Tomas Gormley, Heron: “Disrupting traditional food supply chains”

07 February 2022, 07:00 AM
  • Tomas Gormley, co-owner and joint head chef of Heron, Leith, describes his experience working with seasonal producers
Tomas Gormley, Heron: “Disrupting traditional food supply chains”

Heron is a relaxed fine dining restaurant serving an a la carte menu, with views looking out to the Water of Leith and the Firth of Forth beyond. After starting a pop-up fine dining home delivery service in the pandemic called Bad Seeds, my business partner Sam Yorke and I decided to open our very own restaurant where we could both be head chefs. We came to visit a restaurant space on The Shore and immediately knew this was the perfect home for Heron. 

We describe our approach to using ingredients as farm-to-table. We are so lucky to have such an inspiring roster of passionate producers in our local area who are disrupting traditional supply chains and selling direct to restaurants. 

We know where our meat, cheeses and fresh produce are coming from because we have been able to visit our suppliers before opening and discuss new product launches, seasonal varieties and create a menu inspired by our surroundings. 

Having worked in Edinburgh restaurants before launching our own, both Sam and I were lucky to already have great relationships with local growers, fisherman, butchers and farmers to approach about supplying us here at Heron. 

For example, our shellfish, lobster and crab come from Dunbar just a short drive down the east coast from Belhaven Lobster. They’re a small company, and we were introduced by a mutual friend who was photographing them for a series and was seriously impressed by their ethics and product. It’s the best seafood we tasted, and they are a small team who take the boats out, fishing, processing and delivering themselves. 

The Free Company, is a small regenerative farm based in the Pentlands hill just within the city limits. Run by three friends, they are moving away from traditional farming methods to regenerative practices to improve the quality of produce, whilst protecting and preserving the landscape. We have visited a number of times already to see the changing roster of produce with each season and the different stages of each of the growing plots. They were running supper clubs and events and pivoted during the pandemic to become suppliers. We are lucky that they have decided to keep offering the service and we can continue to work with them. 

Our meat suppliers, MacDuff Butchers invited us down to their abattoir to learn about their production methods, and it was great as a chef to see how butchers work to break down a carcass for the best quality cuts for us to prepare in the restaurant. They work with a group of trusted local farms with rare breeds and champion unusual cuts of meat, so they give excellent recommendations when we’re building menus. 

In East Lothian, we have another producer Phantassie Organic Farm whom we were getting all our tomatoes, summer squash and courgettes from them last summer. 

We’ve had great support from East Coast Cured, whose charcuterie jungle curing room is less than a mile from the restaurant, and our bread comes from Company Bakery who are one of the best in Edinburgh.

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