Wave of foodies set for seafood celebration

A Bonnie & Wild creel-caught platter. Image: Naomi Vance PhotographyA Bonnie & Wild creel-caught platter. Image: Naomi Vance Photography
A Bonnie & Wild creel-caught platter. Image: Naomi Vance Photography
Edinburgh’s second annual Seafood Festival is returning this weekend, bringing the opportunity to sample delicious dishes, see chef demonstrations and buy some of Scotland’s finest sustainably-produced fish, writes Sarah Devine

The Edinburgh Seafood Festival, to be held this weekend at St James Quarter, will feature some of the country’s finest culinary talents who will showcase the best locally-sourced and sustainable produce from across Scotland.

The event, in association with The Scotsman and now in its second year, takes place from tomorrow until Sunday and has a packed programme of activities, demonstrations and opportunities to sample sustainable seafood throughout the centre.

A seafood market on Register Square will offer visitors the chance to buy fresh Scottish seafood, learn how to cook it and hear from the event’s fishmonger.

Scotland's National Chef Gary MacleanScotland's National Chef Gary Maclean
Scotland's National Chef Gary Maclean

Isle of Harris Distillery will also feature, giving guests a chance to sample and buy their award-winning spirit which uses sugar kelp seaweed as its key botanical, gathered sustainably by hand from local sea lochs.

The Seafood Stage on Level 1 will host workshops and expert talks across Saturday and Sunday.

They begin with a cooking demonstration and book signing by Scotland’s National Chef, Gary Maclean, who will provide tips for cooking fish at home.

Later that afternoon, visitors can enjoy a demo and Q&A session with chef Brian Grigor, founder of Eòrna restaurant, which is soon to open in the Capital’s Stockbridge area.

Food and drink establishments situated at St James Quarter will also take part, creating their own exclusive dishes and menus for guests to enjoy over the weekend.

Food hall Bonnie & Wild will host a luxury Champagne and oyster bar, with oysters shucked by fishmonger Bernard Corrigan, plus an exclusive menu by Maclean’s solo venture there, Creel Caught.

The team at Ka Pao have recently returned from a trip to Bangkok and Chiang Mai in Thailand, and will use Asian flavours in their dedicated seafood menu.

Duck and Waffle, meanwhile, will serve up mussels three ways –steamed, as moules frites, and in chowder – and hold a new oyster happy hour.

Franck Bruyere, operations and sustainability director at St James Quarter, says: “Sustainability truly sits at the heart of everything we do at St James Quarter. For us, it’s about achieving the expected, such as managing and reducing our energy use – with a robust and collaborative waste management strategy in place, we currently recycle 100 per cent of our food waste, glass and dry mixed recycling.

“But we also focus on the unexpected, encouraging behaviour change and helping all of our guests and team members to take positive action to protect and enrich our environment.

“The little things really can make a huge difference and it is all about supporting people in their personal journey by identifying the easy steps towards a better world without having to change their way of life.

“We now have seven refillable water stations in the Quarter and 45 EV chargers which, combined, are now contributing to a saving of approximately 200,000 plastic bottles and over 85 tonnes of CO2 saved per annum – that’s a whole lot of plastic saved which will not end up in our seas and oceans.

“We’re proud to work with many fantastic brands that champion sustainability. Whether it’s Iolla, with its biodegradable acetate frames, or Space NK and The Body Shop with their refill stations, H&M with its recycling programme, our dining destinations, such as the Alchemist, that choose to source from reputable, local suppliers or Bubbleology, with its modified, 100-per cent recyclable containers.

“We also provide creative and exciting experiences for our guests, with sustainability in mind. We regularly introduce eco-conscious pop-ups like vintage stores in Sook and coming this week, just ahead of our Seafood Festival, a Love Food Hate Waste Scotland roadshow.”

Gary Maclean, who is also a senior lecturer at City of Glasgow College, believes that sustainability has become a key priority for the next generation of chefs.

“There was no environmental agenda when I was starting out in my career, the whole thing has only ramped up in the last ten years,” he observes. “Considering where your food is coming from, and wasting as little as possible, is something I think the next generation of chefs will do better than the last. When visiting schools, being environmentally conscious in the kitchen is on the agenda already.

“They’re being taught about the importance of things like food waste, buying local – even energy usage. I sometimes hear primary kids talking about food waste. Food waste has an incredible impact on the planet and it’s something we can all do something about.”

Ryan Barrie, managing director at Bonnie & Wild, says: “Bonnie & Wild is all about championing Scottish products and producers, and we work very closely with a range of small suppliers and local businesses to ensure that our offer demonstrates good examples of local and sustainable sourcing.

“We’re hosting a pop-up event with the third-generation family fishmonger Bernard Corrigan, which supplies Creel Caught and are renowned for their quality seafood and sustainable sourcing.

“This isn’t something we just pay lip service to. We believe in transparency and have recently listed the very many suppliers who work with Bonnie & Wild and our partner concessionaire businesses, who in turn are all small Scottish businesses. This work in demonstrating the Scottish provenance of our Food Hall was a key consideration in Bonnie & Wild being awarded Taste Our Best accreditation from VisitScotland.”

Sandy Browning, executive chef at the Bib Gourmand-awarded Ka Pao, adds: “The team and I have just returned from a trip to Bangkok and to the outskirts of Chiang Mai, where we immersed ourselves in the world of South-|East Asian cuisine – even attending a cook school in the middle of the jungle.

“We spent our time discovering new flavour combinations, learning new cooking techniques and, naturally, doing a lot of eating. The menus and dishes we’ve created since have undoubtedly been shaped by that trip, and we relish the opportunity to combine South-East Asian influences with the wonderful Scottish produce we have on our doorsteps.

“We’re proud to work closely with some of the best suppliers and producers in Scotland, like John Vallance in Glasgow who provide all of our fish and seafood. Quality produce is so important to us, but so is sustainability, and all of the produce from John Vallance is fully traceable to an ecologically approved sustainable source.

“A lot of the cooking techniques and ingredients found in South-East Asian cooking lend themselves so naturally to minimising food waste – everything gets used – so it’s increasingly been part of our kitchen ethos to work with those principles in mind.”

Duck & Waffle culinary director Daniel Barbosa says his team is proud to source fish from local suppliers, including Eddie’s Seafood, in Marchmont, which he believes is “one of the best for delivering fresh fish and shellfish and amazing customer service – and one of the few specialising in sushi-grade fish”.

He adds: “We’re supporting local producers and getting the best local ingredients – that’s a win for everyone, including our guests who can enjoy this level of quality.”

Visit stjamesquarter.com/events to find out more.