Chef Dean Banks – a dynamic, culinary and spiritual entrepreneur: Lunun Gin, Mond Vodka, Dulse, HAAR and The Pompadour

 “I would always categorise myself as a seafood chef inspired by the world’s larder. My passion would be cooking fish simply with a sauce and vegetables.’

Chef Dean Banks

Chef Dean Banks has spent his life being passionate about cooking from childhood, growing up in the fishing town of Arbroath, famous for the Arbroath Smokie. His great grandfather was a Baker in Wick and as a young boy, his mother would let him choose a recipe, buying the ingredients and practicing dishes. He was also inspired by the TV Chefs, his heroes to further the inspiration.

“I was trained at Rick Stein’s, The Seafood Restaurant, Padstow, but I have never stopped learning and never will – cooking always develops, just like fashion.” 

Banks then worked in Michelin starred restaurants in Scotland, before travelling the world in search of different cuisines across 40 countries – the cultures, skills and flavours of cooking.  

In 2018 back in the UK, he decided to enter the BBC series, ‘Masterchef: The Professionals’ in which he wowed judges by his global culinary knowledge, experience and creativity.  

MasterChef was a fantastic platform to showcase my cooking abilities to the nation –  so many challenging moments in the competition, very fast-paced and high stress, but I loved every moment.   When I got through to the final I felt very humble, excited and nervous all at once. All the other chefs who got through were absolutely amazing.”

The finalists of Masterchef 2018. Laurence Henry, Oli Martin, Dean Banks

Given this boost of culinary confidence, the next year Dean opened his own restaurant, HAAR in St. Andrews, with the ethos to source sustainable produce and being as carbon sensitive as possible. This first venture he calls “an expression of myself,” presenting Nordic/Asian fusion cuisine in fine dining fashion.  The name reflects the mists which roll in along the East Coast. Here are reviews from recent diners:

Always consistently five star. Amazing food, impeccable service and ambient atmosphere. Every course was a culinary masterpiece. We love our food adventures at Haar .. a superb dining experience.’

Inspired by his favourite peaceful and secluded beach in Angus, he then created Lunun, a premium craft gin with an Asian twist.  Gold Winner at the Scottish Gin awards 2021 – a prestigious achievement due to the fact that 45 expert judges took part in a blind tasting of 300 gins from 67 distilleries. Lunun is created in a single-fold distillation process and includes six key botanicals: kaffir lime leaf, sea buckthorn, Sichuan pepper, kombu kelp, ginger and lemongrass.

A major event of summer 2021 was the launch of ‘Dean Banks at The Pompadour’ at the Waldorf Astoria, The Caledonian.  First opened in 1925, this glamorously designed, Parisian Belle Epoque-style restaurant offers seasonal Scottish produce to take you on a sensory journey, inspired by his travels and international cuisine. With his exemplary background in hospitality, from the Michelin-starred Number One, The Balmoral to The Pompadour, Waldorf Astoria, and Gleneagles, Daniel Ashmore is the group Executive chef, overseeing all the bars and restaurants across Chef Bank’s portfolio.  

The Pompadour, Waldorf Astoria, Edinburgh

In July 2022, Chef Dean Banks opened Dulse, (named after an edible seaweed), a speciality Seafood bistro and wine bar at the West End of Edinburgh.  Opening at just the right time just before the Festival season, the place was buzzing through the summer and has quickly become very popular with locals and visitors.  

Dulse wine and cocktail bar for sophisticated drinks

So time to dine at Dulse: cocktail and wine bar downstairs (comfy sea-blue banquette seating), and two bright, light intimate dining rooms upstairs, attractively designed with pale aqua painted wood and seashore-themed artwork; the sandy beach picture tablemats are made from recycled plastic recovered from the ocean.

The menu might seem minimalist in length and description of dishes, but the diner is in for a banquet of amazing scents, flavours and texture. For the ideal foodie experience, my partner, Ken and I were presented with sharing plates of Arbroath Smokie Tart, Octopus, Trout Pastrami and Half Shell Scallop.

But first we start with Cumbrae Oysters as an amuse bouche. This family run company founded in 1995 has their own oyster farm and fishing vessel. Delivered to Dulse from the West Coast island every day to assure quality, these sea-salty, juicy molluscs hit the spot and tantalise the taste buds.

Cumbrae oysters

With these, we sip the most delectable Dulse Martini – Lunun Gin with seaweed essence, touch of saline, and as a perfect accompaniment, a teaspoon of Caviar – with a divine soft texture.  At Exmoor Caviar farm, sturgeon fish are reared in fresh, cool mineral water in the Devonshire National Park, the caviar flavoured with Cornish Sea Salt.​ Exmoor Caviar is served at over 80 Michelin Star restaurants in the UK.

