by Red Mezz
Inverness, Scotland, United Kingdom
March 20, 2007
The Outsider was one of those special find restaurants that you stumble onto when you live in a city for a while. One night when out with some friends who live on the other side of town from me, we went into one of their favourite bars, Bar Kohl on George IV Street Bridge (reviewed in the Edinburgh Pub Crawl Review) and after a few hours of cocktails we decided we needed some food and wandered across the street to a restaurant I had never heard of at the time, The Outsider. The friends I was out with were somewhat bigger spenders that I am, and I was cringing when I took up the menu given how nice the place looked and what we had been spending on cocktails already all night. Not to mention that one of the friends who came with us was a chef from London and only really takes us to nice places. But to my very pleasant surprise the menu was very reasonable and also very impressive. The restaurant itself is also a pleasant surprise. It doesn't exactly jump out at you - I'm sure I've passed it hundreds of times and never even seen it before. And apparently it's quite hard for out of towners to find, though it's easy enough if you just look for Bar Kohl and then go directly across the street.
The interior is very nice, and very classy (again suggesting a more pricey menu) with dark walls and low lit rooms. Our upstairs table over looked the restaurant below in a darkish little alcove lit mostly by candles. But it also has a bit of a hip vibe, and I've heard it can also be quite lively from time to time. The waiting staff were very good... always ready when we needed something but not at all intrusive. But most importantly, the food was absolutely amazing. I will try to temper my enthusiasm given that I was very hungry and a little bit tipsy on my last visit, but I must say that everything I tasted there that night was amazingly well cooked.
It's not at all pretentious, and the portions aren't tiny or overly artfully presented. But the presentation was very nice and classy and the food was cooked To Perfection. The friend on my left ordered the steak (at £13, a very good price for a steak in Edinburgh at night) and it was miraculous. Beaten only in Edinburgh by The Witchery whose steak is around £22. Absolutely perfectly cooked, a good sized portion and excellently seasoned.
I had Scottish venison with red cabbage and potatoes which was easily the best venison I've ever tasted, and coming from middle Tennessee with the luxury of very fresh venison, I can be a bit of a snob about it. But it was astounding, and absolutely melted when it hit my tongue. We tried an array of things from scallops to a pear desert, all of which were very very nice indeed.
From journal Scotland Cuisine: It's Not as Bad as You've Heard