Only four sleeps until I have to drag our Christmas tree out of the cellar.
It’s a decades old plastic thing, with one wobbly leg and a few LEDs that stay resolutely unlit.
I’ll also have to untangle all the tinsel, like the feather boas of a cabaret gone bad. It'll look great once I’ve got the umpteen decorations on, from my childhood red reindeer, with mangey patches of flock missing, to the recent addition of a felted mouse on skis. This is a sentimental tree, and we don’t mind that it looks a bit drunk.
It would certainly never win in a beauty competition against this five-star hotel’s creations.
At the bottom of the staircase, as well as a forest of pines, there’s a grotto of woodland creatures, including an actual-size white reindeer, a sleigh and a polar bear, snoring loudly.
Up in The Pompadour, you’ll find a Christmas tree that almost touches the ceiling rose and is covered in blue and silver baubles. It all makes me feel slightly less Grinchy.
Anyway, it’s the perfect time to visit my favourite dining room, which was taken over by MasterChef: The Professionals 2018 finalist and owner of Haar restaurant in St Andrews, Dean Banks, this year. I’d postponed my visit, as the evening tasting menu is £85pp for six-courses and I knew that wouldn’t get past our expenses department. Bah humbug. I bided my time until they launched a lunch menu, at £55pp and available on Fridays and Saturdays. We were straight in, like Santa up a drainpipe (he uses those when the chimneys are blocked).
The Pomp is looking different inside, with a slightly incongruous nautical theme, including aqua-coloured seats and a display of reeds, though the beautiful frescoes of Madame de Pompadour are still in place. I could almost feel the sea levels rising and wanted to hitch up my crinoline, when we were presented with our Snacks.
These consisted of a pair of Loch Fyne oysters with sea buckthorn jelly, jalapeno and coriander oil. A jugful of wakame water was poured into the bowl, and smoke billowed out, like the waiter was a DJ at the local seafood disco. The bivalves went down the hatch - a hit of tangy hot freshness.
There was also a mini loaf of super soft, warm and sweet cornbread, which came with a light and frothy miso butter that tasted a bit like Marmite.
Course two was beef cheek. Although there were no theatrical shenanigans with this dish, it still looked dramatic - a sticky clod of black, consisting of 18-hour cooked meat topped by a gochujang glaze and sesame seeds. Around the sides were a swirl of black sesame ponzu dressing, a blob of fermented black garlic and herby green oil. It was intense - a bludgeon of salty umami flavour.
The North Sea cod was a little more subtle. It had been cured in miso sauce and came with rainbow chard and celeriac, as well as a rich and smooth bright orange pumpkin and coconut veloute with lemongrass and a drizzle of Thai basil oil. Wrap it up, and stick it under the tree for me.
The hogget dish was the most diminutive, but just as delicious. It featured a slice of hogget-sauce-covered loin - gone in two happy bites - a nib of belly and a tiny patty of head and neck topped by a brunoise of courgette and something spicy. There were also dots of tamarind gel and two perfectly 3D feather impressions, which looked liked lucite brooches but were made from pumpkin.
Many photos were taken, as everything looked so spectacular. Same goes for our final course.
There was a conker shiny ganache-topped dome that was fringed by a sunflower seed praline. Inside was a Brazilian chocolate mousse, a layer of gooey dulce de leche and another of tart elderberry jelly. On the side, was a malty scoop of miso dulce de leche ice-cream and a chalky sweet milky powder that Madame P might have used to powder her nose.
Once we’d asked for the bill, the waitress asked if she could take our picture by the tree - “since you both look so nice”. Bless her.
We both posed, looking well fed and with chocolate on our teeth.
That’s our Christmas card sorted. We’ll be sending those out next week, and pretending that’s OUR tree in the background.
Princes Street Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh - The Caledonian
(07770 451 668, www.deanbanks.co.uk)
Places to try Nearby
This venue isn’t only about tours and drinks, there’s also the rooftop restaurant and bar. Dishes can be ordered with or without meat, so you can add Robertsons of Ayr crispy pork belly to the option of heritage potato hasselbacks, red cabbage, apple, wholegrain mustard and toasted cobnuts.
There’s a nice cocktail list at Dean Banks’ place, but if you want to repair elsewhere, this new bar is opening at the beginning of December (exact date tbc). They offer theatrical drinks, like the Citizen Cane, featuring Glenfiddich and a smoke bubble on top.
Dine, Saltire Court, 10 (1F) Cambridge Street, Edinburgh (0131 218 1818, www.dineedinburgh.co.uk)
Dine has launched the Festive Party Menu, which is available for parties of 12 or less. Dishes include the roast turkey, cranberry and pistachio roulade with Brussels sprouts and pancetta, duck fat roast potatoes, cranberry jelly and bread sauce.