Fhior – Edinburgh

36 Broughton St

Edinburgh EH1 3SB


The Food:

Rye and barley bread from Orkney with homemade butter

Barbecued langoustine wrapped in fermented rhubarb with split roasted shell, brown butter and lovage oil

Beetroot with nasturtium and elderflower juice with vinegar and salted gel

Six-day fermented kohlrabi with laver, Japanese nori with onion and garlic gel

Halibut cured in shio koji in buttermilk sauce and added caramelized onion broth and pepper dulse powder

Gem lettuce wrapped in guanciale with croutons and smoked egg emulsion, sorrel and chervil

Pan-roasted cod with mushroom dashi and sea herbs

Miso-glazed duck with turnip tuile and scurvy grass

Tartlet made with tapioca flour, Tamworth cheese, chives, pickled red onion with a wild garlic and caper gel

Woodruff with rhubarb and buckwheat

Strawberry marinated in barrel-aged whisky malt vinegar, sweet cicely syrup and crème fraiche

The Wines:

NV Albert Beerens Brut Nature Blanc de Noirs89
2019 Domaine Boucabeille Les Terrasses Blanc92
2019 Sybille Kuntz Riesling Trocken90
2018 Franck Peillot Altesse Roussette de Bugey Montagnieu     92
2014 Domaine de la Taille Aux Loups Clos de la Bretonnière93
2018 Léon Boesch Pinot Noir Les JardinsNR
2018 Raul Perez Ultreia Saint-Jacques91
2018 Bodega Ca’ di Mat Valautín Garnacha91

The Fhior exterior

During my stay in the Scottish capital I wanted to experience a top-end restaurant, the best that Edinburgh has to offer culinary explorers. The most celebrated destination restaurants are probably Martin Wishart and Tom Kitchin, though the last-minute nature of my trip meant both were long booked up. A sage friend and Edinburgh resident recommended Fhior, whose menu and sourcing credentials looked enticing, so I booked a table. Scott and Laura Smith, the husband-and-wife team that created the award-winning Norn, opened Fhior (the name means “true” in Gaelic) at the site of a former café in June 2018. They offer seven- and 10-course menus, and I opted for the latter. Having journeyed 400 miles, I wanted to experience everything Fhior had to offer.

We made our way to Broughton Street in the east end of Edinburgh and almost walked past the entrance, since the signage is quite discreet. In some ways, the interior décor reflects the style of cuisine, a hybrid of Swedish/Japanese design with plenty of light wood, spartan white walls and minimalist tables. It felt clean but never sterile or austere.

Barbecued langoustine wrapped in fermented rhubarb with split roasted shell, brown butter and lovage oil

What I had inferred as a seafood-oriented menu turned out to be more varied than expected. The offerings reflect the trend away from rich, buttery dishes, unctuous reductions and red meat toward something light, nimble and fresh, predominantly showcasing fish and vegetables with a Japanese twist, not unlike Sorrel or SO|LA . Restaurants like these let diners depart feeling healthier than when they entered. Sourcing is the key; Fhior uses seasonal Scottish produce and partners with Secret Herb Garden for all their fruit and vegetables.

The amuse-bouche, comprising a bowl of radish served with mint and shiso leaf, was green, light and packed full of flavor. This came with a homemade sourdough bread seasoned with Orkney barley and rye and served with homemade butter that was irresistible, even for someone like me, who tries to eat as little bread as possible.

Beetroot with nasturtium and elderflower juice with vinegar and salted gel

The first main dish was a barbecued langoustine wrapped in fermented rhubarb and a split oil made from the roasted shells, brown butter and lovage. The locally sourced langoustine came loaded with flavor, and the split oil lent richness without heaviness. The langoustine was small but so delicious that two would have been decadent. 

