Great Places to Eat in Scotland
- Iglu Bar and Organic Eatery, Edinburgh
Many moons ago this rather quirky old building hidden down a quiet cobbled lane in the heart of the New Town, was a popular pub, known as The Purple Onion. We are talking about the 1970s and 80s. Perhaps you recall it? In recent years it changed to a fine wine bar, Aubreys, named after the owner. Upstairs there were old battered leather chairs and a coal fire. Oh, and a fish tank. It was always a fun place to enjoy a few drinks with friends.
Time now for a new look and status - renamed and revamped into Iglu, a bar and restaurant. As a bar it always had a great local following but now with an exciting new restaurant upstairs specialising in organic food, this should attract diners from far and wide.
Downstairs is an intimate and cosy "pub" with comfy chairs, with live music five nights a week which draws a lively crowd. You can also call in for "great coffee". But it's in the equally small upstairs room where the Organic Eatery has been created. The mood is casual, friendly and welcoming, with candles and tulips on the dark wood tables, blue banquette wall seating and coal effect fire. The theme of the outdoor life and nature is captured in various photographic images depicting woodland, trees and foliage. And I am delighted to say that the tropical fish tank is still there.
In charge in the kitchen is Antonie du Toit, from South Africa. He gained great experience in recent years as sous chef at the Ardeonaig Hotel, Loch Tay, working with fellow South African Pete Gottgens, where the restaurant emphasises local Scottish fish, meat and game. Working with Antonie at Iglu the sous chef is Ben Reade who trained at Ballymaloe Cookery School on an organic farm near Cork. The concept behind Iglu is based on the philosophy of its proprietor, Charlie Cornelius (that's his picture here) who is adamant that sourcing local, wild and sustainable food is the best way forward to save our planet. Why import meat and vegetables when you can buy it from a local farmer? He supports the Slow Food Movement which opposes fast food and promotes traditional cooking, where dining is a source of pleasure.
Charlie, Antoine and Ben have searched out the best suppliers, farms, estates and fish markets for the best quality, organic and fresh produce. Iglu specialises in wild and sustainable seafood and game and are proud to know the provenance of everything served in the restaurant. For instance crab, langoustines, wild venison and cheese come from Stromeferry, a west coast village and a local estate. They have recently sourced Wild Boar from a conservation forestry estate in Glen Affric. Just reading the menu, littered with organic Mushrooms, organic olives, organic pork and organic lamb, you just know you are going to have a very healthy meal. Wild meat by the way offers good protein and is much lower in fat because of the way the animals have been bred and reared in a natural habitat.
So let's look at the menu in more detail. As well as about a dozen starters and salads, there is a blackboard listing daily specials. From the menu, homemade organic vegetarian soup, Shetland mussels, roasted red peppers stuffed with tomatoes, garlic and anchovies, or an organic antipasta platter to share - marinated vegetables, olives, cheese and fresh bread. Specials on this night included Spring rolls, filled with mushrooms, cashew nuts, fennel and mozzarella. This was accompanied by a fabulous rocket and strawberry salad. The dressing (as the chef later revealed) was "a simple vinaigrette with mustard" but it tasted scrumptious.
The main course selection features Rump of venison marinated in rosemary and garlic oil, whole roasted wood pigeon and Seafood of the day. On this occasion it was Scallops served most imaginatively with a creamy sweet yam mash and vanilla pod butter. The orange mash matched the colour of the coral beautifully - it was an artistic presentation on the plate. Vegetarians are well catered for with excellent salads and (tried and tested) a tasty organic vegetable linguine, a heaped bowl of sun dried tomatoes, olives, mushrooms, feta cheese and herbs. It was like a Greek salad pasta. Unusual and delicious. The pudding list is also very tempting - such as organic bramley apple crumble or poached organic pears. Also a selection of ice creams and cheese platter. One quibble. I tried the elderflower frozen yoghurt (to end on something light) but it had a peculiar flavour like eating frozen perfume. Not to my taste. Please can you source vanilla frozen yogurt?
Wines are supplied from Inverarity Vaults and are extremely well priced with about half a dozen wines served by the glass. House white and red are, not surprisingly, from South Africa.
See www.theiglu.com/ for current menu and prices.
This is a welcome new addition to the bar and restaurant scene around Edinburgh's New Town. What makes Iglu stand out from the crowd is the unique menu specialising in healthy, fresh, organic food. The ambience is relaxing and fun - a small birthday dinner was taking place the night I visited which created a real party mood. You can also rent out the restaurant for a private party (32 guests). But it's also the kind of tiny hideaway place for a romantic night out, with candles, flowers - and tropical fish! All in all impressive, inventive cooking with the Feel Good factor. Charlie, Antonie and the team deserve to do well and be supported in their "dining for pleasure" philosophy.
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