Great Places to Eat in Scotland
- Duck's at Le Marché Noir, Edinburgh
Just a ten minute stroll down the hill from Princes Street/George Street, Duck's at Le Marché Noir is very well established and beloved by its regular clientele in a quiet residential tree lined street in the elegant New Town. It makes a pleasant change to dine out away from the traffic and crowds of city centre establishments, to enjoy a distinctive dining experience.
Duck's was founded in 1991 by Malcolm Duck when he decided on a career change after eleven years in the Royal Marines. It seems like a major change of direction. "As an ex-Marine, I was fed up eating ration packs and wanted some decent food!" he explains, "I mistakenly thought the restaurant trade was an easy thing to get into. At the start I didn't know Edinburgh and I didn't know the business of wine and food, but after living in an officers' mess I was used to proper dining. The parade ground is very similar to a restaurant in terms of the attention to detail and observation required, so it was very good training for this. "
Over the past seventeen years, Mr Duck and his small kitchen and management team have offered a consistently high standard of cuisine, an award winning wine list, personal service and a relaxed convivial atmosphere. The hard work has paid off. The 'Michelin Guide Great Britain and Ireland 2008' includes Duck's at Le Marche Noir now honoured with a Bib Gourmand. This denotes "Good cooking at moderate prices" recognising Michelin star inspired cuisine with a set price of no more than £28. Exceptional value for food at this standard.
The setting here is simply chic and charming: two small adjoining rooms with wood panelled walls painted in a soft shade of mushroom/ taupe, decorated with mirrors, art work, a collection of ornamental ducks and well spaced, crisply dressed white-clothed candlelit tables. The interior design is reminiscent of a classy Parisian bistro. In charge in the kitchen is Head Chef Rob Mitchell (previously at Chez Bruce London) and restaurant manager is Beth McTaggart who has recently joined Duck's team after a prestigious career at The Scotsman hotel and Number One at The Balmoral.
"Here at Duck's we have a simple code when it comes to cuisine and hospitality: fresh flavoursome food and a warm welcome." Malcolm Duck
The dinner menu with a set price of £28 for three courses is conducive to a relaxed and less complicated night out - especially for friends who have been known to quibble about splitting the bill when one diner has the more expensive steak or lobster!. There is a choice of five starters and five main courses. Begin perhaps with Raviolo of Rabbit and thyme with field mushrooms, kale, pearl barley and vegetable broth, or Grilled lemon sole with shrimps and cucumber. Poetic, appetising descriptions like these certainly illustrate the precision and inventiveness of Mitchell's contemporary French/Scottish cuisine.
Main courses emphasise fine Scottish produce - Perthshire venison, Aberdeen Angus beef and west coast seafood. Tried and tested was a magnificent platter of Roast Organic Salmon, (beautifully pink, tender and flakey), with mussels, braised baby gem, salsify, ratte potatoes and horseradish. The freshness, taste and quality of all ingredients shone through. Alternatively, Pot Roast Shoulder of Lamb with potato dumplings, aubergine caviar, green beans and garlic crisps or a gourmet vegetarian option of Jerusalem Artichoke with ceps and spinach topped with a fried duck's egg. The menu changes regularly with the season and daily fish market choice.
On this particular evening I found (to my taste) the Dessert menu to be exceptionally rich, highly calorific and sweet: Treacle tart with clotted cream or Warm doughnuts with chocolate pot (which I was advised was heaven on a plate) and also classic Tiramasu. But of course what could be more popular than doughnuts and chocolate! My partner and I selected the Cheese board (from Mellis cheesemonger) which was exquisite: a soft Goat's cheese, Stilton, smooth tangy Crifell and Keen's English cheddar - served with oatcakes, grapes, slices of quince.
Duck's at Le Marche Noir has been presented annually with the American journal Wine Spectator award of excellence over several years for having one of the most outstanding wine lists in the world, as well as Les Routier wine list of the year award. Malcolm is a wine aficionado and the vast cellar represents his knowledge and travels around international vineyards with a diverse selection from Whistling Duck Chardonnay and Shiraz Cabernet from SE Australia, quality Sancerre and Chablis, to a vintage '61 Lafite or '82 Gruaud-Larose. There's also a fine selection of malt whiskies, liqueurs, armagnac and port for a post-prandial snifter.
Dinner - 3 course set menu: £28. Selected dishes may have a modest additional charge.
Lunch - 2 courses: £12; 3 courses: £16. Extensive wine list from around £19 to £ 3,000 +
The entire restaurant or one of the rooms may be booked for exclusive use with a complete package. Prices (food and wine) from £450 for lunch for 20 guests (small room) to £1500 for dinner for 36 guests (main room).
This is an intimate smart wee place for a quiet, romantic meal or a leisurely business lunch. Style, ambience and friendly professional service are spot on. Malcolm Duck will no doubt be at the door to welcome you personally and or be dashing around the tables to say hello and suggest wine options with enthusiastic and dramatic flair. (Ask to see his birth certificate which he hangs in the bar with pride!). With your bon viveur host, manager Beth McTaggart and her team of waiters, expect to receive the essence of fine hospitality with personal attention. Michelin rising star great food at an exceptional price.
From the celebrity guest book"Good, very good - very very good - with thanks" - Sean Connery
Top Table Happy Customers"Ducks at Le Marche Noir offered excellent value for money. The service was impeccable, the wine list superb and the quality of the food as good as any top restaurant."
"I found my visit to Duck's at Le Marche Noir to be highly enjoyable. The staff were courteous and helpful. Starters and mains utilised local ingredients to excellent effect, the venison in particular was divine. The £28 dinner menu presented good value for money and combined with the comprehensive wine list would certainly merit a return visit."
British Guild of Travel Writers
16 April 2008
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