This was followed by sliced beetroot cooked in a water bath and served with nasturtium flowers and elderflower juice with vinegar and salted gel. Now, I’m not normally a huge beetroot fan, but when it feels like it was ripped from damp, loamy soil just a couple of minutes earlier, I love it. This had striking flavor, the earthy beetroot combining beautifully with the elderflower juice and the vinegar lending balance with its welcome tang. Next came six-day fermented kohlrabi with laver, Japanese nori and alliums. This delivered the fieriness that I look for and was, again, a beautifully balanced dish that set us up for the following courses.

Halibut cured in shio koji in buttermilk sauce and added caramelized onion broth and pepper dulse powder

The first of three fish courses comprised halibut that had been cured in a Japanese marinade, shio koji, and seasoned with pepper dulse powder, served with a buttermilk sauce; our waiter poured on caramelized onion broth at the table. Again, this was beautifully presented, though perhaps I could have done with less buttermilk and more of the dulse powder.

Gem lettuce wrapped in guanciale with croutons and smoked egg emulsion, sorrel and chervil

The Gem lettuce was wrapped in guanciale, served with croutons and smoked egg emulsion and seasoned with sorrel and chervil. This was one of the highlights: exquisitely presented, light yet flavorsome, the guanciale almost paper-thin and knitting all the elements together perfectly. 

Pan-roasted cod with mushroom dashi and sea herbs

Fhior – cod.jpg

The pan-roasted cod with mushroom dashi and sea herbs was another standout. Just  looking at the cod, you could tell that it had been cooked to absolute perfection, and it melted in the mouth. This was followed by the solitary meat dish: three small miso-glazed duck slices served with tuiles of turnip and scurvy grass. It was utterly delicious, as anything glazed in miso usually is, although it almost tasted incongruous among the series of fish- and vegetable-based dishes.

Tartlet made with tapioca flour, Tamworth cheese, chives, pickled red onion with a wild garlic and caper gel

Next came a miniature tartlet made with tapioca flour, filled with Tamworth cheese and chives and topped with pickled red onion, wild garlic and caper gel. This was so enticing that I took a bite before taking a photo. I slapped my wrist before devouring the rest of the tartlet. The tartlet was followed by two desserts. First there was woodruff with rhubarb and buckwheat, and then my favorite, strawberries marinated in barrel-aged whisky malt vinegar, sweet cicely syrup and crème fraiche. The strawberries were juicy and ripe, and the whisky malt vinegar added acidity that was deftly counterbalanced by the syrup. 

Strawberry marinated in barrel-aged whisky malt vinegar, sweet cicely syrup and crème fraiche

The wine list is brief. In fact, I cannot think of another restaurant operating at this high level of quality with such a short wine list, one that fitted on two sides of an A4 sheet. Does that mean wine is a mere afterthought? I don’t think so. Matching the natural ethos of the cooking, all the wines are low-intervention with an organic bent, and many are available by the glass. I spotted only one Bordeaux (Bel-Air Marquis d’Aligré 1998 at £125) and nothing from the Côte d’Or. The limited choice perhaps shepherded me toward wines I might not otherwise have chosen, and crucially, they all delivered except one.

The NV Brut Nature Blanc de Noirs from Albert Beerens is a blend of 90% Pinot Noir and 10% Pinot Meunier from the 2014 and 2015 vintages, made with minimal SO2 and no dosage. It has quite a deep, almost rosé-like hue. The bouquet successfully combines richness with precision, offering scents of mirabelle and grilled almond and just a hint of warm brioche straight out of the oven. The palate is not terribly complex but well-balanced, fine acidity lending satisfying tension that counters the weight on the slightly honeyed finish. The 2019 Les Terrasses Blanc is a Côtes de Roussillon from Domaine Boucabeille, a blend of 50% Macabeo, 25% Roussanne and 25% Grenache Blanc grown on schist soils and whole-bunch-pressed. Funnily enough, I visited this producer way back in 2007 during my (to date) solitary visit to the region. I remember enjoying the wines back then, and this was a good choice now. It features wonderful citrus fruit mixed with chamomile and pressed white flowers on the nose, and the palate is beautifully balanced, quite phenolic in style, with a slight waxy texture. Wild peach and nectarine linger on the well-defined finish. Given that this was a measly 30 quid on the restaurant list, it is absolutely outstanding value. The 2019 Riesling Trocken from Sybille Kuntz, one of the upcoming winemakers in the Mosel, comes from Lieser and Bernkastel-Kues on steep slate soils, the vines up to half a century old. The nose displays wonderful definition and a subtle tropical tinge of grapefruit and tangerine peel. The palate is beautifully balanced, delivering a sweetness that is quite Spätlese in style, and white peach and just a touch of lime on the finish. Delicious. 

