Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh (The Caledonian Hotel)
Rutland Street, Edinburgh, EH1 2AB
0131 222 8857 www.markgreenaway.com
A la Carte
Starters: £9.00 - £12.00 | Mains: £23.00 - £42.50 | Desserts: £8.50 - £9.50
Cooking 8.5/10 | Service 5/5 | Flavour 5/5 | Value 4/5
Greenaway is back! Which means that The Caley possibly boasts the two best chefs in Edinburgh without Michelin stars. The Galvin brothers have departed, leaving Dan Ashmore in charge at The Pompadour upstairs: the large brasserie on the ground floor is now home to Mark Greenaway’s latest venture.
The space hasn’t changed, though it’s had a paint job – an elegant shade of blue. The main difference, however, is in the food, which used to be a sore disappointment in days of old. Just one word of caution, should the name lead you to expect small sharing plates, tapas or the like. It’s not that sort of grazing. The website explains, our focus will be on helping our diners to share and enjoy wonderful food in a leisurely fashion - 'grazing' at their own pace. We have some new and unique dishes to present, but my loyal visitors can expect to see a few recognisable touches and some familiar faces too. The menu does have a selection of dishes for two, including the intriguing sounding Picnic/Pea/Choux/Cured Meats, but otherwise the format is pretty standard. Praise the Lord. No concepts to be explained.
Now some of you may be aware that Mr Greenaway and I had words a year or two back. From my side these days are gone now, and in the past they must remain. I did, however, take the precaution of ensuring that the booking was made by the Retired Captain of Industry, just in case I was barred. Dining with the RCoI is always a pleasure, but this time it had the added bonus of a couple of glasses of champagne arriving at the table. Nothing whatever to do with me. I hadn’t even blogged I was going, and kept my back firmly to the kitchen. Anonymity is good, or so I thought.
Many of the staff are from the Galvin days. The service in those times was one of the few plus points. But with non British staff and a new menu, some communication issues are inevitable. Some wonderful treacle and stout bread arrived, along with a generous dish of speckled butter. Durskin butter, we were told. Dulse? we asked, though the colour was wrong. Eventually we worked it out. Finely blitzed crispy duck skin had been blended into the butter. On top of the wonderful bread, this could have been a starter in its own right, and I would happily have paid good money for it. While the bread isn’t made inhouse, it was specially commissioned. We were told that a lot of experimentation was done to reach the correct balance between the sweetness of the treacle and the bitterness of the beer.
To the menu proper. Attached to a five star international hotel, you would expect a range of standards. The best of Scottish steak is on offer along with a whole lemon sole. In fact a lot of the dishes seemed reasonably familiar. It is a mark of a very fine chef to take dishes which we have all eaten before and recreate them better than we have ever tasted them. A beef tartare was one of the very finest examples, the garlic “croutons” being wonderfully long thin slices of a baguette or such like, crisped to perfection, and delicately perfumed. Tempura soft shell crab was also bang on, the tartare sauce being particularly fine. Daube of beef? A daube is a braise, for heaven’s sake. How do you elevate that? A couple of large chunks of slow cooked beef arrived, bursting with depths of flavour. I make a darn fine boeuf bourgignon, but mine doesn’t get close. An 11 hour (not 10, not 12) slow roast pork belly is a Greenaway classic. I’d eaten it before years ago when he had his bistro in Stockbridge. Treats as good as this are well worth repeating.
We also went for a couple of sides. The one slight let down was the dish of roasted turnips (navet, not swede) with bone marrow crumb. On the other hand, the playfully named Kentucky Fried Cauliflower (yes, really) was a triumph. I’m not familiar with the original, but I’m told this was a fine tribute (lacking, I assume, the chemical additives and E numbers of the original). Topped with blobs of aioli, it was a delight. Finally, a special word for the mashed potato. I despise the treatment of the noble spud in so many alleged fine dining establishments, where you end up with a purée, half butter and cream, half tuber. Here you have a delectable concoction, satin smooth, but still recognisably potato.
At the end of the meal, Mark’s partner Nicola Jack came over to chat to the RCoI. I don’t think we’ve met. Hello, Mr Johnston, she said. I was slightly spooked, the more so when she spoke of Lesley’s cream intolerance. I told her that which I am telling you – this food is fabulous. Mark Greenaway is renowned for his desserts: this column is renowned for skipping them. Go along and taste them for yourselves - and don’t miss the chance to sample everything else on the menu.