Heron restaurant review: Bold flavors aren’t flights of fancy (Image: The Herald)
On the first freezing night of the year, we arrive in Heron and take a table by the window, shivering in winter coats.
Tomás Gormley and Sam Yorke’s restaurant has been open for about a year but has remained under the radar with no launch or splashy fuss, with only two chefs quietly changing Leith’s dining scene. The couple cooked in Edinburgh’s finest kitchens and ran Bad Seeds, a fine dining restaurant delivery service, during the pandemic before launching Heron. My visit is way overdue.
We settle in with a pre-dinner cocktail from the tantalizing list. My Negroni has a huge, steep icicle and a perfect orange curl, it’s strong, complex and deeply aromatic. My partner’s Manhattan comes in a fine crystal flute with a small bottle to fill. Sounds like an apothecary prescription, which is just what we need at the end of a long week.
Heron is famous for their bar snacks – every time I walk past I mentally order some. Now I’m finally here to try it all: we throw ourselves into the intriguing tasting menu, happy to let the chef and sommelier take control.
Our “crab, crabapple, apple” starter is fun to say and very fun to eat: a thin crust of crispy pastry topped with a delicate sweet white crab, a tangy wild crabapple and tarragon gel, matchsticks apple and pretty edible flowers. With it comes a smooth, deeply flavorful brown crab butter and sourdough from The Bakery Company.
The twinkling lights of The Shore provide a great backdrop for this cool and serene restaurant. Think simple wooden furniture, woven fixtures, whites and blues.
Our paired wines start with the following dish – mirin cured mackerel, homemade ponzu, crispy trout skin (better than crisps) and a fig leaf oil. The strong flavors pair well with a Portugeuse Arinto. At some restaurants, wine introductions are rushed, a quick shipment of vintners and grapes that can leave you dizzy or instantly forgotten.
This is not the case in Heron. We are encouraged to taste each wine as it is explained, to ask questions and discuss the wines we like. A lot of thought and creativity has gone into the pairing and I really feel like I learned something – and more importantly, tried some wonderful wines.
The next dish is basically cheese and onion, perhaps more associated with an uninspired quiche than fine dining, but this reimagining of the classic combination is anything but boring. A red onion was slowly cooked until soft but still holding its shape, then topped with crispy, pickled onions, in a pool of cheese sauce. On the side, a game over cheese scone with a center of melted cheese and a burst of shredded cheese on top. It sounds like a cheesy overstatement, but somehow it isn’t.
With him we try perhaps my favorite wine of the evening – a Spanish Lapola, oily and floral with intense minerality.
I took the pescatarian route, so two fish dishes. A nice piece of cod arrives with earthy porcini mushrooms, mashed Hokkaido pumpkin, kale and mushroom jus. For me, it’s autumn on a plate: mushrooms and squash, and the dark crucifers contrasting with the lighter freshness of the cod.
The monkfish is accompanied by vegetables from the Compagnie Libre and a watercress velouté, a simple but delicious dish. The monkfish is cooked on the bone then filleted to impart a deeper, richer flavor that is offset by the vibrant watercress. We’re foodies, so add cheese and share a creamy Tunworth’s foamy pillow with fig chutney hidden underneath, and a thin, crispy sourdough toast for dipping and scooping.
The pre-dessert (that wonderful dish you would never have at home) is a leafy cucumber and cilantro sorbet. It’s sparkling and refreshing. The grand finale is a lovely soft browned meringue, concealing rosemary ice cream and a frangipane base, around it a pool of tangy bramble coulis with tumbled brambles on top.
It’s smart thoughtful cooking, seasonal local ingredients prepared with flair and imagination, top-notch service – a wonderful addition to Edinburgh’s dining scene.
Heron, 87-91a Henderson Street, Leith, EH6 6ED