The 2018 Altesse Roussette de Bugey Montagnieu from Franck Peillot was my “discovery,” since I rarely encounter wines from Bugey, a small range of hills that form part of the Jura, though it is considered part of Savoie. This is a region better known for poulet de Bresse, and most of its wines are sold locally in the city of Lyon. Peillot took over his father’s winery in the mid-1980s and is seen as one of this region’s leading winemakers. This pure Altesse, thought to be ampelographically related to Hungarian Furmint, showed exactly why Peillot has gained a loyal following. Wild peach, nectarine and quince feature on the fragrant and beautifully defined nose. The palate is poised and very elegant, that quince theme continuing toward the almost Alsace-like finish. I absolutely loved this and will be looking out for more in the future. 

The 2014 Clos de la Bretonnière from Domaine de la Taille Aux Loups demonstrated how well Jacky Blot’s Vin de France can age. This pure, organically grown Chenin Blanc is cultivated in four hectares of heavy clay soils over limestone on the Première Côte in Vouvray, declassified since Blot vinifies the wine in Montlouis, which was outlawed by the INAO in the same year. It undergoes a natural ferment without any malo and is aged in around 20% new wood. The quality of this 2014 is an apt riposte to the INAO. It’s Vouvray through and through on the nose of dried honey, jasmine and lemon thyme, rich but beautifully defined. The palate is full of tension that effortlessly counterbalances the inherent richness, delivering white peach and nectarines and touches of chamomile toward the sensual finish. This is drinking beautifully now but will clearly give another decade of drinking pleasure, possibly more.

The 2018 Pinot Noir Les Jardins from Léon Boesch in Alsace was served by the glass and maybe because of that, I felt that it showed too much oxidation. The 2018 Ultreia Saint-Jacques from Raúl Peréz was bang on the money for an entry-level wine. This Bierzo originates mainly from clay soils and contains 80% whole-bunch fruit that is predominantly Mencia, augmented with a field blend of Alicante Bouschet, Palomino and Trousseau, inter alia. Black plum mingles with dark chocolate and black pepper on the nose. The palate is concentrated yet well balanced and the oak seamlessly integrated, leading to a lightly spiced finish. The 2018 Garnacha Valautín from Bodega Ca’ di Mat was recently rated highly by my colleague Josh Raynolds, and my note is similar. This positively bursts from the glass with morello cherries and crushed strawberry laced with blood orange. In the mouth, it’s satin-like in texture with a very persistent finish. Yes, why not sneak this into a lineup of Pinots and see if you can tell the difference!

Overall, Fhior met my expectations. Service was outstanding from start to finish, attentive but never fussy, reflecting the city’s more casual approach to dining compared to London’s top restaurants (though even there, many are loosening their ties and de-starching their collars). Fhior presented a beautifully executed menu where the ingredients shone as bright as the expertise in the kitchen. The flavor combinations were adventurous where they needed to be, utilizing the subtle Japanese tastes that work so well with this kind of cuisine; I guess it’s our own take on kaiseki. Fhior is not inexpensive by any standard, though prices are competitive against Edinburgh’s top restaurants, and the wines are keenly priced. If you do find yourself north of Hadrian’s Wall, then I would certainly try to find time to visit this outstanding restaurant.