Sylvesters restaurant is positioned on the south side of Edinburgh, close to many tourist attractions such as Greyfriars Bobby, Chambers Street Museum, The Meadows, The Festival Theatre and Edinburgh University at George Square. Which given it’s location is probably why we’ve not heard of it before or eaten here. They are open from 11.30am for coffee, lunch and dinner, six days a week with a pre-theatre menu available between 5-6pm. We’ve been invited up to have dinner at Sylvesters but before we go we had the chance to ask head chef Kieran Sylvester some questions.
When did you know you wanted to become a chef?
I have always enjoyed cooking and I did a diploma at the Edinburgh School of Food and Wine. Here, I honed my skills and learned the finer techniques involved in producing a good plate of food and by the end of the course I could not imagine doing anything else. The creative side of cooking really appealed to me and producing art on a plate quickly became a passion.
What would you say is your signature dish?
My signature dish is salt cod with local crayfish, Stornaway black pudding, samphire, roasted beetroot and garlic puree. I love all the elements in this dish and perhaps, selfishly, this is why the dish was created. The fresh salty cod is balanced against the earthy roasted beetroot and garlic puree and finished with the sweetness of the locally caught crayfish. Visually, it is a stunning dish with deep purples and bright contrasting orange and green. I truly love this dish.
What makes a good dish, great food?
Simple – great locally sourced produce. The better the produce the less a chef has to manipulate it. At Sylvesters, the quality of our produce is incredibly important to us.
What inspires you? How do you come up with ideas for the dishes in your restaurant?
My inspiration comes from my team. We work very hard at creating new and exciting dishes which are generally created in our kitchen competitions. The same produce is given to each team member, to be cooked and presented in their own way. This allows the team to develop and from time to time produces a spectacular dish.
What Scottish ingredients do you love to cook with?
I love cooking with Scottish venison and at Sylvesters we use red deer for its unrivaled taste. We recently bought in a whole deer to butcher ourselves which gave us a better understanding of the meat, and respect for the process it goes through. It needs very little embellishing as the natural flavour is so rich.
If you could pick only ONE Scottish produced product, what would that be?
That’s a hard one, but it would have to be lobster. I have yet to taste any better than lobster sourced from Scotland. They are so tender and sweet and right on our doorstep – what more could you want?
Where do you go when you want to eat at a restaurant?
Any great Japanese restaurant as I love fresh sushi and it takes me away from my everyday cooking.
Do you do the cooking at home?
When I have the time I do cook at home, but thankfully my wife is a very good cook and usually takes over! When I do cook I generally like to experiment and my wife is the willing guinea pig. The last meal I cooked for her was my own line-caught sea bass.
Have the tastes of customers changed during your career?
Yes, very much so. The public are becoming more and more aware of how produce is made and care more about the distance it has travelled to their plate. I’m delighted to see how much ethical farming and supporting local providers has become important to customers. Produce which would have been rare a decade ago are now more common place and it’s my job to continue to source new produce to help develop the customers palate.
What ingredients should every home have in the cupboard/refrigerator?
Maldon Sea Salt and a good stock. I always make a stock up from left over roasted vegetables and chicken, which can be strained and frozen in ice cube trays. I then have ready homemade stock cubes for when I need them.
Do you have any tips for budding chefs or restaurateurs?
Keep it simple! Stick to good quality produce and let the flavours speak for themselves. If in doubt, go to the farmers markets – some of the best produce Scotland has to offer can be found there.
What is a typical day for you?
I spend every day in the kitchen doing what I love. After an early dog walk I spend the morning in the kitchen prepping for the day ahead. Lunch service at Sylvesters starts at 11.30am followed by dinner service at 5pm. Before I know it, it’s time to head home and see my wife.
What is your favourite course and why?
Without a doubt my favourite course is the main course. For me, this is where a chef can really show off their skills. Typically, main dishes tend to have more components which is more challenging, and therefore more fun!
After reading the answers to our questions we can’t wait to visit and dine at Sylvesters. Keep your eyes peeled for our review coming soon!