Edinburgh Gems: Jackson’s Restaurant

jacksonsoutside2.jpgThe first time I walked into Jackson’s, I was instantly reminded of Disney World.  That’s not the usual way someone starts off a favorable restaurant review, I know, but bear with me, because it will make sense in a moment.

In the middle of Edinburgh’s tourist heartland, halfway down the infamous Royal Mile, buried deep among the uber-kitsch souvenir shops and bagpipe-wielding street musicians, there is a little underground restaurant that by all appearances, seems to be there solely to cash in on the tourist trade as well. You descend some claustrophobic steps into a basement room where the gaudiness of it all threatens to overwhelm you: heavy throne-like wooden chairs, lamps in the shape of torches on the walls, bunches of dried thistles and tapestries depicting scenes of medieval Scottish life decorate your dining nook. The waistcoated waitstaff seem to have been given an extra lesson is graciousness before you arrive, humbly thanking you for everything you let them do (‘May I refill your wineglasses? Thank you very much indeed, Ma’am, Sir’). There’s no Braveheart soundtrack playing on the stereo, thankfully, but there is Dean Martin on endless repeat. If Walt Disney had included Scotland in his World Showcase at Epcot Center – you know, the place with the little pavilions from different countries that try to cram as many clichés as possible into the space of a basketball court – this would be Scotland’s restaurant.

If you have been to Epcot Center, or better yet if you’ve actually eaten at any of the restaurants in the World Showcase, you’ll know that just because it’s awash in Disney syrup doesn’t mean it doesn’t serve good food. For example, in France (that’s Disney France, I mean), the Chefs de France and Bistro de Paris restaurants are co-owned by Paul Bocuse, Gaston Lenôtre and Roger Vergé, the godfathers of haute cuisine. I had the best Chiles en Nogada and Mole Poblano of my life in the Mexican pyramid pavilion, which boasts a fantastic restaurant calledJackson's Interior
Jackson’s Interior
the San Angel Inn. I can imagine that Scotland’s restaurant would be no different, if it existed – along with all the bagpipes, thistles and overdone accents, you would be served some pretty decent food. And such is the case at Jackson’s, only you don’t have to travel to Florida to experience it.

We found ourselves in Jackson’s for lunch last week, lured in by their seemingly amazing lunchtime offer of three courses for a mere £13. I had eaten at Jackson’s once before, treated by a colleague of my mother’s, and we had a delicious albeit pricy dinner. The food had been sumptuous and exciting – I had a duck and pink peppercorn terrine with blood orange sauce as my first course, and possibly the best filet mignon of my life which was served with a roquefort-port wine sauce so good I ended up eating it with a spoon. I believe the bill came to over £100, though I politely didn’t ask for specifics. This time we went there for the acid test, however – there are a lot of restaurants that offer good food for dinner and good deals on lunch, but not many that please you equally no matter what time you go or how much you spend. Luckily, we needn’t have worried.

The low-price lunch menu offers three to four choices per course, which represent a nice variety of ingredients and preparations. ISmoked Trout Mousse
Smoked Trout Mousse
chose a smoked trout mousse for my first course, and Manuel had smoked venison fillet atop a bed of beetroot salad. The mousse was exceptional, much better than I anticipated – the fish flavor was savory and smoky but Smoked Venison Salad
Smoked Venison Salad
not overpowering; the mousse itself was light and creamy and had a complex harmony of fresh herbs and pungent garlic, and it was nestled atop oven-dried tomato halves, whose sweetness perfectly complimented the savory mousse. Manuel’s venison was also delicious and tender, though I could have had some slightly clearer flavors in the accompanying salad.

As a main course, I chose a roasted chicken supreme (breast plus wing) atop a haggis cake, served with a grainy mustard sauce. Manuel chose a pasta with beef filet and peppercorn sauce. Every component of my chicken was absolutely superb – the chicken was perfectly cooked and succulent, theChicken and Haggis Cake
Chicken and Haggis Cake
skin was crispy and well-seasoned, the sauce was piquant and creamy, and the haggis…oh the haggis! I’ve never had haggis like that – large chunks of vegetables and meat (what kind of meat? I prefer not to go there…) nestled in savory oat mash, and everything just so, well, tasty. Manuel also made grunts of Beef & Peppercorn Pasta
Beef & Peppercorn Pasta
happiness over his pasta, which at first seemed a little out of character for the rest of the menu, but fit the standards well in terms of sheer flavor.

