The Heron is an exciting new restaurant opening on The Shore, Leith. It's exciting because the owners are Sam Yorke and Tomás Gormley, experienced chefs with experience at Andrew Fairlie, Tom Kitchin’s Bonnie Badger and a few other renowned restaurants. During the lockdown, they started a takeaway company called ‘Bad Seeds’ which was a huge success in its reviews thanks to the quality of the food, and the delicious courses they served up.
Following this success, they have decided to open their first restaurant, called Heron. The restaurant is in a prime location as it sits on the corner of Henderson Street and has a beautiful view of the Water of Leith. These two are still in the middle of refurbishments as they prepare to get the restaurant open for July, however, they found the time to sit with us at Taste and give us a preview.
So how much of the refurbishment is done?
Tomás: It’s pretty much been painted so far, and that’s about the extent of it. The banners are getting completely redone. The view will be the same.
Sam: Yeah, we’ve got a lot do still. The floors will all get redone later in June, sort of the last thing to happen. The light fittings are all gonna be changed. All the tables and chairs will be different. We’ll have a concrete bar top put in which will look quite nice, hopefully. It’s not really much like what you can expect it to be like at the minute.
I heard you guys commissioned an artist for ceramic plates?
(Both) Yeah, Borja.
Sam: [To Tomás] I think you found him, came across him. He did really nice things on social media. And we sort of got in touch with him and he’s doing specific stuff for us, so that’s all very exciting. All the plates, all the crockery will be his.
Tomás: We actually caught him at a pretty interesting time, this is his first year doing ceramics full time.
Sam: He was in hospitality for a bit.
Tomás: Yeah, which is great cause he knows practically what we need out a plate, like it looks lovely, but he knows it needs to be able to go in a dishwasher. It needs to not scratch with cutlery. These were all things he was pointing out to us.
Why did you decide to commission the plates?
Tomás: First of all, we just really liked the style of his plates and his work, but then I guess where possible we want to be using things that are done here, just using local producers, local people as much as possible and I think it just ties in nicely with the restaurant and the food. A lot of our suppliers are very nearby and take a lot pride in what they do. And that’s kind of what we wanna do with the food.
Sam: The alternative, is sort of the generic white porcelain, which I’m not personally too against, but for the feel that we sort of want, the organic feeling is just, it’s nice, the sort of stoneware style.
So are you using the same local producers from Bad Seeds as you are for Heron?
Sam: We’re branching out a bit now,
Kaitlyn: What’s different then?
Tomás: So we’re using a lot more organic farms than Bad seeds. Bad Seeds kind of came about quite quickly
Who are you using now? Who have you found for the meats and the cheese and the fresh produce?
Tomás: So we’ll still be using Mellis for the cheese, we’re not really planning on doing a cheese board as such, more like we’d quite like to do plated cheese dishes. So we’ll still be using them, we’re still gonna use some of the same suppliers, we’re probably gonna have some restock cider here as well. He wants to curate some of the cider offerings on what we have on again, same as Bad Seeds. We’ll be using this company called Free company, they’re based just outside of Edinburgh. They were originally a farm, restaurant, pub type of place where they would do a super club, where they would grow all of their own foods, but last year they weren’t able to do any of that. So, this last year, they’ve really pivoted to just being a farm and supplying local restaurants. We get a lot of vegetables from them, a lot of herbs. There’s an organic farm out in East Lothian, we’ll be getting a lot of stuff from them.
Sam: We’re not really tied to any specific supplier for each individual thing. It’s a chop and change. Like Bellvane Lobsters for example. We have a connection to get them. A friend of Tomás who does photography; he takes photographs of them out on the boat in the morning, so we got in touch with them. We’ll get, you know, lobsters and things from them. Not necessarily fish: you know a lot of it will be spread out. Like pork from East Fortune Farm for example, or Saint Bride’s Duck. So yeah, the best from what you can get from each individual place.
So how many of your dishes are you going to bring from Bad Seeds? Are there any dishes that you really enjoyed doing? Are they any that customers really loved? Are you gonna be doing some of those here? Or are you going to do a completely new [menu]?
Sam: There’s definitely gonna be some elements of those dishes coming across but the sort of restrictions that we found with Bad Seeds was that we had to make something so that somebody could cook at home. So that was quite limiting in a lot of ways. We’ll definitely be taking certain things. We can make it more complicated, a bit more interesting you know, but still, we’re definitely using ideas from those dishes.
Tomás: It’s good just to look back over them, like oh I like that one, that’s good, I totally forgot we did that. Let’s do that again. And also, we don’t have to think about packaging it and boxes.
So what are you most excited for with the new restaurant because Bad Seeds was a hit, it was really good, so what are you most excited for branching out from Bad Seeds into a new permanent place.
Sam: For me, it’s not to be unrestricted in the food, that’s the main thing. To actually really do things that we sort of like.
Tomás: And actually picking ourselves, like we prepared everything for Bad Seeds, we came up with the dishes, and it was enjoyable but you definitely missed the service element of cooking, and that moment of finesse at the end.
Why did you choose the Shore, why did you choose this beautiful spot?
Tomás: Well that, (gestures to the stunning view).
