Monday, 5 February 2018

Restaurant Review - Ishka, Morrison Street, Edinburgh

Over the last couple of years, the Edinburgh dining scene has changed considerably as  national chain restaurants have decended on the capital. With so many new opening around St Andrews Square and the surrounding area, you could easily forget that the capital has some fantastic independent restaurants that easily give the big guys a run for their money.
One such gem is Ishka  a modern restaurant and cocktail bar located on Morrison Street that serves up a menu of modern Scottish cuisine with a contemporary Mediterranean influence. In the run up to Christmas last year, myself and Nicola were invited along to try out the menu, never ones to miss out on a trip to the capital, we accepted their kind invitation and sorted out a booking.
Just a five minute walk from Haymarket Station, Ishka is close enough to the main shopping streets of the capital to be local, yet far enough away from the hustle and bustle of Princes Street.
We arrived shortly after opening on a cold Saturday afternoon and were quickly seated at a cosy window table with views of the neighbouring EICC. The restaurant interior is a fairly masculine affair with dark wood, black leather and blackened corrugated steel dominating the eye while a well stocked bar and marble bar top leans towards Ishka’s focus on pre and after-dinner cocktails.

The extensive wine list has a decent range of choice for all budgets and tastes. Great care has been taken to put together a fantastic selection of wines from across the globe including a couple of bottles of Viognier from the US as well as a bottle of Marjan Simčič Teodor Selekcija from Slovenia. I didn’t know that they made wine in Slovenia and had It not been for the fact that I was driving later, I might have been tempted to order a bottle to try.
In the end, Nicola selected a glass of Hacienda Lopez de Haro Rioja Blanco from Bodega Classica, which despite being aged for six months in the barrel, this wine packs a ton of peach and pear flavours that made it very easy to drink.
I opted for red and thoroughly enjoyed my Moulin Gimie Merlot thanks to the huge dark cherry flavour with just a hint of mocha that worked incredibly well with some of the food that we were about to receive. 

After looking over the menu for a good ten minutes or so, we were still struggling to choose our lunch. The menu had so many dishes that sounded delicious that we really couldn’t decide but after a brief chat with our waiter (who had been liaising with Head Chef), we ended up agreeing on a selection of starters to share followed by a selection of smaller portions from the mains. This would allow us to choose more of the dishes that had previously caught our attention whilst allowing Executive Chef Claire Lund to show off her skills. 

Each of the starters that we selected were fantastic starting with the venison carpaccio which was both of our favourites. Our starter of seared poppy & sesame seed venison, apple compote, blackberry & sherry dressing and watercress was a great balance of texture and flavour. The sweet apple compote, pickled blackberry, and sharp acidity from the blackberry & sherry dressing worked wonderfully with the rick lean venison. 

Next up was the pork, chicken & spinach terrine, maple streaky bacon, apricot chutney & chorizo oil. If we had been ordering a starter each, this would have been been my choice and I would have been over the moon when it arrived. The chicken and spinach had been rolled like a roulade before being surrounded in pork and the maple cured streaky bacon. There was so much flavour in the terrine as the chicken, pork, spinach and sweet cured bacon all fought for attention on the palate while the apricot chutney brought enough sweet to cut through the iron from the spinach. The chorizo oil sounded like a good idea however we both struggled to detect much chorizo flavour from the oil dressing and wouldn’t have missed it if it wasn’t there. 

Last up was Nicola’s choice of starter, the smoked coley, leek & egg tartlet, dill dressing and warmed potato cream. This was outstanding! I would have been more than happy with just the tartlet - a crisp buttery pastry tart casing filled with a well seasoned egg and leek filling and topped with plenty of big flakes of rich smoked coley. The smooth potato cream tasted like an old fashioned baked potato whilst the dill dressing countered the rich flavour of the smoked fish. Flavour, texture and balance were all addressed well with this fantastic starter.

After a great introduction to the Ishka menu, we were looking forward to our mains and Chef Claire was happy to serve up reduced sized portions of which ever mains we wanted to try. 

Our first choice of main course was the pork fillet & slow roasted pork belly, curried parsnip purée, apple & grape compote with curly kale & cider jus which was a great introduction to Chef Claire’s menu. This was an almost perfect plate of food with the sweet pork fillet being balanced wonderfully by the spices from the parsnip purée while the sharp apple & grape compote was the perfect foil for the slow cooked pork belly. 

Our second main was roasted monkfish with spring onion slice, spiced aubergine and sweetcorn butter sauce. This was one of the most interesting fish dishes that we’ve had in a while with so many distinctive flavours fighting for attention. The aubergine purée was well seasoned and lightly spiced, acting as a foil to the sweetness of the corn. The spring onion slice was actually a triangle of frittata that acted as a spongy cushion for the roasted lion of monkfish. The fish was cooked well, and tasted great. We both love monkfish and the light flavours of the fish worked really well with the contrasting sweet and spice of the accompanying ingredients.

Last up was the pan-fried duck with wild mushroom & leek cream, savoy cabbage & carrot parcel and beetroot jus. This dish might not have looked too pretty, although in fairness I don’t think the red plate done the presentation any favours but what the dish lacked in style, it made up for in flavour. First off, the duck breast was cooked well, just on the right side of pink although we would have both prefered that the duck skin to have been rendered down a little more. I’ve never paired duck with mushroom before but the side of field mushrooms, leeks and cream was a delicious accompaniment to the duck. The savoy cabbage & carrot parcel was an interesting concept although it didn’t quite work. The cabbage leaves were still too firm to cut through which meant that the seasoned and cooked carrot filling just kind of spilled out of the sides. Again, the filling didn’t lack seasoning but looking back, I think some wilted savoy cabbage would have made for a better balanced side.


As our meal came to an end, neither of us had room for desserts so we finished up our drinks and wrapped up ready to walk off our hearty lunch. We dined as guest of Ishka however my review above is an honest account of our visit and I would have no hesitation in recommending Ishka to anyone looking for somewhere to eat in the capital. We dined from the a la carte menu which is well priced although Ishka also have a fantastic value lunch and pre-theatre Market Menu as well as a brilliant 2For20 menu option too.

We would like to thank the staff and management at Ishka for their hospitality and generosity and wish them all the best for the future. Keep up to date with news from Ishka Edinburgh on Facebook and Twitter.
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