A few years ago, our office was taken over by The Youth. For old time’s sake, I lurked outside the former Scotsman building so I could see what changes games company Rockstar North had made, but I was thwarted by a graffitied partition.
Rumour has it they have their own zoo, hot air balloon launch pad and water park in there, so they’ll definitely have an amazing canteen and team of latte foam artistes.
Thus, they probably won’t be eating across the road, in the new restaurant on the ground floor of the Macdonald Holyrood Hotel.
This space has hosted a succession of eateries over the years. I’ve reviewed about four, and they were all rotten.
In the old days, we’d sometimes pop in for tea or coffee, and they weren’t even any good at that. So, even though the newest incarnation has Paul Tamburrini, former chef director of Martin Wishart’s The Honours at the helm, I was still wary about dinner, especially as the hard-to-navigate Macdonald Hotel website describes the place as a “slightly decadent version of what a bistro should be”.
What does that even mean?
The new decor is tres chic, if a little austere, but I love the dapper staff uniform of sapphire velvet jackets.
We both kicked off with Appetizers of Lindisfarne oyster G&Ts (£4 each), and they were beautiful.
There was a billowy sea fresh beast on top of lemon granita and, apparently, a bit of this fruit confited, with a foraged oysterleaf and a sweet yellow popcorn shoot (actually grown from sprouting popcorn, presumably harvested from underneath cinema seats) on the side. My mouth tingled for ages after eating it, like I’d used an electrically charged mouthwash.
I continued the fresh theme with the organic beetroot, apple, yogurt and gazpacho (£8) option – simple and lovely, tangy, crunchy and sweet in all the right places. My other half won, though, with the special (£12.50) – squat scallops with toasted edges, a nest of tagliatelle and a scoop of black truffle purée.
He was making funny noises, like when a guinea pig gets a stick of celery to itself.
Mains were old school and magnificent. “It’s a big rabbit,” said Peter, the lovely maitre’d, when I ordered the bunny (£21), so I was steeling myself for some sort of Donnie Darko-esque scale.
I received a relatively burly leg, but with a neatly turned ankle, glossy with jus, and served with a jug of creamy mustard sauce and the best crispy-edged caramelised and buttery fondant potatoes EVER. The side of spiced carrots (£4) were putty soft and sprinkled with caraway seeds.
Another special – the Gigha halibut (£23) – was equally lush. The meaty fish came with mussels and a clutch of cockles in their pin-striped shells and, underneath, the soupy sauce was almost musky thanks to saffron and rich stock, with tiny sawdust-sized slivers of chorizo and a touch of coconut milk to lift the weightiness.
The remains were mopped up, Belgian style, with a few chips (£4), and even these were perfect in their feathery potatoey-ness.
Our stomachs were pretty stowed out by this point, so we went for two of the frothier desserts, each of which was served in a coupe glass.
My tiramisu (£8) featured a layer of espresso granita, a plush mascarpone ice cream, then chocolate-y mousse.
Our other sundae-ish option (£8) was loosely based on crema Catalana, with a bottom layer of pineapple, banana chunks and sherry, which prompted a (good) flashback to mum’s Seventies trifles.
There was also a billowing and nutmeg-dusted vanilla cloud of foam, and a scoop of traffic-cone-coloured mango sorbet.
Like everything else here, all the ingredients were the best versions of themselves, like Tamburrini is some kind of life coach for food.
Since Rockstar North won’t let me in, I’m glad there’s now a decadent eating out option at the end of Holyrood Road. If my office was nearer, I’d make it my canteen.
Macdonald Holyrood Hotel, 81 Holyrood Road, Edinburgh
(0344 879 9028, www.macdonaldhotels.co.uk)