(Visited: February 2013)
Once, the train roared through this building, and there is a train space magnificence and grandeur in the lobby of the hotel at whose first floor the Pompadour is found. The room itself, now restored to the glory of before the times smoke (from wealthy humans, not machines) ruined its beautiful wall decorations.
This is the new Scottish venture of the Galvin brothers. They like grand, impressive venues (think Windows and La Chapelle in London), and grand and impressive this is indeed, steeped in Edinburgh history.
Our camera threw tantrums on us in the beginning, refusing to open its eye completely, so we got this type of effect in our first few pictures:
These amuses (oh who remembers) are designed to strike you and they do.
Beyond that, the food here is pretty straightforward (in a good way) French classical, where bold, assertive flavours well… assert themselves, unencumbered by cerebral flights of fancy, supported by skill and attention to execution. Our only gripe was a constant tendency to overseasoning, with a savoy cabbage garnish that was outright too salty. (Did we send it back? Of course we didn’t. In true British spirit we always soldier on even in the face of adversity).
One signature dish that cannot not loom large in one’s memory is a poulet to share, its breast cooked in a pig’s bladder with a cognac (we think) sauce, a procedure that keeps the meat tender and moist and succulent.
The chicken carved at your table is always good theatre:
The ballottine with the other bits, stuffed with goodies including pistachios, was packed with flavour. Nothing to say, a grand dish.
We were also impressed by a starter of ravioli of rabbit with ricotta, sarriette & artichokes barigoule, the ravioli very lightly made and lavishly stuffed with intensely flavoured rabbit, the ricotta rounding the edges, and a very pleasant acidity throughout the dish coming from the vegetables. Vague associations form in our minds with Italian ‘cacciatora’ rabbit, except that here a beautiful jus lifted the whole dish to a class level that humble cacciatora may not achieve.
Roast Keltic Scallops were very well matched with a cauliflower in a vinagraitte, though the dish was a little heavier and richer than we were imagining. With scallops we find that most of the times less is better than more.
We considered, we deeply considered the tarte tatin for two. But we postponed it to another visit (there will be one!), and had a masterful banana souffle’ with an elegant rum and raisin parfait
and a blood orange jelly, white chocolate cream on pistachio sponge and blood orange sorbet which played suavely on the sweet and sour keys.
Petit four (the macaroons, sure, trite but soooo impressive) provided an apt ending to our dinner.
Prices at the time of dinner (£56 for 3) were very good value in Edinburgh for dining of this quality and in such an elegant environment, and in this location. Mind you, at the time of writing they’ve already creeped up to £58, still good value but at this rate by Christmas it may be the most expensive dinner in Scotland! Service is very professional but also nicely relaxed. It was quiet for a Friday night as it was probably still not well known, and also, perhaps, because of the excessively hushed tones, but this venture has all the hallmarks of a great addition to the handful of gastronomic high points in the city. It has Michelin star written all over it, and we intend to return before the star appears.