Element, Edinburgh: A Scottish Treat on a Bustling Side Street

Edinburgh's food scene is currently witnessing a revival of sorts; one where restaurants and cafes are going back to their Scottish roots. Maybe it's the prospect of a second Independence Referendum, or maybe it's just that Scotland has always been fiercely proud of its culture. But one thing's for sure: haggis is no longer an anomaly on any given menu in Edinburgh.

Tucked away on pedestrian-only Rose Street, Element brings Scottish fare into a fresh and modern light. The menu changes as often as the seasons, paying homage to Scotland's ever-changing food landscape, meaning this menu is as dynamic as the country itself. What's better is that Element has really been upping it's game recently, with a refurb of the decor as well as the addition of daily brunch offerings to its menu. Talk about on-trend!

The element of style is certainly not lost on this venue; with tartan-clad seats, a black and white mural of Edinburgh, and brass accents, this place is a Pinterest goldmine. Grab a seat by the sleek bar up front and try one of Element's mouthwatering cocktails prepared by their masterful bartenders. Or take your drink to the back of the restaurant where you can cozy up in a leather booth among photographs and handmade prints of local Scottish wildlife- think highland cows, foxes, and badgers as your dinner companions.

On a quiet Tuesday night, we were practically the only diners in the restaurant, with the bar-goers greatly outnumbering us. But empty restaurants make for great blog-photos, so I can't say I was complaining. Despite glancing at the menu online prior to our visit, we were pleasantly surprised that many of the dishes had been changed. As we transition into spring weather, Element is offering up a few lighter, brighter, and healthier dishes. This welcome surprise had us perusing the menu for a bit longer than usual.

First up were drinks. The carefully crafted cocktail menu seemed to favor whisky as a base. Despite my lack of experience drinking this Scottish spirit, I took a chance on their take on the classic pina colada. Whisky, pineapple juice, lemon, and bitters poured over ice with a bit of a frothy finish was just the ticket for a pre-dinner sip. Ben started off with a pint of beer- but even he was quick to admit that he had a bit of drink envy.

If there's one thing that defines Scottish food more than anything else, it's a love for all things meaty. Element offers up an extensive and creative selection of starters and mains that make the most of Scotland's game meat. From duck to rabbit to ox, Element doesn't shy away from rich flavors, while also balancing out its menu with a fair share of fish and veggie dishes.

For me, the duck pastrami starter instantly caught my eye. Duck is always a win in my book, but it was really the prospect of pickled strawberries and endive that convinced me to order it. The punchy strawberries and pink duck slices were nestled into the endive leaves like perfect little parcels. Crunchy hazelnuts added an unexpected bite, and a few dashes of balsamic vinegar made this the ideal light spring starter. Personally, I wish it was presented in a bit more of a refined manner, but the taste outweighed the appearance.

Ben is drawn to terrine like a moth to a flame. Whether it's pork, duck, or chicken, he'll order it without fail. Element's addition of rabbit terrine to the new menu also emphasizes a spring renewal. Paired with a purple potato salad and homemade onion bread, this terrine was one for the books. Ben also pointed out the addition of candied carrots in the terrine as an unexpected twist.

I'm not usually one to pay much attention to sides- they're usually predictable and not worth ordering. But Element, which prides itself on its bar snacks, provides a significant list of sides that'll have you thinking twice about your starters. Healthier options of kale, bacon, and hazelnuts, join more traditionally rich sides like buttery garlic mushrooms. But for us, only the haggis bon bons could satisfy our hankering for something fried alongside our lighter starters. If you don't like haggis, consider yourself officially converted- not only because these balls of brilliance are breaded and fried to warming perfection, but because the quality of the haggis itself will knock your socks off.

Guinea fowl isn't something that normally graces your average menu. Chicken is the more likely option. But the chance to taste a more unusual bird tempted me to stray from my typical penchant for steak. The guinea fowl was tender and juicy, retaining its moisture from being cooked on the bone. Laid atop a pool of jus, a silky puree of celeriac and a bed of tender greens, and topped with slightly spicy sausage, the pairings certainly did justice (and more) to the main event. I could have lapped up a plate of them alone!

Eager to snatch up the chance to have steak, Ben ordered the Aberdeen Angus Ribeye. There's nothing more indulgent than a good steak, and Element's offering lived up to expectations. Ben ordered his rare ("with a pulse" as he likes to say), and the staff did a great job cooking it to his liking. Served with a roast tomato, a sizable pile of salad, and a side of fluffy chips, this steak was a force to be reckoned with.

Despite the generous portions of our meal, we still had some room for dessert. After all, you eat dessert with your heart, not your stomach. A chocolate girl myself, I was surprised by how keen I was to try something a bit more fruity for my final course. The Cranachan cheesecake was calling my name- a new twist on a Scottish classic. I can't say Cranachan is my favorite dessert (to me, it's just a bit of berries and cream), but in cheesecake form it sounded divine. Creamy and surprisingly savory (in a good way), this cake was topped with lashings of whisky and raspberry sauce, and sprinkled with a few meringues.

Ben opted for the chocolate dessert- a kilner pot of chocolate mousse, cherry coulis, and crunchy chocolate soil. If that doesn't sound like heaven on earth, then the side of warm, fluffy, cinnamon churros should do the trick. Dip these fried delights into the decadent chocolate mousse and you'll be dreaming of your dessert for the rest of the week.

While Edinburgh is currently seeing an uptick in Scottish restaurants, Element certainly sets the bar high among its competition. With stylish interiors, an eclectic menu, and a nod to Scotland's best meat, fish, and produce, Element will surely become a standby for its take on Scottish fare. And since they offer new dishes on a seasonal basis, there's always a reason to return!

I, for one, am already eyeing up their brunch and lunch menus. You can find me there between shopping trips (with a side of haggis bon bons, of course).

Thank you to Element and Crimson Edge PR for inviting me to review the restaurant! You can find Element's full menu here, and find more information on their website

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...