It’s so easy to sneer at all things “hipster” these days. But hang fire: let’s not forget that before everything beneath that now risible, Urban Outfitters-sourced Breton-striped umbrella became so pathetically homogenous (I forget where I first saw it Tweeted, but “there are no such things as ‘hipsters’, that’s just what white people look like now” summed it up perfectly), the root of “all of this” was admirable. It was an attempt to assert some kind of independence. It was striving for something a bit different, a bit better than the mainstream. Back then, when Stumptown Coffee’s baristas and the Mast Brothers represented a brave and bearded new world of modernity, we had no idea how rubbish it would all start to look. Instead of championing individuality and maverick sensibilities, it was all turned on its head and coopted by brand managers and BoxPark. If everyone tries to look different, and ends up looking the same, what then?
All the identi-hipster cues are in evidence when you walk into Timberyard in Edinburgh. There’s the Beach House and Cat Power soundtrack; the raw, industrial interior with exposed ceiling beams; the wine list which comes on a clipboard that looks like a giant steampunk mousetrap for giant steampunk mice; the waiter with tattooed sleeves and slicked hair; the other waiter who looks like a vintage letterpress moustachioed carnival Strong Man in search of his striped unitard and dumbbells… Then there are the familiar buzz words: “artisan growers”, “foragers”; “curing” and “smoking”.
Then there are the familiar buzz words: “artisan growers”, “foragers”; “curing” and “smoking”
So far, so what? Three years on from Portlandia’s first screening, all of this is so well-worn that it’s become meta. But in actuality, Timberyard represents what might have been… for all of us. It’s how things could have worked out, before bars started to resemble bombed out student union cafeterias serving chicken burgers in paper bags, and making a big deal about their no reservations policy while covering every table with “reserved” signs for their friends.
Just about everything to do with Timberyard Edinburgh is a joy. In its mix of service and slickness of design, it’s more Melbourne than it is Hackney – and as in Melbourne, the clientele at Timberyard is as likely to be made up of septuagenarian college lecturers as it is Instagram-obsessed students. And even though its all-trends-blazing style extends to the kitchen, in the form of a compulsion to cover every dish with edible flowers and nasturtium leaves, the food here is really interesting, fresh and, crucially, consistently delicious.
The menu at Timberyard could have gone the way of the dreaded small plate, but instead they’ve structured it into a more sophisticated, but still flexible, four styles and courses: “bite”; “small”; “large” and “sweet”. You can mix and match, or just go trad with three or more dishes. For my “bite” I had a dish of iced pea, mint and hyssop, which was as fresh and verdant as the famed pea dish at Dabbous. My “small” smoked pigeon came cold and cubed, with crisped spelt, full of flavour and exciting textures. The crust on a “large” plate of beech smoked sirloin was a revelation – more bacon in flavour than beef. Superb.
Lunch at Timberyard Edinburgh will definitely figure among my most memorable and pleasurable meals of this year. It has an interesting wine list too – as well as lots of modish Nyetimber, there’s a moreish Romanian pinot noir by the glass and the Zuccardi family’s lush “Q” red, alongside a less distinguished Chateau Ka (if you’re going Lebanese, there are many better ways to go).
Every detail about this restaurant has been thought about and refined, right down to its artfully distressed edges. On the surface, it couldn’t be more of-the-moment unless it was a fictitious Tweet from pop up satirists @FoodPit – but it succeeds by doing it all better than anyone else, right down to the rows of bare filament bulbs hanging above the tables and bar which are actually energy efficient halogen styled to look like Edisons. Rather than water down a bunch of trends and create something that suits the kitchen rather than the customer, it’s taken them upmarket and put together that increasingly rare beast: a real restaurant. C
Timberyard, 10 Lady Lawson Street, Edinburgh EH3 9DS
Timberyard.co; 0131-221 1222