It’s tasting menu territory in Heron, one of the restaurants that no doubt contributed to Leith’s rather recent reputation glow-up. Once looked down upon as a less desirable Edinburgh suburb, this community out towards the sea now draws jaded city dwellers with the appeal of more affordable housing stock, waterside walks and, well, good food.
Here to provide some of those goods are Tomás Gormley and Sam Yorke, who head up his kitchen team that work behind the scenes on an ever-rotating menu. Out front the interiors are pleasant, if not ground-breaking, with light wooden wishbone chairs and the requisite pop of green from large potted plants contributing to the well-loved Scandi aesthetic. It’s quiet on our visit, but we’ve known others to have to book well in advance. The inevitable loss of a buzz is broken by the background music and a cheery waitress getting to grips with the intricacies of an all-new menu. She’s mercilessly required to relay every detail thanks to a short and sharp billing that leaves the exact plating as a surprise until each dish is presented to you.
A ramble around land, sea and sky; venison, grouse, scallop and langoustine concoctions leave guests with a robust line-up of seasonal dishes. However, while the flavours hit you square in the face, there’s a lightness of touch that ensures it doesn’t become all too much. Venison tartare cut with sweet elderflower and tart mustard; partridge lifted with little Brussels sprout leaves and rich lardo contrasted with sweet, chopped langoustine in a dainty tartlet, for example.
Don’t get us wrong, the whole collection hardly plays out as a palette cleanser. It’s rich, generously buttered food with gutsy flavours that reaches out to your inner need to be cossetted via what you consume. And there’s a further doubling down on ingredients that plays out too, to compound flavours, exemplified in a crispy duck fat-soaked crumpet crispy served as a side to a daintily dressed duck terrine.
While the accomplished cookery on show here undoubtedly shines a light on how Scottish food can be interpreted through a modern lens, the appeal of good food and a warm welcome is timeless.