The food being so delicious excused the fact that the portions were a bit on the small side, and as a result I certainly had room for desse
rt. I was in a fruity mood and ordered a passionfruit pavolva with vanilla-pod ice cream and passionfruit sauce; however they had just run out and I had to settle for a Drambuie creme brulee. It was good, but not the highlight – the costs being equal, I would definitely go for one of their fancier concoctions next time. Manuel, stuffed on pasta, was happy with a whisky, and he was spoiled for choice. We lingered over our bottle of house wine (an above-standard ChileanDrambuie Creme Brulee
Drambuie Creme Brulee
Cabernet Sauvignon) before leaving – the atmosphere, though jarring at first, had a way of seducing us into sleepy contentment and wisely no one rushed us out the door back into the tourist madness above. In fact, our waiter seemed so sad to see us go that he asked us when we’d be back. ‘Soon’, I promised, ‘very soon’.

The Bill: For two lunch menus, a bottle of house wine, a whisky, coffees and tip: £46.
Reservations: A good idea for weekend dinners, or anytime during the Festival in August.

Jackson’s Restaurant
209 High Street
The Royal Mile
0131 225 1793

3 thoughts on “Edinburgh Gems: Jackson’s Restaurant

  1. Nice restaurant, shame about the lack of heating.The food is of a high quality and is well presented by courteous staff. However, should you ever be put into the upstairs room, be warned: it is ridiculously cold. In fact it is like eating in a cold, intimately lit cave. We asked about the heating and were told that it was proving problematic. (I had been there previously and it was the same issue upstairs. I think that it is an overflow room used only when necessary) Anyway, there were about 20 people sat upstairs on the Saturday night that we went there and all of the women at every table had their overcoats on! Granted it was cold outside but you don’t expect to pay £100(incl tip) for two courses for 2 people and a reasonable bottle of wine, only to be treated like this. We asked to be moved downstairs into the warmth, but there was no space so we had to endure. To be fair it ruined what should have been a nice meal. As I have said if you go there and it looks like you are being put into the upstairs room then ask to be seated downstairs. I unfortunately will not be running the risk again, having been caught out twice. Nor shall I recommend it in the future based on this. On leaving the restaurant we passed other customers who joked that "it’s probably warmer outside"

  2. Sounds an Interesting place, but I have a new one for you in Canongate on the Royal Mile – Wedgwood The Restaurant. Run by a lovely young couple this place has been open only 6/7 weeks but is charming, friendly and marvellous. The chese board is worth the visit on its own – all Scottish.

  3. Having eaten in Jacksons before, I had no hesitation in booking for my fortieth birthday.We were seated at a very small table in front of the entrance in a draft despite there being only two other tables occupied. Thankfully the manager moved us.The restaurant was absolutely freezing and very uncomfortable. When I complained the manager sarcastically told me that it was cold outside and we were in a very old building!The bread was stale and inedible.Having been on their website that day I knew exactly what I was going to eat and drink. Sadly none of what I had been looking forward to was available. When I questioned this the manager told me the website was four years out of date!My starter of duck confit was tough and tasteless.My main rack of lamb was minute,overcooked and very fatty. My wife’s salmon was so dry and tasteless she couldn’t eat it.My creme brulee was certainly not fresh and the shortbread it came with was stale. when I complained the manager told me it was impossible to serve fresh brulee as it takes 45 minutes to make and the one served to me was probably two days old.We then ordered tawny port from the desert menu. The manager told us they didn’t stock tawny port. When I told him it was on the menu he argued it wasn’t! After showing him the menu he then growled "well we’re out of it then"I expressed my bitter disappointment regarding the whole evening and the manager exclaimed "well what do you expect me to do about it then?"!!!Jacksons completely ruined what should have been a wonderful celebration.We left disappointed,hungry and over one hundred pounds out of pocket for what can only been described as the worst meal I have ever been served.I was so angry I wrote to the owner of the restaurant. I never received a reply.

Comments are closed.