No room at the inn.
With a queue out of the door at new restaurant Dishoom, and another at The Refinery next door, we were stuck for somewhere to eat.
Darn me and my it’s-Christmas-but-I’m-still-flying-by-the-seat-of-my-pants-ness. Where else is on my list?
It came to me like a vision...the brand new Marco Pierre White Steakhouse Bar and Grill at the Hilton Edinburgh Carlton. Follow the illuminated helter skelter outside Princes Mall and cue Nordic power walking up the Bridges.
This four star hotel has recently undergone a £17m refurbishment, and now features thick carpets, shiny gold surfaces and a split staircase that looks a bit like something from MTV’s Cribs. And, even though it’s stuffing your gullet season, we bagged a table in their first floor restaurant no bother. It was empty, as the only other booking that night – a table of ten, with each place marked by a Santa hat – hadn’t yet appeared.
Inside, and it’s very Eighties monochrome, with soot black walls, linen clad tables, striped tub chairs and a wall of caricatures referencing Marco Pierre White’s rock ‘n’ roll cooking career. Dishes include a few MPW signatures, and I went for one of these, the salad of beetroot (£6.95).
It consisted of fridge cold discs of the root veg, but not enough of the crumbled candied walnut element, or the tiny stubs of goat’s cheese, which had the texture of over-squeezed toothpaste left on the end of the tube. The main flavours were earthy veg and the micro coriander that had been strewn over the top. Meh.
The rillettes of duck starter (£8.25) looked rather grimly anaemic, with a thick layer of pure white and heavily sea salted fat on the top of the ramekin. Still, this option tasted satisfying, with green peppercorns in the meaty mix, and two huge insole-sized slices of toasted sourdough on the side, as well as a clutch of cornichons.
As steak is their thing, for mains we’d ordered one of their Campbell Brothers fillets (£29). It made me feel Grinchy as, though there was a good charred flavour on the outside, this was a horribly gristly beast. We were chewing like reindeer who’ve found the Curly Wurly in Santa’s selection box.
Urgh. Also, I’m not sure where the promised Bordelaise butter was, as we couldn’t taste anything but bare meat. Still, a bowlful of medium girth “
Still, a bowlful of medium girth “homemade pommes frites”, which came gratis with the steak, were fine, as was the side of onion rings (£3.50).
My roast rump of lamb (£19.50) option was decent yet pedestrian, with two slabs of spongy meat that had a few chive flecks attached to their outer edges. It was supposed to be à la Dijonnaise, but I didn’t get any mustard flavour, and it came with a pile of unseasoned green beans.
Anyway, this offering was a pale imitation of another Marco classic, as if they’d played Chinese whispers with the original recipe.
As the menu is pretty predictable, we played “guess what the desserts will be” before we saw the list.
“Cheesecake, Eton mess, crème brülée...?” said my other half. Yeah, pretty much.
I made the mistake of going for Mr Coulson’s sticky toffee pudding (£5.50). Awful. There was a giant bundt cake like a puff of burnt dry sponge with the texture of mattress stuffing. The waitress took hold of the little jug on the side, to theatrically pour the butterscotch sauce over the top.
Plop, plop, went the teaspoon worth of thick lumpy sauce. Cringe.
My other half went for the “warm Chicago chocolate brownie” (£5.25), which was served cold and chalkily stale, with a layer of icing on top. A cake then, like one you get from the all-night garage after a sudden attack of the munchies. He left it.
At this point, one of the be-suited people at a Christmas function was sick on the floor (all evidence pointed to this being booze-related) at the entrance to the eatery. The staff dealt with it expertly, but it seemed like a suitable punctuation to our dessert and the comedically overpriced bill, considering what we’d just eaten.
My Christmas message: make sure there’s room at one of Edinburgh many amazing inns, or you might end up here.
Dinner for two, excluding drinks, £77.95