Scott Smith

Scott Smith

His two mentors helped him master technique, dedication, ambition and lots more, but flavour is something Scott has always endeavoured to do himself, without outside influence. Part of what makes his food so enthralling today is that it is unique – there are visible elements of other cultures and styles in there, but the composition and style is wholly his own. ‘Having a restaurant isn’t just about cooking good food and having good service,’ he explains. ‘I think the restaurant has to have an identity, and that’s something you have to carve out yourself over time.’ When Scott left The Peat Inn and set up his first restaurant – Norn, in Edinburgh – with his wife Laura, he worked hard to unlearn all the dishes he’d learnt in years previous, and blazed a trail of his own that quickly made him a darling of the city. Marina O’Loughlin – then a food critic at The Guardian – visited shortly after Norn opened in 2016 and waxed lyrical about Scott’s food, citing ‘unrelenting deliciousness’. ‘I want to say a new Scottish star is born,’ she said in closing, ‘but that would be to do Smith a disservice. He’d be a star wherever he landed.’

‘We opened with really clear goals of what we wanted to achieve,’ says Scott. ‘We wanted a slow burner, so we could grow things organically, but then we got some really big reviews early on and that put us in the shit, to be honest! It was amazing, of course, but we just weren’t prepared for that. For starters, I’m good with one on one conversations but I’m really quite shy when it comes to anything beyond that. We went from running this little restaurant, ten tables in on Friday and Saturday nights to national press and every table for the next three months booked out in about two days.’

Just as Norn began to hit its stride, though, Scott and Laura ran into problems with the restaurant’s investors, who didn’t share their long term vision. ‘It became clear to us that this was a short-term investment,’ he shrugs. With a heavy heart, Scott and Laura decided to leave the restaurant they had nurtured and start afresh somewhere new. They scraped money together from friends and family and found a charming little site on Edinburgh’s bohemian Broughton Street – a site that became Fhior. ‘We did the whole thing in about four weeks,’ Scott grins. ‘When we left Norn, we saw this place and ten days later we had the keys. In terms of tradesmen, we just had chefs and front-of-house doing the painting and decorating.’

Fhior, as a result, is certainly minimal, but the stripped-back feel of the restaurant is actually rather sweet given the story behind it. Most importantly, Scott is now free to pursue the long term vision he has always harboured, given that he and Laura are the sole owners of the restaurant. Dishes like halibut, potato, pepper dulse and fennel, chanterelles with leek and truffle and beetroot, malt caramel, milk ice cream all have a clear commonality running through them – they’re designed to highlight a particular bit of Scottish produce and show it at its very best. Scott and his team venture out at all times of year to forage ingredients whilst they’re in season, which they then preserve for use year-round – a system employed to great effect at restaurants like Fäviken, Noma and Frantzén in Scandinavia. The halibut, for example, is served on a bed of fermented fennel – who’s aniseed notes are morphed into something remarkable by lacto-fermentation – and then topped with a potato mousseline and finished with dried, ground pepper dulse from the nearby Scottish coast.

‘Fhior is such a personal thing for Laura and I, we both accept that is isn’t about making lots of money,’ says Scott. ‘We want to create something with longevity that helps chefs progress on their journeys, helps us provide for our young family and brings recognition to Scottish food.’

Three things you need to know

Scott won The Scotsman's Chef of the Year award in 2019, and his restaurant Fhior was named Edinburgh's best in the same year.

Though he loves all Scottish produce, Scott admits to having a soft spot for Scottish seafood, such as langoustines and scallops.

Scott was an Acord Award winner in 2017 – a yearly award given to the brightest young stars in hospitality.