AN acclaimed Scottish chef has opened a fourth restaurant in the country’s capital – though that was never quite the plan.

Stuart Ralston – the head chef at Edinburgh eateries Aizle, Noto, and tipo who has twice appeared on the BBC series Great British Menu – told the Sunday National he had not intended to focus on the capital, or to open two new restaurants in 2023, but that’s how the cards fell.

“We had a deal to go to London with Noto, and we were going to do something in Glasgow as well, but just organically some deals work out and some don't,” he said.

“Our strategy hasn't always been ‘focus on Edinburgh’. It's just the spaces that come up and the way they come up. They just sort of landed where they landed and they were all in Edinburgh.”

Ralston’s fourth Edinburgh restaurant is called Lyla and aims to showcase the best of Scottish seafood.

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Lyla offers tasting menus showcasing scallops from the Isle of Skye, lobster from Peterhead and trout from Loch Etive, to name just a few.

“If you're not really into seafood, it's probably not the place for you,” Ralston told the Sunday National.

But there is also a wealth of food foraged from Scotland’s natural environment, such as prized Hen of the Woods mushrooms or wild garlic capers.

“You almost have to take advantage of them because they're on our doorstep,” Ralston says.

Despite focusing on Scottish produce, there is a clear Asian influence on the menu. From sake to chawanmushi (a savoury Japanese egg custard, below), eastern flavours play a key role.

The National: Some of the food and drink on offer at Lyla, including cocktails, snacks, and a dessert course (below)

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“The things that I like to eat are generally the things I put on the menus,” Ralston said.

“After living in New York, I was exposed to quite a lot of really, really good, different styles of Asian cuisine, whether it’s Japanese or Korean or whatever, and it just sort of stuck with me.”

Ralston spent time working in Gordan Ramsay’s flagship two Michelin-starred New York restaurant and at Sandy Lane in Barbados before coming to Edinburgh to open restaurants nine years ago.

His business has unexpectedly doubled in size in the past year, with tipo opening earlier in 2023, followed by his newest venture this month.

The location which Lyla now occupies was previously home to 21212, a restaurant run by the “legendary” Michelin-starred chef Paul Kitching for 15 years.

However, Kitching (below) unexpectedly passed away in December 2022, aged 61.

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“It was his place and him and his wife, Katie, ran it for a long time,” Ralston said. “Then Katie asked me if I'd be interested in coming on board, taking over the restaurant space as my own. So it kind of came out of the blue.

“It wasn't an opportunity that I wanted to turn down. It's a beautiful space that I've always sort of desired and would love to have been cooking in, but obviously not under these circumstances.”

The name of his new restaurant, Lyla, also has a personal connection.

The head chef explains: “Lyla was on the list of names for children that me and my wife ... when she was pregnant, we were having conversations about baby names, and we never got to use it because we had two boys [now aged three and eight].”

Having accepted the opportunity to step into Kitching’s old space, Ralston said the next few years will be focused on celebrating and consolidating what he has – and that a return to TV screens is unlikely.

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“I enjoyed it, I did, but I don't think I would do it again,” he said of his time competing in two series of the BBC’s Great British Menu, where he missed out on the gold on both occasions.

“TV stuff, I'm not sure that's my future. I enjoy doing it, but I do feel a sense of anxiety when I'm away from the restaurants for too long,” Ralston went on.

“Even though I was annoyed to lose at the time – I'm quite competitive – I enjoyed the experience.

“I was always a big fan of the Great British Menu. Years and years ago, watching all the sorts of chefs that I look up to on it. So to be a part of the history of it was a nice honour.

“But I guess also, in terms of cooking, it is a game show, and it feels a little bit like that.

“I think your props and all these things really count, they really make a big difference. So I feel like the more effort, the more money, the more thought, the more time you have to do that is probably better, which takes away a little bit from the cooking side of it.”

The cooking side of things are on show at Lyla, where the open-plan dining area has the chefs visible throughout – as are the ingredients.

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In the drawing room, produce including halibut, scallops, trout and wagyu beef – which will all later appear on diners’ tables – is on display to spark conversations around the food before the meal even begins.

It gives a “kind of full-circle feel” to the experience, and further showcases the top-quality foodstuffs that Scotland has, Ralston said.

“I'm proud of the products that we have. We spend a lot of money on them, we take a lot of care with them," he added.

“So it's nice to show them off and really showcase what they look like and what we do with them.”

Lyla is at Number 3 on Edinburgh’s Royal Terrace. Bookings can be made on its website at: