Brothers Lukasz and Bartek Jedrejek are injecting a hint of Polish cooking, among other international influences, into their Edinburgh restaurant. Andy Lynes reports.
Chef Lukasz Jedrejek hasn’t taken the most orthodox route into hospitality. He moved from his native Poland in 2004 to study biochemical science, working part-time as a chef to help pay his way. He then spent six years working for the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service before making a career change in June 2016. He joined forces with his brother Bartek and opened the 34-seat Lovage in a back street just off Edinburgh’s Royal Mile.
“I thought, if I don’t do it soon, I’ll be a scientist with a Monday to Friday, nine to five job for the rest of my life,” says Lukasz, whose previous experience includes Edinburgh fine-dining stalwart the Witchery and the city’s Golf Tavern pub. Bartek has worked at Tom Kitchin’s Scran & Scallie and Castle Terrace, both in Edinburgh, as well as fine-dining restaurants in Warsaw and Lublin in Poland.
Lovage, named after their favourite herb and one that is common in Polish cooking, runs with a brigade of just four, including the brothers as joint head chefs. That might sound like a recipe for disaster, but Lukasz says that they have found a way to make it work: “My brother deals with the sweets. That’s not my thing. For the rest of the menu, we sit together, discuss and cook different ideas. Sometimes we argue, but not seriously.”
A single à la carte menu with five starters and mains, three desserts and a selection of cheese is offered Tuesday to Sunday for dinner and Friday to Sunday for lunch, with a shorter three-three-three menu for parties of more than nine, priced at £29.95 for two courses and £34.95 for three. “When we started, we were open lunch and dinner every day, but it wasn’t really working during the week,” Lukasz says. “The whole idea behind closing for lunch is so we can put more effort into the dinner dishes, and maybe in the near future have a tasting menu as well.”
Although the dishes are modern and inventive, Lukasz rejects the label ‘molecular’, despite his scientific background. “You can bring in some of that, using different ingredients like agar, but I think, not in this place because we’ve got a tiny kitchen. You really need a lab to bring science into a restaurant.”
The brothers have, however, drawn on their Polish heritage with a take on the classic pierogi (£7.95). “We’re trying to introduce people to Eastern European tastes. It’s not a traditional version of pierogi – we always put a twist on it. They’re simple filled dumplings, but you can have different fillings. This one is cottage cheese, potatoes and some caramelised onion. Then, we mimic what’s inside the pierogi on the plate, so it’s served with a triple-cooked chip, a cream cheese and sour cream espuma, bacon dust and caramelised onion purée.”
The Lovage menu reads as a dizzying tour of global gastronomy, from a hake main with lentils, romesco sauce and curry hollandaise (£17.95) to a starter of 24-hour slow-cooked pork belly (£8.95) served with oak-smoked tofu, poached pear, Savoy and Chinese cabbage kimchi with fish sauce, soy sauce, sugar, chillies, daikon and carrots. “In Poland, you have pork belly with sauerkraut,” Lukasz says. “Maybe that’s why I think it goes really well together.”
But at the heart of the menu is produce from Scotland. Favoured suppliers include Campbell Brothers (meat, fish and greengrocers), Mark Murphy (vegetables) and Ben Robertson of Fungi and Forage for mushrooms. The brothers also forage for their own ingredients, collecting pine cones for a sorbet to accompany their best-selling chocolate fondant dessert (£7.95).
“You just put them on sugar and leave them in jars for a few weeks so they start producing syrup,” Lukasz says. “The sorbet is made from buttermilk, sugar, glucose and the pine extract.”
With its central location, smart but relaxed ambience (exposed brick, blue banquets, high ceilings and simple wooden tables) and affordable yet ambitious menu, Lovage attracts tourists, but the brothers are keen to cultivate locals.
“You can’t run a business on tourists,” says Lukasz. “They’re here, and then the next day they’re not. Only a small percentage will come back. If you’ve got local people, that’s how you can tell that you’ve got a well-run restaurant.”
From the menu
- Wild boar terrine, sweet and sour cherries, pistachios, fennel kimchi £8.95
- Scallops, lemon, apple purée, celeriac textures, mint oil £11.95
- Pigeon, turnip, Brussels sprouts, haggis, cranberries, heritage carrots £9.95
- Steak, parsley root, juniper berries £19.95
- Lamb, Hyderabadi shank, Kashmiri rice, almonds, parsnip £20.95
- Sea bass, leek, ricotta gnocchi, lemon, thyme, butternut squash £17.95
- Panna cotta, orange, cardamom, vanilla, cinnamon shortbread £6.95
- Crème brûlée, raisins, angel wings, mulled wine sorbet, rum £6.95
- ‘Jaffa cake’, dark chocolate sauce, hazelnuts, cherry sorbet £7.95
38 St Mary’s Street, Edinburgh EH1 1SX
0131 557 5754