Kaitlyn: Why did you choose this part of Leith, because Leith is pretty big.
Tomás: Yeah, I think if you were to open a restaurant in Leith, and you had free reign on where to go, this is probably where you would go. We were just lucky that this place came up. We weren’t even really looking properly for a place until till we came and viewed this here.
Sam: Yeah this spot here, this view sort of sold it for me, it’s the most prominent position. And the best view on the shore I think. And I think it’s been such an institution, or it was such an institution this building that it’s been a little bit neglected over the last 20 years, that we’re now sort of uncovering.
Tomás: As we dig deeper.
Sam: I mean, the Shore is so vibrant, it’s its own area.
Tomás: And it’s got a really good culinary scene down here. There’s a lot of really good restaurants in a really tight space.
So you said as you were [walking] in that you’re deciding officially on the menu?
Tomás: We’ll be using a lot of shellfish and a lot of nice organic herbs and vegetables. We’re gonna have lamb on the menu. We can say that much.
Sam: A few fish dishes, it’s quite fish heavy this first menu, just cause of the time of year and stuff.
Are you changing the menu every couple of weeks for local produce and the seasons?
Sam: Yeah, the menu will change as regularly as it wants to.
Tomás: It will happen sort of organically.
Sam: The dishes’ll change as things come to season, or if things that are working might stay a little bit longer.
Tomás: Or things that we get bored of.
Sam: We do want to change it often enough that everyone will come more or less every week. We’ve got a few key people from Bad Seeds we’re gonna invite, to the sort of soft launch.
What would you say is an ingredient that is really [annoying] to work with in the kitchen but good to eat, or vice versa?
Tomás: Asparagus. I love eating asparagus, and I love cooking it for myself at home. But doing enough asparagus for a hundred people nicely is hard. It’s hard to keep yourself motivated for that kind of quantity in the same way that you would at home. Just part of what I enjoy about eating asparagus out is that someone else has just done it for me.
Sam: Yeah, I mean hare, for me easily is one of those. The smell of it is just horrible. I like to eat it, definitely. [But the hare] raw just has a really powerful smell. Sort of grouse of well. Grouse for me; it’s not necessarily a pain to prep, I actually really enjoy prepping things like that. But, as far as the sensory experience [goes], it’s not very nice.
Do you then miss that rush during rush hour?
Both: Yeah, yeah. Definitely.
Sam: Where I’ve worked as well, I’ve worked with Tomás as well, it’s quite strict. You have to move [as a team]. If you haven’t got enough to do, you need to be jumping on other things as there’s always something to do. It’s part of the experience, part of being a chef really. Grafting. With such a small team, everyone will be doing everything else. I think it’s all gonna be spread out. We’ll be getting involved in everything else: just a small tight team. We’re gonna change sections as well, things like that, so we’re all moving around, doing different things.
What is your most favourite dish you’ve ever cooked in any restaurant? Or the most satisfying thing you’ve been able to cook?
Sam: That’s a really difficult question. Grouse, grouse is quite difficult to work with because it’s cooked on the crown. The whole process is quite laborious. It’s cooked, and then it’s rested nicely and then you have to carve it before you send it, so it’s quite technically difficult to get it right, but it’s satisfying when you carve it to see it done well.
Tomás: I’d probably say the smoked lobster. You would get the lobsters in at like 9 in the morning, you’d get them all blanched, and then you would have to take them out the shells, smoke the shells separately and then rebuild them all individually throughout the whole day. Basically, one thing to cook nearly all day every day. And then it was actually really simple to just steam quickly and then bring it up to the pass and just plate it. But I think the thing that it was so simple to finish, compared with how long you’d spent building those things all day, was just really satisfying.
What was your inspiration for the Bad Seeds menu and is it the same inspiration for this place? How did you decide the dishes?
Sam: It’s not so much inspiration as what we like to cook.
Tomás: You find as [we] start talking about dishes with each other that it kind of just naturally progresses from one idea into the end result.
Sam: It’s sort of terrifying when we chat about it, cause we can bounce ideas off each other.
Tomás: We’ve been kind of firing half ideas at each other for weeks, and unless you talk through it and talk about how you’re gonna do each dish, it doesn’t really come together in your head. And then still you have to cook it, so it’s only once we’ve actually done some cooking.
When are you getting in the kitchen? When is all that equipment going be there?
Tomás: Hopefully, over the next few weeks.
Sam: Yeah, we should have two weeks of an operating kitchen before everything else is done basically.
Tomás: We’ve got people working here from about the 20th of June, so that’ll kind of free us up a bit more to go back into the kitchen a bit.
Sam: Yeah, all the front of house can be painting all the various things that need doing. We can start sprucing up the menu. There’s been so much done, it feels that we’re almost ready in there.
Heron is using the same suppliers as Bad Seeds and they have also found more! They had help from friends and family with the refurbishment of the new restaurant and it looks amazing, even if they haven't finished. You can subscribe to the mailing list for up-to-date information about opening dates here. With stunning views, a wide dining space and the excitement for a fantastic summer, Heron is on our waiting list of places to dine.
Comment below about your excitement for the new restaurant and don't forget to subscribe to our weekly newsletter here.