1 Raeburn Place, Edinburgh

0131 332 9977

Lunch/Dinner: £20-£35

Food rating: 8/10

FLAVOURED water was a lively conversation topic at my Christmas table, not the chemically flavoured stuff you buy, but the DIY alternative. One usually mild-mannered guest expressed revulsion at the restaurant habit of adding cucumber; a deal-breaker for him. There was marginally more tolerance for mint, if no ringing endorsement, general approval for lemon slices, a thumbs-down for orange slices, and a constituency that rejected ice cubes, except in the hottest weather.

I don’t subscribe to the view that tap water needs to be flavoured to make it palatable, although years ago I plumbed in a water filter at home to remove chemicals from our drinking water. But I do understand the urge to shake things up, to press the culinary equivalent of the “refresh” key. This sentiment is clearly shared by the chef at the former Field Grill in Edinburgh’s Stockbridge. Its January makeover is dramatic: a new Gaelic name, Taisteal, which means a journey/travel. The steak set has been cold-shouldered by a globetrotting menu that reflects the chef’s travels, and possibly boredom with grilling slabs of meat. Photographs featuring voluptuous displays of foods in foreign markets line the wall. The tap water brims with cucumber, mint, lemon, ice cubes, the lot.

Anyone who reads my reviews regularly knows that I’m no fan of mongrel cuisine. On the whole, I’d prefer Thai food cooked by Thais, Japanese food cooked by Japanese, Peruvian food cooked by Peruvians, and so on. I have seen too many amateurish mash-ups. But at Taisteal, the chef has better judgement, and has clearly mastered the professional essentials, so even for my money, the combos mainly work, even if the cucumber water still sends a shudder.

It’s a radical idea to serve sweetbreads in a sweet and sour sauce, the nuggets of meat like slightly milky chicken with a faint offal under taste- bathed in a spirited sauce, not gloopy, nor too sweet, but vinegary and piquant, the sweetness provided by finely diced fresh pineapple. The only thing that spoiled this interesting dish was its totally incongruous Parmesan crisp. The idea of adding a complementary texture is sound, but something along the lines of a rice cracker, or Sri Lankan rice “hopper”, would have made a much better match. The same Asia-meets-Italy riff was at play in the Singapore squid with squid ink risotto, juicy curls of char-grilled squid, tender tentacles given a Chinese-style salt and pepper treatment, and the rice, which would have been textbook Italian had it not been spiked with fresh ginger. This miscegenation was seamless.

Main courses were less outré. The first, perfectly cooked venison haunch – rosy, tender, packed with natural flavour – was flanked by glazed cubes of squash and ever so slightly bland gnocchi, on a delicious debris of “wild” mushrooms (they looked like cultivated Enoki to me), stippled with black and white sesame seeds. The odd one out in this line-up was the Cassis jus: its fruit gum presence was one element too many. A lovely piece of hake, its skin crisped and seasoned, came on a bed of leeks cooked into creamy submission, and kohlrabi two ways: baked, and crisply sweet pickled in paper-thin slices that encased crab cocktail.

Don’t go to Taisteal expecting sticky toffee pudding. It isn’t going to happen. The dessert selection isn’t tired or trad, it’s eclectic. Technically, you could fault the chocolate and Yuzu (Japanese citrus) fondant: it was marginally over-baked, and its sorbet too crystalline. But the sorbet tasted great, reminding me of Italian Tarocco oranges, and wasn’t too sweet.

It was striking just how well the lychee flavour came through in the “lycheesecake”, cutting through the richness of the dairy element. Its base was unusual too, irregular in consistency and with the crispness of wafer in parts. Its flanking stem ginger ice cream was more professional in texture than the sorbet, warmly aromatic, and once again, with a subdued sugar level.

Prices here are pretty reasonable given the ingredient quality and calibre of the cooking. A small, well-chosen wine list will please Italophiles. Staff are affable. There’s no shortage of eating places in this urban strip, but Taisteal looks like one of the best.