Great Places to Eat in Scotland
- Embark, Fountainbridge Square, Edinburgh

The Location
As part of a major city regeneration programme around Edinburgh, the key architectural theme these days is upmarket apartment blocks beside the water. Out of the industrial wasteland near a Brewery and disused canal, an attractive new neighbourhood has evolved around Fountainbridge, near Tollcross on the south side of the city centre. Built right at the end of the Union Canal, a new development of flats, offices, restaurants and bars is now open for business. Embark has a prime position, with outdoor waterfront terrace, perfect for both summertime meals watching the canal barges, and year round drinking and dining amidst a contemporary urban setting.

The Restaurant

Embark is described as a Bar and Dining room where fine food is as, or even more, important as the beer, wine and cocktail list. Edinburgh is awash with new style bars, so this concept is rather unique, offering an upmarket restaurant rather than pub grub on the side. That's not to say this is a formal, dress up, restaurant - more smart casual. It's certainly spacious. The interior design, reminiscent of a ship's deck, is divided around ground, mezzanine and upper floor levels. Enter the cool and casual downstairs bar, with its polished wood floor, brown leather sofas, shining chrome and steel, and long red banquette seat along one wall opposite the long bar. An industrial steel staircase leads upstairs to the smart restaurant, where colours and fabrics are subtle and sophisticated - taupe, eau de nil and coffee - with a long banquette seating against a neat line of square, bare wooden tables. From the dining room you can step outside to an attractive roof terrace.

On this particular Sunday evening, a laid back blues and jazz soundtrack (Harry Connick Junior et al) created a relaxing ambience.

The Food
The kitchen prides itself in fresh, local seasonal food focusing on a modern Scottish cuisine which is imaginative and inspiring. As we studied the menu, with a glass of Prosecco on the side (a reasonable £ 4.50), a surprise dish of canapés arrived at the table - olives, feta cheese in oil, sun dried tomatoes, served with fresh bread. For starters you could expect to find classic dishes such as Steamed Mussels, Six oysters, or perhaps Baked Haggis wrapped in seaweed with a creamy leek sauce, an unusual but tasty combination. Certainly a welcome change from haggis and neeps. The Asparagus, New potato and Fennel salad with lemon and caper vinaigrette unfortunately was far from light and delicate with chunky undercooked potatoes, overpowering taste of lemon yet surprisingly lacked the bold, salty caper flavour.

Main courses offer a very wide selection -again reinventing traditional Scottish dishes with a modern twist - Alongside beef and chicken, there may be Rack of lamb, served with black pudding and bubble and squeak, Grilled Salmon, given a colourful new look with ratatouille and potato rosti and, tried and tested, Pan-fried Sea-bass fusion -style, on a nest of crushed potatoes, pak choi, and drizzled with chilli and basil oil. Also for vegetarians, a rich and filling Wild Mushroom Lasagne with ricotta, roast garlic and leeks. All dishes are creatively presented and the service is friendly and observant but never overly formal. There's a separate House wine list, featuring about 5 reds and whites by the glass or bottle. Full marks for this simple but welcome initiative. We were not pushed into ordering bottled mineral water but served with a jug of ice cold tap water.

Make sure you have room for Dessert which are given superior attention. You cannot beat classic Lemon Tart, served here with a sharp, fruity, raspberry compote - utterly divine. My partner devoured his Hot Chocolate fondant, complemented perfectly with delicious honey and lavender ice cream.

The Bill
Starter: £4.00 - £6.95. Mains: £12.50 - £20.00. Desserts: around £5.00. House wine - from £3.50 glass, £11.00 bottle.

Bar Food
Down in the bar, you can just pop in for a drink and snack, lunch and supper. For example, bread with hummus and olives, £4.50; haggis spring rolls, with chilli sauce, £5.95; lamb burger with chips, salad, £8.50; Steak, mushroom and ale pie, £8.95. Home-made macaroni cheese, £7.95. Simple, homely, comfort food.

Sunday Brunch is also popular so why not have a change of scene with the papers and come here for Scrambled eggs and smoked salmon, Eggs Benedict or the full Scottish fry up.

Further Information
Embark is at 2 Fountainbridge Square, Edinburgh. Telephone number for reservations is 0131 222 4898. There is more information, including a location map, at the Embark Web site.


Having visited several of the sparkling new cocktail bars and brasseries around town in recent months, this was such a refreshing change to find a sophisticated, yet casual and relaxing bar/ restaurant serving seriously good food. I loved the bold, hard, industrial design and the waterside setting. I loved the comfortable leather sofas and smart banquette seats. It suits all ages and tastes, a romantic meal for two, or a group of friends for a good night out. Friendly welcome, slick service, inspiring modern Scottish dishes and laid back atmosphere. So head down to the canal and embark on a surprisingly good feast. Quality, quality, quality is the name of the game here.

"I was at Embark Bar and Dining Room at Edinburgh Quay in Fountainbridge at the weekend and thought it was really nice. It's so different from any other bar/restaurants which opened in Edinburgh this year. If anyone gets a chance it's definitely worth checking this place out!"
      Diner's Review

Vivien Devlin
November 2006

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