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Article published 13/10/2021

Winners' Wednesday

Best Restaurant Experience
 

l'escargot blanc at 19/20 Thistle Awards

In this week’s Winners' Wednesday feature, we catch up with Fred Berkmiller, chef and owner of l’escargot blanc in Edinburgh, which won the National Award for Best Restaurant Experience at the Scottish Thistle Awards in 2020.

The restaurant in Edinburgh’s Queensferry Street was commended by judges for its focus on home-grown produce and links to educational facilities. They said customer experience and passion shone through in the application.

Unfortunately, just a few days after winning the award, the pandemic forced the closure of both l’escargot blanc and l’escargot bleu. Here we talk to Fred about his experience in the last 18 months and how the pandemic has affected their business.

When we won the award in March 2020, we were amazed by the amount of support and feedback we received as a result. To be recognised for the experience we offer, the care we put into sourcing and cooking, and the hospitality we offer our guests, meant the world to everyone at l’escargot. I never thought we would be so well supported by the Edinburgh community, and beyond.

Times are very different to how they were 18 months ago. Just a few days after winning the award we had to close both restaurants and our wine bar. By the summer we were offering a take-away from l’escargot bleu and made the tough decision to keep l’escargot blanc closed.

Our team is now much smaller but we are very close. Together we have had to adapt to circumstances we cannot control – the pandemic and Brexit have had a huge impact on supplies and staff. We have reduced our number of covers, our days of service and our menu. But we have increased the love and devotion we have for our customers. At times it has been very emotional.

One of our recent catchphrases has been ’no shortcuts’ and that’s a great way to sum up everything we do: sourcing, cooking, service, hospitality. Perhaps you can think of a visit to l’escargot like a visit to a very good, old friend’s house for a warm reunion with fabulous food and wine. We want everyone to leave feeling that depth of satisfaction with their experience.

Fred Berkmiller, chef and owner of l’escargot blanc