THE diet can start on October 24. That’s the message from the organisers of the first ever Edinburgh Restaurant Festival, which gets under way next week.
More than 60 of the Capital’s best-loved eateries have joined forces to offer a fortnight of mouth-watering treats, special menus, taster sessions and masterclasses to Edinburgh’s food-lovers.
Combined with drinks and meet-the-producer events, the festival is set to create a real buzz amongst the Capital’s foodies.
So get your elasticated trousers at the ready, and be prepared to feast till your heart’s content.
Some of the city’s top chefs, restaurants, bistros and bars have signed up to the festival, but that doesn’t mean you have to break the bank to sample their fare.
There will be a host of special offers throughout the fortnight to ensure you can tantalise your taste buds without breaking the bank.
Special set menus are available across the Capital in three categories – under £10, under £20 and more than £20.
L’Escargot Blanc, Gusto, A Room in the West End, Mamma’s American Pizza Co and The Stockbridge Restaurant are just a few of the restaurants taking part in the inaugural festival, while the Harvey Nichols food hall and Edinburgh Farmers’ Market are also on board.
Special gastronomic events will be taking place throughout the festival, which starts this Thursday and runs until October 23.
Food lovers can enjoy the Old Town Street Food Festival at the Three Sisters, children’s pizza-making workshops at Mamma’s American Pizza Co and Eat Walk Edinburgh tasting tours of the Old and New Towns.
Drop into the Harvey Nicks food hall, Gusto, Cranachan & Crowdie and Crowne Plaza Edinburgh to experience some food and drink themed matching events and experience a range of local and international street food at the Grassmarket and Stockbridge markets.
At Cranachan & Crowdie on the Canongate, a series of gin producer taster events will take place, where guests can sample the wares and chat to those behind the drinks.
The Great Gin Treasure Hunt on October 18 will see riddles and clues guide intrepid treasure hunters around a series of city centre bars in search of Edinburgh’s most delicious gin cocktail.
Culminating at the home of Edinburgh Gin – The Edinburgh Gin Distillery in Rutland Place – one lucky participant will discover they are the golden ticket holder, where the prize will be the chance for them to make their very own gin.
And for those looking for a tipple other than gin, the West End Beer Festival will take place on October 19, where meet-the-brewer and sample-the-beer events will take place at participating bars. Brewers Speyside, Barney’s Beer and Alchemy will all be taking part.
One of the participating chefs, Stuart Ralston, who opened Aizle in St Leonard’s Street in April, says: “The good thing about this festival is that it’s not just about people going out to restaurants. There’s a lot more to it than that and there’s something for everyone.
“There are pizza-making workshops for kids and a gin hunt for adults, which is kind of fun.”
Mr Ralston, who spent the last decade working in London and New York, adds: “Edinburgh is a lot different to when I lived here ten years ago. A lot more casual restaurants have opened up – and I would never have thought I could get really great sushi in Edinburgh ten years ago, but I can.
“As soon as I can get more time off to eat out, I will.”
Alongside Mr Ralston, other top chefs Mark Greenaway, Craig Sandle and Paul Wedgwood will kick the festivities off on Wednesday with the Chefs’ Table launch event at the Ghillie Dhu.
The fine-dining extravaganza consists of five courses including lobster thermidor creme brûlée, smoked salmon, pear and foraged sweet cicely and red-legged partridge are all matched with a wine, beer or cocktail.
Dessert will be clootie dumpling with treacle meringues, preceded by a palate-cleanser cocktail, the Elderberry Royale, prepared by New York mixologist to the stars, Aizle’s Krystal Goff.
Behind-the-scenes video footage of all four chefs preparing their dishes will be filmed, while guests will also be able to pose their questions to the chefs in person and via social media throughout the evening.
“This is an exciting time for restaurants in Edinburgh with so many to choose from and the Edinburgh Restaurant Festival is an excellent way to celebrate that,” says Paul Wedgwood, owner and head chef at Wedgwood the Restaurant on the Canongate.
“I was honoured to be asked to take part in the launch event and it’s a great opportunity to work with other Edinburgh chefs and interact with a new foodie audience.”
The festival is part of the This Is Edinburgh campaign – a drive to attract families and shoppers back into the city centre.
The Edinburgh Restaurant Festival aims to encourage locals to get out and explore the city’s dining scene, and help raise the profile of the participating bars, bistros and restaurants across the city. Andy Neal, chief executive of Essential Edinburgh, says: “Edinburgh has more restaurants per head of population than anywhere else in the UK and this festival celebrates that fact by asking food lovers to celebrate our rich dining scene in fresh ways.
“From brand-new events, such as the Chefs’ Table evening, which will be outstanding, to a wide array of discounts and offers, there is something – literally – to suit all tastes, as well as budgets.
“This is the perfect opportunity to visit a restaurant you have never tried before.”
n For further information on the Edinburgh Restaurant Festival and all of the menus and events, visit thisisedinburgh.com/edinburghrestaurantfestival. Tickets for the Chefs’ Table event cost £100 and are available from the Ghillie Dhu by calling 0131-247 4701 or e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.