Why Edinburgh's new restaurants like Cardinal, Montrose and Lyla are offering tasting menus only

The city’s new openings are eschewing small plates
Dan Ashmore of Askr with his fishy friends. Copyright - Grant Anderson / www.grantanderson.me / @grantandersondotmeDan Ashmore of Askr with his fishy friends. Copyright - Grant Anderson / www.grantanderson.me / @grantandersondotme
Dan Ashmore of Askr with his fishy friends. Copyright - Grant Anderson / www.grantanderson.me / @grantandersondotme

Up until recently, we thought tasting menus might be on their way out.

Along with your obligatory three course a-la-carte, small or sharing plates had become ubiquitous, and customers seemed to prefer the rhythm of that low-key style of dining.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

However, we were mistaken, as a new wave of restaurants have opened in Edinburgh, all of which offer tasting menus only.

The sirloin, peppercorns and tallow dish at Cardinal Pic: Stephen ListerThe sirloin, peppercorns and tallow dish at Cardinal Pic: Stephen Lister
The sirloin, peppercorns and tallow dish at Cardinal Pic: Stephen Lister

According to Stuart Ralston, chef patron of Lyla, Tipo, Noto and Aizle, the trend is not only down to demand.

“It gives certain advantages - a no-choice tasting menu minimises waste, streamlines ordering, gives you more control of your costs and helps you predict how much food to order. All these things help a restaurant to ideally make a profit when margins are already so tight, so having that insight really helps. It gives a chef time and opportunity to concentrate on cooking less choice which in turn should help dial up the quality and consistency to translate into the diner hopefully having a better experience,” he says. “When you get a great tasting menu, you can leave elated with all your expectations blown after watching someone focusing so much on what they are creating. Taking away the choice can be de-stressing for people and just being taken care of for the evening is a really nice treat”.

The tasting menu boom doesn’t yet seem to have extended to the rest of Scotland yet, so perhaps it’ll remain concentrated in the Capital, where a constant influx of tourists and a relatively affluent population can splash out on these upmarket experiences.

Want to try an extended feeding session? Here are just a few suggestions.

Tomas Gormley Pic: Stephen ListerTomas Gormley Pic: Stephen Lister
Tomas Gormley Pic: Stephen Lister

Ralston obviously saw what way the wind was blowing when it came to his plush new seafood-led restaurant, which opened back in October 2023 in what was the late chef Paul Kitching’s place, 21212. The dining room seats 28, and they offer a 10-course seafood led tasting menu at dinner for £165pp. If that’s too much of an outlay, they’ve also got a dreamy £65pp five-course lunch offering, available Friday and Saturdays only.

3 Royal Terrace, Edinburgh (0131 285 8088, www.lylaedinburgh.co.uk)

Lyla Pic: Murray OrrLyla Pic: Murray Orr
Lyla Pic: Murray Orr

This established restaurant has just started offering what may be the Capital’s first Pre-Theatre Tasting Menu, for those seeing, say, Hamilton at Festival Theatre, or Pretty Woman at the Playhouse (no judgment here). It seems a bargain at £35 (add £30 for paired wines or cocktails) for six courses including bread and petit fours, with an additional helping of Carlingford oysters or an IJ Mellis cheese selection for £12. The dishes include hand-dived Isle of Barra scallop, lobster butter and sea vegetable, as well as Perthshire roe deer loin, pumpkin puree and plum. It’s light enough that you won’t feel bilious by the encore. Book for arrival between 5pm and 5.30pm.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

38 Calton Hill, Edinburgh (0131 322 1247, www.lookoutedinburgh.co)


This new restaurant, owned by seasoned chef Dan Ashmore and backed by the Dean Banks Group, has two USPs. The first is that they cook over coal and wood on their fire pit barbecue. The second is the tasting menu concept. Their Signature Menu is £115pp for 12 courses, which includes mackerel with radish and kombu, as well as hogget part one (with smoked consomme and morel) and hogget part two (with peas in lamb fat and smoked curd). Is it greed to request a hogget part three? You’ll find them in the former Leith premises of The Chop House.

The Carlingford oysters at The LookoutThe Carlingford oysters at The Lookout
The Carlingford oysters at The Lookout

102 Constitution Street, Edinburgh (017387 18387, www.askr.co.uk)


It was sad when one of our favourite venues, Aurora, shut its doors. Still, their spot was barely cold before it was occupied by the team behind Stockbridge’s Purslane, who have opened this tasting menu restaurant. They offer six courses for £95pp, or a neat Wee Taster Menu, £55pp, with three courses, bookended by canapes and petit fours.

187 Great Junction Street, Edinburgh (0131 287 2600, www.duthchas-restaurant.co.uk)

You’ll be properly pampered at this place, which serves just a dozen covers, and is owned by chef Brian Grigor and Glen Montgomery. It’s £95pp for seven courses, and you can add £75 for a wine flight or £125 for what they describe as a “fancy white flight”. Grigor is a genius when it comes to dessert, and the meal is so well paced that you should find space for the blood orange and rhubarb pud, followed by a riff on granny Smith apples.

68 Hamilton Place, Edinburgh (0131 531 4680, www.eornarestaurant.co.uk)


Tomas Gormley, co-founder of Michelin-starred restaurant Heron and the more relaxed Skua in Stockbridge, recently opened this place. It offers 13 courses, which might include dishes such as cherry-smoked Belhaven lobster, pink fir potato, hollandaise and chive. He has some thoughts on the current popularity of tasting menus.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“It gives you more freedom as a chef to say ‘this is how the experience should be enjoyed’. It's also a way of showcasing different techniques, ingredients and flavours, which is something that’s harder to do in a larger format with less courses. There is also the logistical and financial aspect, as à la carte offerings are more wasteful. In order to be ready for any combination of preferences you inevitably have more waste, which becomes untenable for most restaurants who are offering a certain quality of experience in this financial climate. Having said that, I don’t think the trend for small plates is over. Skua is packed every night”.

14 Eyre Place, Edinburgh (www.cardinal.scot)

The team behind Timberyard recently opened this venue, which is divided into two parts. Downstairs, you’ll find the casual wine bar area, where they serve small plates. Upstairs, there’s a lovely Zen ding room and six courses for £75, with paired drinks for another £60, or £35 for soft.

1-7 Montrose Terrace, Edinburgh (0131 605 0088, www.montroserestaurant.co)



Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.