number one, The Balmoral, Edinburgh


number one

The Balmoral, 1 Princes Street, Edinburgh EH2 2EQ

0131 557 6727    website 3MBSbzB

number one interior

The Bill

3 course Dinner Menu (Thu/Sun/Mon) £85

7 course Tasting Menu £115


The Score

Cooking  8.5/10 | Service 5/5 

Flavour  4.5/5 | Value 4.5/5

TOTAL 22.5/25 

Should Chef Mathew Sherry and any of his ultra talented team ever decide they wish a change of career, I would suggest dolls' house furniture; or microchips; or anything involving state of the art nano-technology. The evidence? A sandwich, the filling being a pink and white striped square approximately 1cm on each side, the wrapper being two crisp translucent wafers, each the size of a thumb nail, with just enough overlap to hold a blob of caviar. Or two grissini, each the width of a couple of cocktail sticks. And a tiny filo tart containing a ball of mousse of the most distilled beetroot flavour imaginable. If the minute blobs of decoration on its surface made it look disconcertingly like the pictures of the Covid 19 virus, I for one wasn't caring.

I've written recently about being let down by amuse bouche. When you're dining out at this level they should make you shout with joy, and whoop and sing. I did all of these things, but silently. Though I don't think assistant manager Keith who was in charge would have turned a hair had volume been involved. We'd arranged our booking through him. Manager Emma Hemy later emailed us to say she was sorry to miss us as it was her night off, and hoped we'd enjoyed ourselves. As they say, service standards begin at the top.

It's dinner only here, the only choice being the 7 course tasting menu. Supposing I were to possess the necessary skill levels, I think it would take me about three days to create this. Where to start? Let's be conventional and begin at the beginning. The idea of a tartare of squid would normally propel L into Dante's Ninth Circle, but I've never seen anything like this. A little green mound with a tiny gloop of loveliness at the centre. (Excuse the technical language.) Continuing the circles, asparagus. A bowl of yellow and green gloop (still at it, sorry) with a piece of white French asparagus in the middle. Where was the green asparagus which had been announced? Underneath is the answer, finely chopped up with cured egg yolk.

Sweetbreads aren't to everyone's taste, but when they form the filling and sauce for some delicate tortellini, I think a few converts are there to be made. Bizarrely, the vast scallop was probably the most uninspired of the seven, so let's move swiftly on to the rest of the Magnificent. When we read that the the Hopetoun Estate Roe Deer dish was coming from our good friends Andy and Neil at Castle Game, we became quite protective. Don't mess up. As if. A bit of loin, a bit of leg, I think, and a little cabbage parcel stuffed with a mousse. Where is the kohlrabi, I muse? Oh, that's it in an exquisite puree. Dish of the night.

It was mostly a white wine meal, but we had a glass of red to go with the bambi. It seemed logical, therefore, to continue to the optional cheese plate. Back to dolls' house proportions. Four slivers of OK stuff left a slightly sour taste at a 20 quid supplement, notwithstanding the interesting array of preserved accompaniments.

The last lap saw the kitchen back on track. Advertised simply as Balmoral Honey, yoghurt mousse, this confection was off set by a perfectly shaped mini biscuit honeycomb, an extraordinary feat of construction. And finally, rhubarb, as befits the season.

One of my aversions to a tasting menu is that, if served badly, there is far too much chat. A fortiori,  as we used to say in Lochgelly, if you go for the paired wines. You want that in English? Well, over and above, and forbye, there's too much gassing. We explained this to Keith. Our wine - a bottle of white and a glass of red - was served by the charming Simona from Puglia. She was the assistant sommelier. At the next table, we heard a great deal of gas being exuded by a colleague of hers while serving a couple of glasses of still wine.

I think this is only the second time I've eaten here, but on each occasion I've encountered some of the best service ever. Bright eyed and fun, ultra professional without ever being fawning or over familiar. We've had cheers for Keith and Emma and Simona. Let's have some more, and include Rodrigo from Sao Paulo, and Scott from Perth, Australia.

In fact, while we're at it, cheers for Mathew Sherry; cheers for Sir Rocco Forte; and cheers to you for reading this. You'll gather that number one is the sort of place that engenders bonhomie.


  1. MW on 17th April 2023 at 12:12 pm

    I remember well eating there back in the day when “THE BIG F” (they who gave me a job) picked up the bill…It sounds like it’s still worth the visit…Would it cause an uproar if I’d asked for a pint of Guinness…just to cleanse my palette…before the meal?
    Keep up the good work.

    • Tom Johnston on 18th April 2023 at 5:59 pm

      I think that, at a place of this sophistication, the pint of Guinness should be an inter-course palate cleanser.

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