Le Roi Fou

1 Forth Street, Edinburgh

0131 557 9346

Lunch/Dinner: £15.50-£48

Food rating: 10/10

A CHEF who has headed up Anton Mosimann’s private dining club is clearly safe hands. No way Mosimann is going to let anything other than polished, professional food to go out under his name, but Edinburgh isn’t Belgravia, and when I saw that Swiss Jérôme Henry had opened his first restaurant, Le Roi Fou, in Edinburgh, I did wonder whether we’d be getting another conservative fine dining option aimed at money men.

I hadn’t realised that Henry had a hinterland to his career that took him from finance, into kitchens in Chicago, Spain, South America and Asia. Like Roy Brett at Ondine, all the well-honed technique of the professional chef is there along with years of experience, but you’re getting more than meticulous, go-through-your-paces cooking. There’s a perceptible extra quality that speaks of a seasoned, food-literate palate, one that loves to eat, a gastronomic maturity that has fully digested classical cooking methods but isn’t hidebound by them.

There are clues that we’re in good hands from the off. Homemade focaccia, oily, rosemary-scented, with first-rate extra virgin olive oil for dunking and a dusting of salty sharp powder, possibly sumac, then a dinky croquette of salt cod brandade. But it’s the spiced fish soup that really electrifies me: brick red, with the thick, grainy texture you get from painstakingly sieved fish bones and shells, a veritable French soupe de poisons, the very essence of seafood underpinned by notes of fennel, cayenne, bay, thyme, saffron, and even a hint of orange rind. Textbook Melba toast with a rouille that’s brazenly piquant accompanies it.

Warm, sappy white asparagus from the Wye Valley partnered with shavings of salty-sweet Serrano ham make a starter that’s more about wise combination than dogged effort, yet even this is graced by master touches: a glistening, refreshing dressing that might just have a hint of orange juice in it; a skinned cherry tomato disgorging sharp juices to further moisten the plate.

Then comes the plump tranche of golden-crusted, pearly-flaked cod on an emulsion that traps the intoxicating aroma and flavour of top-class saffron. The sauce is stippled with chives. A stack of fat, fresh garden peas, an asparagus spear, and new season’s carrots – yellow, orange, and purple – look and taste lovely. Bright, clean, flavour-packed, this dish trumpets the optimism of spring. The chips are sublime; they almost taste like home-fried crisps.

Then there’s the calves' liver, boldly blackened on the plancha, evenly rosy within, alongside thick, stiffly grilled bacon rashers, a neat pool of viscous brown gravy that merges appetisingly into a lively chimichurri sauce that’s zingy with parsley, oregano, chilli, and sparklingly special vinegar. The plate goes back to the kitchen embarrassingly clean.

Mango, blackberry, and lemon sorbets, made on the premises, taste of the said fruits, rather than sugar; slivers of perfectly ripe mango, orange segments, and passion fruit seeds are all the garnish they need. We delight too in a delicate pink rhubarb blushing under its pistachio crumble further enhanced by its sherbet-sharp crème frâiche ice cream.

The place? Linen napery, streamlined wood, typically French curved curtains softening the entrance from the street; you’re cosseted but not fussed over. Le Roi Fou both feels and tastes like a treat.