Lyla Edinburgh review: A fine dining experience worth saving up for

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For our Style & Sustenance series, H&IS’s deputy editor Natasha heads along to buzzy new Edinburgh restaurant Lyla, headed by Stuart Ralston, to sample the ten-course seafood-leaning menu

words Natasha Radmehr Photography Murray Orr 

I once overheard a conversation on holiday between a woman in her sixties and a 17-year-old boy that went something like this. Her: “I hate a tasting menu. Portions are too small. Always have to get a McDonald’s on the way home.” Him: “Yes, but the point isn’t to stuff yourself. It’s about the interesting flavours, the chance to try something new.” She rolled her eyes; I silently pledged allegiance with the wee man.

Lyla Edinburgh

Most people fall into one camp or the other and if you also happen to side with that worldly-wise teen then a trip to Lyla is essential. Lyla joins Aizle, Noto and Tipo in Edinburgh as the fourth restaurant in chef Stuart Ralston’s gastronomic empire.

Located in a Georgian townhouse where the late Paul Kitching’s 21212 once resided, and just around the corner from the Gardener’s Cottage, this nook of the capital is already familiar ground to foodies.

But Lyla brings something new to the table with a ten-course, seafood-leaning menu that
pushes the boundaries of fine dining.

Lyla Edinburgh

Our four-hour food odyssey begins between the smoky blue walls of the speakeasy-inspired drawing room. We slip into the posh version of a beer jacket – a fizz tux? – courtesy of the champagne trolley as we savour three pre-dinner snacks: an exquisite Alp Blossom cheese-and-onion cracker, a plump nori-encased scallop, and a juicy bite of lobster and pickled kohlrabi topped with beads of salty trout roe. My normally seafood-wary partner smacks his lips in delight. This is new.

Then it’s downstairs to the main restaurant, elegantly dressed with hairpin-leg chairs, crisp white linen and slim pendant lights. It looks expensive and clean, an unfussy canvas that lets the artful plates shine. Blousy petals of plaice are dotted with caviar; a generous langoustine lounges inside the most intricately spun pastry nest; Laganory cheese gleams in a fermented raspberry and port glaze strewn with hibiscus flowers.

Yet their looks fade to irrelevance with every bite. This food is Michelin-worthy. I have never tasted anything like the chawanmushi, a savoury steamed custard flecked with strips of smoked trout and frothy clouds of smoked potato.

The wagyu beef – from olive-fed cattle – arrives in a decadent soy and bone marrow broth
with a side of crispy-chewy-vinegary sweetbreads that taste, inexplicably, like mini mouthfuls of the best fish supper you’ve ever had.

Even the bread course is a main event, served with a pat of Ampersand’s golden Himalayan salt butter and a pyramid of Lyla’s own butter brushed with wild garlic and capers.

We pair our courses with non-alcoholic drinks, not expecting each tipple to be as inventive and flavourful as the dishes they accompany. A wonderfully briny samphire martini, sweet Scottish redcurrant smoked over applewood, sparkling Darjeeling tea, yuzu with ginger and honey, a salted chocolate and mallow root milkshake… we wind up drunk on delight.

At £145 a head for the food alone (add £60 each for a soft-drink pairing or £110 for the wine equivalent), it isn’t cheap. Nor should it be. This is less a meal, more a dining experience – one that’s worth saving up for. And I promise you won’t even have room for a Chicken McNugget once you’re done.


Lunch at Le Petit Beefbar Edinburgh

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