Great Places to Eat in Scotland
- Cruz, The Shore, Leith, Edinburgh
One thing's for sure - it will be easy to spot this restaurant when you arrive at The Shore, the attractive cobbled road lined with bars and restaurants along the waterfront in Leith. Cruz is in fact a 400 tonne ship, moored against the harbour wall. No, diners are not taken on a cruise around the Forth during dinner, but you may certainly have the sense that you are at sea as you wine and dine, looking out the picture and porthole windows or sitting on deck.
The steamer, 'Ocean Mist' was built in 1919 by George Brown & Co, Greenock. Originally named 'Samuel Green' and built for the Navy, the 1st World War was over by the time it was completed, but it was used over the years as a trawler, mine sweeper and pleasure yacht. Once owned by the Guinness Family, the ship ferried racing cars to France and Italy. Later brought in retirement to Leith, the Ocean Mist was a floating bar during the 1980s and 90s, but in recent years it has been unused and almost derelict, its battleship grey paint slowing turning a golden shade of rust. Thankfully the old ship has now been saved from the salvage yard and turned into a sparkling new contemporary bar and restaurant.
The graphic here shows the ship at Leith in 2005.
The new owners of the renamed Cruz are restaurant entrepreneur Matthew Tabatabaie (owner of De Niro and Ti Amo, two popular Italian restaurants in Edinburgh) and Sassan Pour, an architectural engineer. They have invested over £1 million in interior design and refurbishment to create a piano bar, dance floor, top deck restaurant and outdoor terrace. Now painted a bright glossy white, with a smart canopied entrance by gangplank from the harbour wall to the ship, this is certainly an alternative and quirky place to enjoy a drink or meal.
Cruz features a 90-seat restaurant and nightclub offering an all-round dining, hospitality and entertainment venue- ideal for private parties and corporate functions. The look is all very sleek, smart and cool - cream and brown leather, booth seating and polished wood floors - more akin to a city centre cocktail bar than a ship, lacking any nautical theme other than portholes in the bar and toilets. The lower part of the ship houses a conference and function suite, in which the ship's vintage steam engines have been incorporated as a design feature.
Head chef Eric Lionnet has created an appetising and comprehensive menu combining specially sourced quality Scottish produce with a modern Mediterranean influence. Seafood unsurprisingly features strongly - fish lovers are in for a treat. As we began to decide what to eat, a basket of home made bread and bowl of olives were brought to the table. Nice touch. Too often bread is charged as an extra.
From a choice of no less than seven starters, perhaps sample a plate of succulent, Smoked Organic Scottish Salmon Tartare, accompanied by a chive cottage cheese (welcome change from calorific cream cheese) with cucumber and dill salsa. Absolutely perfect - quality salmon with a light and healthy salad. My partner quickly consumed his Roasted Red Pepper, Artichoke and Cherry tomato Tart Tatin - a puff pastry base, adorned with wild rocket and tasty, home made basil and almond pesto. Alternatively, Loch Fyne oysters, or pan fried, chilli scented, fresh King Prawns.
More fish on the menu for the main course. Congratulations to the chef for creating a classic Cote d'Azur Bouillabaisse, a thick and rich garlicky seafood casserole stuffed with prawns, mussels, cod, seabass and chunky potatoes. I couldn't resist the King Scallops, seared in olive oil and dressed in a colourful saffron beurre blanc. The menu did not mention the large mountain of rice with this dish and I had ordered a side dish of French fries - fat, soft and delicious chips - so I left the rice untouched.
The kitchen orders its lamb and beef from Orkney - all part of their policy in sourcing quality, organic Scottish farm food. The rack of lamb is roasted and served off the bone with wild mushrooms, while the fillet of beef is chargrilled, with a bearnaise sauce. Apart from chips, side orders include mashed potato with chives, steamed organic vegetables and herb salads.
We were well looked after by two young, enthusiastic Polish waiters who seemed keen to know that we were enjoying the meal. They both would wander up individually and ask "Do you like our food?" Yes, we do. A jug of iced water was quickly replenished when finished. On this particular Sunday night, it was quiet in the restaurant (busy in the bar) but we heard the place was full the night before. The atmosphere was relaxing and romantic with a soundtrack of jazz and blues, Ella Fitzgerald style. However, this mood music had to compete at times with the sound of rather more raucous rock numbers blasting away in the downstairs bar!
Portions are generous (especially the Bouillabaisse) so we needed a rest before dessert. Again a great choice such as the ever popular Sticky toffee pudding, Chocolate fondant and selection of Organic ice creams - also Ian Mellis cheese. With a third of a bottle of Tiddy Widdy Shiraz Cabernet still to drink, my partner and I shared a platter of cheese with oatcakes, grapes and celery -a fine selection including the "King of Cheeses" - a slightly salted Roquefort - and a ripe slice of camembert.
Starters: £3.50 - £6.50. Main courses: £10.50 -£22.00. Dessert/Cheese: £3.50 - £5.85. House wine: Australian Shiraz Cabernet £12.95; Bella Modella, Pinot Grigio £13.95. Champagne, (Moet & Chandon), and range of classic cocktails - £5.95 per glass.
You can't really miss The Cruz at The Shore, Leith. It's open from Noon until 1.0am, seven days a week. For restaurant reservations, telephone (0131) 553 6699. See also The Cruz Web Site.
Cruz is a welcome addition to the choice of restaurants and bars in Leith, now well established as Gourmet village with two Michelin star restaurants and excellent seafood bistros. On warm summer days this will surely be a hot spot for al fresco deck terrace cocktails, followed by a bowl of Loch Fyne Mussels, while sitting on the waterfront. Live music is lined up for Sunday afternoons and party nights. Cruz is a creative innovation, combining cocktails and classy dining to cater for both the casual and the smart set, of all ages. Whether you want to drink, dine or dance it's all here - just like a real cruise ship really. I raise my glass and wish this new Ship on the Shore every success - cheers!
Vivien Devlin, British Guild of Travel Writers
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