Supper, the cocktail menu was (as always) calling my name. A mixture of classic cocktails and new favorites, the drinks menu was fairly small compared to what many restaurants are promoting nowadays. But, in line with the food menu, the drink offerings were cohesive and unfussy. Two mint juleps were brought to the table, and we nursed the herb-infused drinks throughout the meal.  

The warm, crusty, brown bread was a welcome start to the meal, paired with a creamy herb aioli to lather up the slices with.

To start, I satisfied my need for cheese with the goat's cheese pannacotta, accompanied by apple, walnuts, truffled honey, and what appeared to be a fried croquette of the same cheese. Scooped up altogether, these flavors hit all the right notes- savory, tart, sweet, and nutty. Every last lashing of honey and crumb of walnut was scraped clean off my plate.

After learning that the scallop delivery had not yet arrived, Ben settled on the Singapore squid with squid ink risotto which, even as a second choice, proved to be delectable. Drawing on both Asian and Italian influences, this dish was not only wildly flavorful, but also a sight for sore eyes, with paper-thin radishes outlining the bowl.

Duck was on the cards for my main dish, having been tempted by the pairing of the rich meat with edamame beans and a shitake samosa. The ability of the chefs at Taisteal to flawlessly fuse surprising flavors makes them a true standout, and this dish was no exception. The fresh beans perfectly offset the richness of the duck, and the charred bak choi provided an addictive smokiness when swirled around in the remaining sauce.

A traditional roast dinner receives a makeover with this next dish: grilled venison haunch with butternut squash, wild mushrooms, and sesame. The traditional British game meat was paired with a cassis sauce, and generously sprinkled with multi-colored sesame to once again add some Asian flair.

Each and every dessert on offer was one of a kind. You're more likely to find a lemongrass parfait on this menu than you are to find chocolate mousse or apple crumble. I opted for one of the "safer" choices, however, being a die-hard chocolate lover who can never pass on chocolate fondant. This version finds its individuality in its dual orange accompaniment- a snow-like powder and an icy sorbet.

The lycheesecake proved to be more than just a clever pun, with the decadently creamy cake having as subtle tropical flavor- far more unexpected than your average mango cheesecake. But the final surprise that really "took the cake", was added pop rocks on top of the cake. Giggling at the popping sensation in our mouths, we felt a wave of nostalgia overtake us before finishing up the last bites of our desserts.    

Whether it was the smiling faces of two university students sitting by the window, or the compelling menu by the door drawing interested crowds to Taisteal, we'll never know. But one thing's for sure- Taisteal has certainly already mastered the art of the curiosity factor.

With an unmissable January deal in celebration of their opening, Taisteal is offering two courses for just £10 every weekday evening- yes, I said evening, and yes, for only a tenner! But this unmissable opportunity ends in just over a week so be quick!

Thank you to Taisteal for the wonderful lunch! I was lucky enough to win this meal in a Twitter contest; all opinions are my own. You can view Taisteal's full menu here   

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