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Gleneagles Townhouse, Edinburgh, restaurant review

It's been a long time coming

Published: July 16, 2022
Categories:
Food: 
8.5/10
Ambience: 
9/10

The Gleneagles Hotel calls itself “the glorious playground”.

If that’s the case, then the much anticipated Edinburgh outpost of the 98-year-old five-star Auchterarder destination must be the creche.

And it seems to have taken so long to launch, presumably thanks to Covid, that I almost threw a toddler tantrum. Well, only metaphorically, but there was a small huff that involved me chucking one of my Paw Patrol toys out of the window.

But here it is - at last - with its 33 bedrooms, and members and residents' bar, Lamplighters, up on the rooftop, where you’ll also find six statues representing navigation, commerce, manufacture, science, art and agriculture. There’s even a gym and spa, which offers cryotherapy (but not cryonics, though I’m sure the wealthier members will get that soon), and the all-day open-to-all ground floor restaurant, The Spence.

I think I was more excited about seeing what they’d done with the A-listed former Bank of Scotland building than I was about the food, which is looked after by head chef Jonny Wright.

Indeed, it’s impressive. There are the Peterhead granite Corinthian columns, the busts of eminent Scottish dudes, like Burns, and the Polo-mint-white elaborate cornices.

Your eye is always drawn heavenwards, thanks to the natural light from the cupola. However, at the floor level, they’ve softened the space that surrounds the central bar and open kitchen. There are mint green banquettes, and bolster cushions, with little tasseled lamps on the table as if you’re on the Orient Express. And the toilets, like the ones at this place’s mothership, are totally plush.

I am a sucker for the detail, especially the embroidered napkins, with an elaborate red S in their corner, which also appears on the ice-cubes. I have never been so excited about frozen water.

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When we took our seats, I felt as comfortable as a hen settling onto its nest.

The food offerings are casual, but with luxurious tweaks. Birthday food.

I’m very happy that there are name-checks of some favourite small producers, like Bostock, Company Bakery, and Valentian Vermouth.

I skipped past the Bread & Snacks and Oyster & Shellfish sections, and went straight for a starter of Loch Etive sea trout (£13). This consisted of three gummy pink strips of fish, all topped by bricks of kohlrabi, feathery strands of dill, dots of lemon gel and a few crunchy prawn crackers. It came with a little jug of salty dashi on the side.

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There were similar citrus zings with the West Coast crab crumpet (£15), which featured meat that was mashed and herb-y, without a single piece of carapace shrapnel. It was topped with radish sails, yuzu gel and served on a well griddled crumpet.

I could have gone for a main of native lobster penne (£34) or bbq saddleback pork chop (£27), but I boosted my iron levels with a main of Tweed Valley zabuton steak (£23). It was exactly as described - simply a piece of medium rare meat, sliced like a Sunblest loaf.

This cut is a bit of work, when it comes to chewing, but it was worth it for the flavour, and the bone marrow sauce accompaniment was a rich and Bovril-y eau de beef.

I also got a side of craggy and crunchy fries (£4.50), which had been seasoned with Blackthorn Sea Salt and rosemary. We ended up dousing them in the sauce, like an upmarket version of poutine without the curds.

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As far as luxurious dishes go, the morel tagliatelle (£16) was also up there. It was earthy and truffle-y, rich and savoury. There were yolky-coloured and robust pasta ribbons, whole morels with caps like bath-wrinkled fingers, and a thick thatch of grated Pecorino.

There is a pudding menu, and they bring them round on a trolley, which is fun but also slightly awks. We were shown the fromage - hello, cheeses, looking mighty fine - then the puds. These were on the bottom deck and included Amalfi lemon meringue tart (£8) and the chocolate and hazelnut rocher (£8.50) among other goodies. They also do a Glenturret Scotch baba for two (£15).

Under pressure to choose and turning bright red, for some reason, I went for the raspberry doughnut (£7.50) and instantly regretted it.

Anyway, it won me over. This was sugar frosted and dense, with a middle of custard and raspberry jam, and came with a mini glass bottle of Nesquik, which is a quirky idea.

The sweetness restored my blood sugar and, thus, assuaged any future tantrums.

However, as this place is all I’d hoped, the toys will be staying in the pram.

39 St Andrew Square

Edinburgh

(0800 917 4655, www.gleneagles.com)

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Gaby Soutar is a lifestyle editor at The Scotsman. She has been reviewing restaurants for The Scotsman Magazine since 2007 and edits the weekly food pages.

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