21 Jun Timberyard: natural wine (& whisky) in Edinburgh
Stopping off for lunch at Timberyard in Edinburgh, on my way to Findhorn, I had in my mind to order a whisky with my meal. This is Scotland, I thought! That was until I found out that Scotland is famed for its wine as well as for its whisky.
Scotland has been renowned for good wine since the 13th century. This was following the signing of the Auld Alliance between Scotland and France. Both had an enemy in common – the English. The alliance meant that the French gave the Scots a preferential pick of the best Bordeaux.
Timberyard’s whisky list is impressive. So is its list of natural wines, mostly from Continental Europe, but also a few English and Welsh ones. In any case, it was thanks to wine in the first place that I’d discovered Timberyard, through Jonathan Fillion, formerly of Wine Source and now [UPDATE Feb 2020] of Brothers Wine Company.
Timberyard in Lady Lawson Street
I’d dropped off my bag at the left luggage at Edinburgh’s Waverley train station, where I had arrived from London. Then I made the 15-minute walk to Lady Lawson Street: up some steep stone steps and through the old town by Edinburgh Castle.
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, at 13°C/55°F, the wood-burning stove was going and the south-facing courtyard was too cold to sit out in – or at least for softie southerners like me.
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 five 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.
Attention to detail and design prevailed 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. Sprigs of larch filled the fire pit, waiting for a fire to be lit. The kindling wood, stacked in a neat square, had been rescued from a nearby building that had burnt down.
I was to see lots of wild foxgloves that afternoon. I was to travel by train along the coast to Aberdeen and then inland to Forres and the Moray Firth.
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. All in the name of stopping 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. The dishes were brilliantly assembled and cooked, 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 faTir, 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.