Aizle brings a fresh and exciting new dining concept to Edinburgh.
Aizle, n. Old Scots. A hot ember, a live spark.
The latest addition to Edinburgh’s dining scene couldn’t be more aptly named: Aizle’s laid-back take on fine dining is rejuvenating the South Side of the city with a homely twist on Parisian-style neo-bistro dining. The intimate eatery on St. Leonard’s Street opened just last week and is the brainchild of chef/mixologist couple Stuart Ralston and Krystal Goff. They’ve travelled the world, cooking and making drinks for high-profile people in luxurious surroundings from NYC to Barbados, and now they’re bringing their own vision to life in Stuart’s hometown of Edinburgh: fresh, local, seasonal fare cooked to perfection and served in a relaxed, unpretentious environment.
With no traditional menu (unique in Edinburgh), Aizle is taking freshness to the next level, using only the day’s best, locally sourced market offerings in their inventive, French-inspired bistronomie fare. On-the-day freshness is a guarantee and the ever-evolving offerings make the most of seasonality in a daily adapting four-course set menu. Instead of a typical menu, on our arrival we were handed our ingredients list – a clue to the delights to come.
We watched our cocktails being made at the bar behind us by co-owner Krystal; I had heard she’s worked in some of the hippest New York cocktail bars and so I was excited to see what Aizle had to offer. ‘The Rose’ had my name written all over it (sorry, couldn’t resist) and was simply stunning. A mixture of fresh rhubarb, rose water and tequila, it was incredibly fruity and refreshing, without being overpoweringly floral. Everything at Aizle seems so carefully thought out, from the gorgeous blue and white exterior to the rose petal garnish on my fantastically pink cocktail – beautifully served with a wee jug for top-ups.
The current cocktail menu is whisky-led for the launch period, and Al went for the ‘Smoke Monster’, a fresh, fruity and smoky mixture of Peat Monster Whisky, Apertico Cocchi (an Italian aperitif wine), jasmine tea, orange flower water and fresh orange. Sipping our cocktails, we enjoyed the view while I made mental interior design notes and admired the dreamy, stripped-back décor – light, fresh and airy with a Scandinavian feel.
Then there was the food – and what food. First up, three ‘snacks’ to whet the appetite. These were certainly a very good sign of things to come! The avocado mousse, pictured above, was just heavenly (with the addition of trout for the meat eaters) – the perfect combination of creaminess and crunch.
The second snack was seriously impressive – in presentation and in flavour. Our delicious ragu was served in a hollowed out eggshell on a bed of hay; mine was made with celeriac, richly flavoured and delicately seasoned, while Al’s was a lamb concoction. Both were accompanied by beautiful wild garlic; I don’t usually care much for garlic, but I’ve been converted by this milder-mannered relation – earthy and flavourful but without being overpowering.
The third and final snack came in the form of potato soup for me and fresh oyster for Al. The humble potato was transformed into this gorgeously smooth and creamy creation, with subtle, herby flavours and crunch from the tasty croutons. Al’s oyster with sea lettuce was the highlight of his meal I think – fresh and salty as the sea. By this stage we were already seriously impressed, and that was all just for (pre) starters.
My first course was a heritage carrot medley, which looked almost too pretty to eat. Earthy, sweet and rich, the tangy buttermilk sauce and fresh pink purslane balanced it beautifully. Al’s came with veal tongue, which he reports was meltingly soft. Usually I’m not so impressed when the veggie option is just the same minus the meat, however letting the gorgeously cooked veg take centre stage was a bold but effective move – it needed no accompaniment if you ask me! Next up was salt-baked celeriac for me, which really let this root veg sing. It came with alexanders – a relative of rhubarb apparently – and a fruity and sharp pear dressing that tempered the saltiness. Meanwhile, Al had his fish course – he said the trout was cooked to perfection, with soft flesh and crispy skin.
My main course was the absolute highlight of the whole meal for me: ricotta gnudi in a parmesan broth, with wild leeks and garlic. I’ve seen gnudi on cooking shows before but have never tried making my own – I definitely will after this! A cross between gnocchi and pasta, the gnudi were beautifully soft and flavourful and the broth was light but salty and satisfying – and the fresh, lightly cooked wild veg was a lovely accompaniment. Heaven in a bowl. Al’s main course was Ayrshire pork with Togarashi, which he said was deliciously succulent.
A delectable rhubarb pud rounded off proceedings, with yoghurt, meringue and sweet cicely. The fruit was beautifully cooked and still had plenty of bite, while the tangy yoghurt worked well with the sugary meringue and spicy, aniseed notes from the sweet cicely. We finished things off with a nightcap (for the purposes of review), I went for the ‘Burning Orchard’ – a hearty mix of gin, fresh pear, maple syrup and plessis, while Al had the ‘Sparky Jay’ – gin, mint, cucumber, tonic and orange bitters. Summer in a glass!
I couldn’t recommend a trip to Aizle more. It’s a really personal dining experience, from the lovely, friendly owners and informative but unobtrusive service, to the fact that your meal is different every time – respecting the seasons and letting the wonderful flavours take centre stage. The set menu is £35 for four courses, and as you’ve seen, you really get a lot for your money. As we watched the sun go down behind Arthur’s Seat, the restaurant was transformed; a perfect end to a lovely evening and one of the most exciting meals I’ve had in some time.
If you’re thinking of somewhere special to eat out in the capital this Easter Weekend, then get yourself to Aizle. Go go go! Details below.