I was recently invited to the press preview night of the wittily named Rib Aye where the focus is impeccably sourced Scottish beef and produce from small farms, along with a careful selection of whiskies and other drinks designed to bring out the best in the ingredients. In this, the team's passion clearly shows, from the huge, custom built meat fridge on site where they can butcher and dry age entire carcasses to ensure that he can serve the best and more unusual cuts of meat, to the relationships Hinds is building with individual farmers across Scotland enabling him to select the finest meat and rare breeds to showcase in this kitchen.
Formerly a Mongolian barbecue restaurant, no trace of the old interior remains, instead we are welcomed with cocktails in the spacious bar decorated in muted greys and warmed with an open fire (it was cosy for dining, a little dark for photographing food...). There are quirky cow themed touches throughout.
Of a tasting plate of appetisers, the smoked venison was a stand out favourite, light oak smoke flavours managing not to overwhelm the meat. Foie gras mousse was light and silky, and a tartare perfectly seasoned. An extremely rich oxtail and French onion soup was paired with a Smokehead whisky, a single malt from Islay, its peat cut through the sweetness of the soup far better than a red wine could.
We were treated to a peek inside the modern walk in meat refrigerator where the beef is butchered and dry aged within the restaurant. This gives them the flexibility to buy whole carcasses direct from the farm and choose the best and more unusual cuts, with Tomahawk, Bavette and Chateaubriand all appearing on the menu.
This is Hinds' second Edinburgh opening in two years, and aside from ambition, what both Kilted Lobster and Rib Aye have in common is their social conscience, with profits from both being ploughed back into Cooking up a Storm, which funds various projects, from cooking classes to training for those less privileges and a 'meal bank' when the restaurant hosts groups for free who wouldn't otherwise have the opportunity to dine out.
The steaks arrived well seasoned marbled with rich, crisp fat and a well developed flavour due to the longer dry ageing. The accompanying sides are definitely not described as vegetable dishes, although some did contain vegetables were generous. Haggis croquettes which were a peppery delight, but a meal in themselves, baked sweet potatoes, cabbage with smokey bacon, oversized onion rings, roasted mushrooms with a garlicky punch. Then the star of the show, chunky, thrice cooked duck fat chips, golden and crisp outside and fluffy inside.
We also tried almost all the accompanying sauces, in the interest of science of course, and at this point I realised that I needed to go into a separate room and have some time alone with the truffled butter.
We finished with a board of Scottish cheeses, there's not much I can say about this because I have an irrational dislike of cheese, however, it was a generous selection and was appreciated by the rest of the group who aren't philistines. I did try the goats' cheese which was mild and creamy and the home made pickles were sharp, complex but not overpowering.
Rib Aye seems set to become a favourite of local carnivores for their impeccably sourced and carefully cooked steaks. I will be back as soon as possible with Instagram husband for another instalment of that truffle butter.
We dined as guests of the restaurant at a press evening. Prices are reasonable in the range £7-8 for starters, mains £14-22, sides and sauces £2-5, desserts and cheeses £5-9.
43 Assembly Street, Leith, EH6 7BQ
t: 0131 4671588
Closed to the public on Monday and Tuesday to host Cooking Up a Storm social initiative
Wednesday to Friday 17:30 to 22:30
Saturday 12:00 to 14:30 and 17:30 to 22:00
Sunday 12:00 to 20:00