21 Jun Timberyard: natural wine (& whisky) in Edinburgh
Stopping off in Edinburgh for lunch at Timberyard, I’d been determined to order a whisky with my meal, even though the restaurant is famed for natural wine. This is Scotland, I thought!
Then I discovered that for centuries the French had given the Scots a preferential pick of the best Bordeaux, before the English. This was after the signing of the Auld Alliance in the 13th century between Scotland and France, in unity against their common foe, the English.
That, for me, was a good enough reason, to put aside the whisky, even though Timberyard’s whisky list was impressive. The restaurant’s list of natural European wines, including a few English and Welsh ones, was, for me, even more stunning… and the cocktails tempting as well.
In any case, it was thanks to wine in the first place that I’d discovered Timberyard, through Jonathan Fillion of Wine Source.
Timberyard in Lady Lawson Street
I’d dropped off my bag at the left luggage at Waverley train station, where I had arrived from London, and then made the 15-minute walk, up a couple of flights of steps, through the old town, with its throngs of tourists, round behind Edinburgh Castle, and then into Lady Lawson Street.
Timberyard is housed in a brick building originally built in the 19th century as a prop store, and then converted into a timber yard. Even in June, with the thermometer at 13°C, there was a wood-burning stove going, while the south-facing courtyard was far too cold to sit out in, unfortunately, or fortunately.
I started with a soft cocktail of Douglas Fir & Treacle. I needed refreshing, as I was feeling the effects of my 4.30am alarm, the beginnings of a sore throat and the thought of another 5 hours of travelling that afternoon, to the Moray Firth, near Inverness… for a wedding the next day.
Vitovksa from Italy
Asking for one glass of wine to go with all four courses is not easy. The answer, and a very good answer, suggested to me, was a glass of Vitovksa by Ben Zidarich, from the Italian wine region of Carso, on the border with Slovenia and overlooking the Gulf of Trieste.
Vitovska is a local variety of grape also found in Slovenia. In the case of this wine, the grapes had been left to macerate with their skins on and fermented like a red wine to give more structure, aroma and colour, and hence good to drink with a wide variety of food. I found this wine very digestible. A real favourite, and a beautiful golden colour, almost the colour of whisky!
I love having a little surprise as an appetiser. This time it was pickled cucumber, a cured meat and homemade butter, to go with the Porter bread, made with rye and dark Porter beer.
What I ate at Timberyard
I went for the lunch or pre-theatre menu. Four courses came to £27.50 – amazing value!
- Cured Scallop, Pea, Radish & Dill
- Rabbit, Celeriac, Hazelnut & Pheasant Back – the latter is a type of mushroom, while the rabbit was cooked to succulent perfection.
- Skate, Cockles, Clams, Salsify & Sea Herbs – the herbs were a mix of sea sandwort, oyster leaves (so-named as they taste like oysters), samphire & the algae channel wrack.
- Raspberry, Crème Fraîche & Angelica – a herb whose stems are usually candied (I make jam out of them) and which grows out the back at Timberyard … it is also one of the favourite plants in my garden, as it is so tall and majestic.
Apart from the food and the drink, I liked the attention to design at Timberyard … the Scottish ceramics, the linen napkins, the tartan rugs, the wood logs, the antlers… and the recorded noise of a rain storm in the toilets. A Scandinavian feel, but then Scotland is just across the North Sea from Norway.
The restaurant is a passion project and a family affair, of the Radford family, with mother and father, well-known local restaurateurs, taking a back seat to their offspring chef Ben, bar manager Jo and media manager Abi.
The courtyard at Timberyard
In many ways I was glad that it was too cold to sit outside. It’s a different way of experiencing a restaurant, a different dimension, one more linked to the surrounding environment than the restaurant’s soul.
I went for a wander, though. There were sprigs of larch in the fire pit, waiting to be lit, and the kindling wood, stacked in a neat square had been rescued from a nearby building that had burnt down. I liked that touch.
I was to see lots of wild foxgloves when I travelled up to the Moray Forth that afternoon, along the coast to Aberdeen and then inland from Inverurie to Forres.
The entrance to the restaurant retains the warehouse feel. It can be easy to miss.
My friends thought I was mad taking the train to the Moray Firth from London, a 10-hour journey, just so that I could stop off at Timberyard. Everyone else going to the wedding from London took the plane to Inverness.
The trip to Timberyard was definitely worth it. For me, it was a key way of sampling delicacies from the rich larder of Scotland’s coastline and highlands, brilliantly assembled and cooked, and of tapping into the Scottish spirit, creativity and (wine) history. I also got to enjoy the beauty of the Scottish coastline on the train up.
Wild Wine Fair
Timberyard will be hosting Edinburgh’s first dedicated natural wine fair, the Wild Wine Fair, on Sunday 23 July.
You can find Timberyard at 10 Lady Lawson Street, Edinburgh EH3 9DS. The restaurant is open Tuesday to Saturday with lunch bookings 12-2pm and dinner 5.30-9.30pm