Stepping off the train in Edinburgh on a mid-week November evening, I got a shock. Cold as it is in my native Glasgow, I always forget how much the temperature drops when visiting the capital. I was through in the city to meet a friend and head to New Chapter, a neighbourhood restaurant that (apparently) has people returning time and again. Google maps was telling me I had a 23 minute walk ahead. Eek. Was it going to be worth it?
After a brisk 15 minute stroll from Waverley Station, I had arrived at the right spot and headed in, all set for my New Chapter review. I was pretty blindsided from the start. It’s an unassuming venue on a quiet street and I wasn’t prepared for the elegance of the space I stepped into. A huge chandelier hung from the centre of the room and dark walls lent an air of drama. The staff were super friendly, finding my booking immediately, and sitting me down at a cosy table with some water and an offer of wine. Although the restaurant wasn’t packed, there were quite a few tables in and it was surprisingly busy for a pre-Christmas Thursday.
My friend appeared a few minutes later. We hadn’t seen each other for a while so big hugs and exclamations of how well we were looking were needed (to be honest, she looked exactly the same as last time, but I’m nothing if not a slight exaggerator) and the New Chapter team were perceptive enough to leave us alone for a minute or two to catch up.
We settled in to take a look at the menus, and pick a wine. These guys serve up a selection of wine in carafe format, something I absolutely love. A half bottle of wine (on top of the prosecco we had ordered) can be a bit much on a Thursday evening, and a glass just not quite enough, so this was great. For food, I went for the wild mushroom arancini starter, and the potato gnocchi main, while my friend had scallops and pancetta wrapped cod, and we picked an organic pinot grigio chardonnay to drink. (Apparently, organic wine doesn’t give you a hangover, FYI.) We were quickly delivered a basket of bread, accompanied by some butter and an oddly tasty green dip. The waitress later told us it was basically lots of green herbs with olive oil and aioli, and from the fact we absolutely devoured it, assume it was pretty great.
The starters came within ten minutes, and looked so good I physically stopped myself from diving in to take some photos for this review. When I cut into the arancini the truffle custard & pecorino cheese oozed out and I had to wrap the cheese around my fork so I didn’t end up with it all over my dress. Bliss. The taste of the truffle came through really well, without being overpowering, which truffle often is. There might be a teeny bit too much cheese on top for some people but as it wasn’t melted, it was quite easy to push aside any that I didn’t want. My friend kindly let me taste her scallops which were cooked perfectly, the accompanying black pudding and pork belly terrine adding a saltiness to the mouthful. She was a huge fan of the cider and curried apple sauce that came with the dish, so she’d devoured it before I got a taste. She assured me it was absolutely delicious...
At this point I should probably point out how perfect this place was for a catch up with a friend. The staff popped by during our starter to check how we were getting on, and were super unobtrusive when clearing our plates. We were totally at home in our little corner, chatting away about all the random stuff that happen in life, without feeling like we were being interrupted. The manager told me that they’d recently done some redecorating and had more pictures and decorations to come, but the place looked pretty damn cool without it. In a previous life I was a restaurant manager so I know the importance of getting the lighting right and this was perfect; dim enough to feel intimate without struggling to read the menu.
Feeling pretty relaxed, it didn’t seem long at all until our mains came and both were like works of art. Oh, the colours! It’s clear that New Chapter has mastered how to make a dish both look and taste great, something that’s surprisingly hard to do. My gnocchi dish had both purple and romanesco cauliflower giving it a really healthy appearance that was offset nicely by the lashings of gruyere cheese. (I don’t always eat dishes overloaded with cheese. Promise.) The gnocchi was really comforting, with crispy bits, soft potatoes, and a surprising sultana, caper, and pine nut dressing that gave it a little kick. My companion’s dish was also full of purples and greens, and our table looked like a little autumnal garden. She raved over how well her fish was cooked, the pancetta really crispy but giving way to a soft piece of cod in the middle.
Sadly, we skipped desserts as we were both totally stuffed. Although New Chapter isn’t the cheapest restaurant you’ll ever visit, it’s really good value for the quality of the cooking and the size of the portions. Sometimes it can feel that once you’ve finished your food the staff are keen for you to leave, no matter how nice they’ve been during your meal, but this wasn’t the case at all. They kept their distance, letting us talk in peace but always within earshot, making sure we could ask for anything we needed. Relaxed and well-fed, we finished our wine and grabbed an espresso (sorry Italians, I know it was too late but I had a train journey to stay awake for) before we headed for the door. And that freezing Edinburgh cold.
Where is it? 18 Eyre Place, Edinburgh, United Kingdom, EH3 5EP