With a long seafaring tradition, and a stone’s throw from Leith, Edinburgh has never lost its reputation for serving great seafood. Unfortunately, for a time, it took a backseat - in both the visiting public’s eye and the news - to various deep-fried confectionary; and Scottish cuisine seemed to get a reputation it did little or nothing to deserve.
In recent years, a plethora of extraordinary eateries have eradicated that perception, hopefully once and for all. It has always been great. Now, it’s better than ever.
Just a few hundred yards down Castle Hill - and around a corner - from the wonderful Witchery (which I also reviewed on this trip – see here: [INSERT LINK to your WITCHERY blog post… sorry, but it’s not available for me to do it], ), on George IV Bridge and yards from the Royal Mile, Ondine is conveniently located. Aesthetically, it’s a surprise, in that it’s a relatively new construction amongst the regal splendour of grand 16th and 17th century libraries and Parliament. That said, it is a beautiful modern stone building, contrasting but sympathetic to its more weathered brethren. I like it.
The restaurant itself is on the first floor, but with a prominent street-level entrance, sandwiched between The Radisson Collection’s Royal Mile Edinburgh Hotel (formerly Missoni) and a Pizza Express. Vive la différence!
The winner of Best Restaurant in Scotland, 2018, (and probably several other awards, since then) Ondine has some pretty stiff competition, in Edinburgh, and still manages to rise to the occasion. I first dined here in December 2017 and have been on three occasions since, it is truly divine.
From the Orkneys to the Hebrides, and Loch Fyne to Lindisfarne, the produce is sourced from the best sites in the UK and dealt with lovingly. The oyster bar is carefully dressed, as you’d expect. It dominates the centre of the room, which is flooded with natural light, dark wooden planks on the floor and simple grey slate topped tables, with fine crystal and starched white linen.
All that said, this is a restaurant more about food and taste, rather than ambiance, even though the latter is far from unpleasant. Huge windows provide interesting views, but I’m more overjoyed by the light they provide on my plate, if I’m honest. Great Instagram story light, you see. [Yes, I am an Instagram plonker].
The dishes are wonderfully presented and not restricted to British flavours, or even European ones. Tempura Squid served with a Vietnamese Dipping Sauce, a popular Monkfish Curry, or a fish Soup combined with North African flavours of saffron & orange, are examples of the far-flung tastes on offer.
I should also mention that Ondine does serve some meat, in the event not all your party is as enthusiastic about seafood as me. A rib of Orkney beef or a steak tartare were both on offer, at my visit. There’s a three-course Prix Fixe menu, for less than £40, and a wonderful à la carte offering, which can get a little more expensive.
I’ll leave readers to wander through a list of goodies and dream dreams of the sea, together with the wonderful produce it provides, which Ondine’s chefs treat with the respect it deserves. Glorious!