Edinburgh’s exceptional dining experience

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I have a quiet snigger at the judges on those celebrity challenge programmes... you know the sort, Celebrity Come Dancing, Blindfolded, With One Hand Tied Behind Your Back... when they start dishing out 10s halfway through the series.

So where you going to go now then? What happens if they do better next week?

But I’ve found myself in that position now.

In the last year or so I’ve been lucky enough to be able to review some great restaurants. Praise has been given and well deserved.

But what happens when you find one that’s that step up?

Well, for one week only, a couple of extra scoring cards have been added to the pack!

And top marks are going to Michael Neave’s Kitchen and Whisky Bar, which sits down Old Fishmarket Close, between the Royal Mile and the Grassmarket in Edinburgh’s historic heart.

It’s a modern building and, on a freezing night in the capital, it’s nice to step into a warm bar, where our coats are taken and we’re invited to have a drink while we study the menu and wine list.

We must have looked startled at some raised voices outside, but, the barman explains, it’s only one of the city ghost tours being taken around the backstreets.

The restaurant opened in June and is going through a gradual transformation as it establishes its identity. One of the changes coming in the near future will be making the bar somewhere to visit for its own sake, rather than just a prelude to dining. As the name suggests, there is a tremendous range of whiskies on offer as well as things like Scottish-made gins and some more-unusual bottled beers and lagers. I think there’s a clientelle out there just waiting for a place like this.

Having already ordered and selected a bottle of red from a nice wine list – enough to choose from but not enough to confuse – we are taken downstairs to the restaurant.

There’s plenty of room, with well-sized tables meaning you feel you can spread out a bit and adding a bottle of water isn’t going to create a space crisis.

The small, hot rolls delivered in a stainless steel spiral cone are delicious. The offer of a second helping irresistible.

Our meal was outstanding. Each dish delicious, perfectly cooked and beautifully plated – a delight for the eye as well as the tastebud.

As starters, I went for wood pigeon, each piece wrapped in bacon and served with half a pear and a Mortlach whisky sauce. Myra chose a dish of creamy gnocchi with ricotta, spinach and pine nuts – which she’s already told me she’s going to have again when we return some time soon.

For mains, she went for the roasted duck breast with orange and caraway, served with a sweet potato and courgette pancake.

My choice, Perthshire roe deer with a stunning carrot and lavender puree, rosemary and a dark Auchentoshan whisky – whisky comes into a lot of things here.

Myra couldn’t manage dessert – that was those extra rolls – but in the interests of science I tried the vanilla panna cotta with Champagne poached strawberries – out of this world.

Rounded off with coffee, there was still change from £30 each for the meal. And with wines starting at £16 a bottle and your whiskies reasonably priced, you aren’t going to be hit hard for what is an exceptional dining experience.