From Farm-to-Table at The Gardener’s Cottage in Edinburgh

I felt a bit of déjà vu when speaking with co-owner Chefs Dale Mailley and Edward Murray. It brought me back to the 1980s and my first interview with Sonoma County patriarch Chef John Ash, when they were speaking about, “The commitment of The Gardener’s Cottage to creating and serving excellent food, using the best seasonal, local produce while nurturing sustainable and mutually beneficial relationships with the local community and local producers.” That’s how fresh this mission statement is in Edinburgh. It was a pleasure to interview these young chefs who shared with me their vision and dreams.

Originally trained as an architect, Edward Murray has lived in Edinburgh since his student days. Abandoning architecture for his true calling, Edward has spent the last decade honing his culinary skills. Combining his architectural experience with his love of eating with friends, Edward’s objective was to bring together diners and chefs. The outcome is a simple design that makes the most of the limited space while remaining sensitive to the historical and cultural importance of the cottage.

The restaurant is housed in a historic building located in Royal Terrace Gardens, at the foot of Calton Hill in the heart of Edinburgh World Heritage site. Originally the cottage for the gardener, the building was designed by William Playfair and constructed in 1836. The gardens, planned by Playfair, were originally laid out to include a path for the exiled King of France Charles X to walk along on his way from the Palace of Holyroodhouse to church. One feels this sense of history when walking along the paths.

Dale Mailley has been a chef since the age of 15, and was most recently the executive head chef at the popular Outsider and The Apartment restaurants in Edinburgh. Dale was also sous chef at The Atrium and worked at Michelin-starred The Kitchin in Leith. His professional stages in London include the two Michelin star The Ledbury and a number of Mark Hix’s restaurants.

It’s certainly been an eventful year, far busier than we could have ever expected. We calculated it would take at least a few years for the business to take off.  Dale and I are literally blown away by the response from our customers and press, as this restaurant launch continues to be a whirlwind for which we are forever grateful,” says Ed. “More than anything, it’s our goal to continue to cook what we wish to cook, always making sure that our restaurant atmosphere offers employees and guests a relaxed fine dining experience. The connection between the food on the plate, the kitchen, garden and staff is the essence of who we are,” continues Ed.

Gardener’s Cottage Co-Owners Dale Mailley and Edward Murray

Gardener’s Cottage Co-Owners Dale Mailley and Edward Murray

We feed over 100 people on a busy day, and the impact is huge from our own gardens. The farm-to-table movement is not new to us. We’ve always cooked with fresh, seasonal food in Scotland although it’s only recently gained momentum with consumers,” says Dale.

Here is the part that humbles me as an American: “The woman from whom we purchase all other fruits and vegetables lives merely moments away and has been one of Edinburgh’s best farmers for more than 20 years. The war had a big effect on the traditional farm-to-table movement, which is now coming back. Cheese is a good example in that Scotland now has more than 100 different cheeses. During WWII, there were merely five-six different varieties of Scottish cheeses. Only in the past 10-20 years has this artisan tradition re-emerged,” continues Ed.

“How lucky we are to have world-class produce — mutton, game, we’re getting deep into hunting season now, which starts in August. There are hares in August, says Dale.

These long time friends appreciate that together they are stronger than the sum of their parts. With all that there is to do with lunch and dinner menus that change daily they are the yin and the yang, taking turns with the many responsibilities they face in keeping this vibrant, popular restaurant on the cutting edge of Edinburgh fine dining. 

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