It’s been five years since Cat and I got married. Without being too schmaltzy, those five years have been incredible and I consider myself very lucky indeed. To celebrate, Cat and I offloaded The Boy to some generous family for the night, pulled on our gladrags (any remaining clothes without snot/felt-tip/mystery stains), and enjoyed a rare date night.
In a manner which has become the new normal, we left booking somewhere until the last minute, and were delighted to find that Borough had an early table available. Making our way down to Leith, we started to worry that short-notice availability on a Friday night was perhaps a bad sign. We needn’t have worried.
Borough opened a little over four weeks ago in the Henderson Street premises which housed both Norn and The Plumed Horse in days gone by. The restaurant finds itself in good company – surrounded by the great and the good of the Edinburgh food scene. with high-end fine-dining such as The Kitchin and Restaurant Martin Wishart – as well as more budget eats at places like East Pizza and Finn and Bear – could Borough become a casualty to hot competition? I can’t see it.
Borough more than holds its own; serving an exquisite and ever-changing seasonal and ingredient-led four course set menu (as has become the fashion). I added three of the cleanest freshest oysters I’ve tasted to start and the cheese board to finish. and we had some very agreeable wines by the glass. To top it off, four courses will only set you back £35, and you won’t find better cooking at that price (if any). The atmosphere is relaxed, and every detail is considered (I’m a big fan of a good hand soap/moisturiser combo in a restaurant toilet), but it’s not pretentious.
The food really is wonderful, and the set menu allows the chef to really take the diner on a journey of their choosing. In one of my wankier moments – giddy with the excitement of being out sans child – I described the meal as a symphony. In the cold light of day, and after plenty of justified slagging from Cat, I stand by this. Each course is balanced to perfection – each flavour playing an important part in the orchestral movement of the dish. To extend (push) the musical metaphor: when brought together – the meal resembles a beautifully crafted album (as opposed to the Now That’s What I Call Dinner of an a la carte).
Light fresh asparagus custard cut through by salty smoked cheese, was followed by a beef shin ravioli served in an intense mushroom broth. A perfectly seared fillet of sea trout was accompanied by bitter braised chicory, sweet fresh cauliflower, and sharp blood orange for a citrus pop. A bonus anniversary dish comprised rhubarb granita served over a white chocolate custard with toasted hazelnuts, and it totally blew our minds.
The desert was testament to the intelligence of the flavour combinations, a buttermilk panacotta with chamomile meringue and whisky sponge. Each component was tasty enough, but together they sang. I had the cheeseboard (of course), and was quivering with excitement at the first mouthful of olive jelly – a cheese accompaniment made from the loosely jellied leftover brine of gordal olives (probably a bit of a Marmite experience, but I absolutely loved it!) And with that, we were done.
There is real confidence in this cooking – A chef that clearly knows when to stop adding elements to a dish. Talking to co-owner Aleks (who covers front of house whilst her husband Darren keeps the kitchen whirring) after our meal, I got a real sense of a venture which is all about the food. This restaurant isn’t a business that could have been a corner shop or a car wash if the owners had been that way inclined. A passion for provenance, ingredients and flavour is what clearly drives this pair.
Alongside this, there is a lovely sense of community-minded stewardship of a food scene within which they will no doubt become an integral part. When I asked about jars of fermenting asparagus I had seen through the pass (honestly – I could talk for hours about fermentation, so best not to get me started) Aleks’s face lit up: “if you ever need a starter culture for a ferment, drop by and we’ll see if we can help you out”, she said,” adding: “that’s how we got ours!” Nice.