Dulse Martini with Exmoor Caviar

The Arbroath Smokie Tart (the traditional smoked haddock which has protected status like Parma Ham and Champagne), has a melt-in-the-mouth flaky pastry case, filled with a creamy fish mousse, sprinkled with dulse seaweed.  

Arbroath Smokie Tart

Our seafood feast continues with a couple of delicately seared scallops in a seaweed-infused butter sauce, served in a half shell. Octopus, slow cooked for many hours until tender, served with a richly aromatic ‘burnt’ tomato sauce and lemon scented barley. An exemplary combination of flavour and texture.   If you are a fan of smoked salmon as I am, the Trout Pastrami – wafer thin slices of coral-pink smoked fish with a fennel seed coating, is a truly luxurious alternative, simply served with a Crème fraiche and crunchy rye bread toast – (a little too high baked to be edible.).   

 The menu also offers main course dishes such as Baked North Sea Cod, Goan Curry-style, Whole Crab, Red Thai – which clearly show the innovative fusion cuisine curated by Chef Banks.  The provenance of ingredients is clearly given such as St. Andrews Lobster Thermidor, and Day boat fish of the day, fresh from crate to plate.   The wine list from only across Europe is carefully selected for environmental sustainability.   

Lobster Thermidor

The head chef at Dulse is Rob Vaiciulis, from Lithuania where growing food and cooking with his family as a child inspired his career. He moved to Edinburgh around 4 years ago, and working at Dulse he found a love for Scottish local seafood and cooking inspiring dishes. The artistic presentation of all the dishes in earthenware blue, grey, white and black bowls, with shells resting on a pile of pebbles, certainly adds to the foodie experience.

Connor Hargrave – mixologist extraordinaire

Connor Hargrave is the very enthusiasatic bar tender and experiemental mixologist who started working in bars before he could legally drink alcohol:

I started bartending at 16 as a part time job in Southampton and by 18 had became a bar manager, later influenced by working under Victor Lorenzo at The Savoy. At Dulse, Chef Dean really helped my passion for cocktails allowing me to make a menu using fermentation and ultra sonic infusion. He says that I am a bar tender who thinks like a chef. This is one of the top 50 bars for sustainability and newcomer bar of the year.’

Connor Hargrave – the culinary King of Cocktails at Dulse

After lunch, we relax in the Wine bar downstairs to watch Connor at work, who gives us a taste of his own unique version of bitter chocolate flavoured Scottish Campari. He must spend hours preparing ingredients, citrus fruits, berries, champagne sorbets, spice-scented tinctures.

As digestif we sip a Mond Oyster Martini, – a secret recipe including oyster juice – which certainly captures the overall seafood themed food and drink menu.

Mond Vodka, made from Scottish grain is so named as it’s filtered through diamonds for a silky smooth, clear taste and texture. This sounds like the ideal spirit for a James Bond (Diamonds are Forever) Vesper cocktail.  

Do call into the Dulse Bar for a glass of wine, Lunun gin and tonic, Mond vodka martini or another signature cocktail – the perfect place for an aperitivo and platter of oysters.

Overall, this beautifully curated, culinary experience at Dulse is akin to a luxury picnic on the beach: the taste of each delicious fishy dish and sip of an ice cold brine-tinted cocktail, has an evocative whiff of a fresh, sea salty breeze.  

Chef Dean Banks and his talented team have created a unique and most inspirational culinary journey to savour the finest Scottish food and drinks enhanced with the spice of life from the around the world.

An exciting new venture is the Limited Edition Dulse at Home box which offers many of the restaurant’s favourite dishes.  Haar at Home has its Festive collections, as well as fine food, there’s Dean’s Mulled Wine and Lunun Gin crackers.  These which are also great gifts for family and friends – little preparation involved meaning a restaurant-quality meal can be on the table in less than half an hour. Check out the Haar at Home & Lunun Gin websites.  

For more details on Dulse and book a table –

Lunun Gin  – 

Dean Banks at the Pompadour –

Haar at Home –


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About vivdevlin

I am an international travel writer, specialising in luxury travel, hotels, restaurants, city guides, cruises, islands, train and literary-inspired journeys. I review dance and theatre, Arts Festivals and love the visual arts. I have just experienced an epic voyage, circumnavigating the globe, following in the wake of Captain Cook, Mark Twain and Robert Louis Stevenson.

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