She's much more Downton Abbey than Dallas, but my mum has always been partial to a bit of drama. So when we arranged a showstopping visit to a classic Edinburgh venue, she put on her gladrags and prepared to be entertained.
The grandeur of the space was a surprise to mum who hadn’t previously trotted up the stairs of the Victorian townhouse turned hotel to discover the Royal British, cocktail bar Juniper and our destination, Twenty Princes Street Grill & Smokehouse. If you have to stick momma on a train later (rather than throw her off it, it is Mother’s Day after all) it’s the perfect spot as it’s located just across the road from Waverley Station.
Twenty Princes Street occupies a large room but it doesn’t overwhelm as tables are well spaced out and there are a number of cosy booths. After securing one of these we felt instantly conspiratorial and in need of a glass of prosecco (£5.50) while we took in our lavish surroundings and guessed the subjects of the paintings and illustrations adorning the walls, mainly of Edinburgh themes. From our vantage point near the window there were also glorious views of the capital’s skyline.
We picked an Errazuriz 1870 Sauvignon Blanc from Chile (£23) which our waiter had suggested would go well with food, thanks to its crisp flavour, but if you are intent on honouring the reason for your visit with a dash of mother’s ruin, there are ten gin serves on offer including Rock Rose from Dunnet Bay Distillers and Edinburgh Gin’s Cannonball.
There’s a knowing element of theatre throughout this menu curated by Tony Sarton, who was named Hotel Chef of the Year at the Scottish Hotel Awards last year, but the playfulness never detracts from the flavour of the dishes served.
From the list of warm-up acts mum chose Parmesan mousse with tomato and onion salad, black olive soil (£6) which came disguised as a beef tomato, and genuinely foxed her (it was the real stalk on the top that did it). She said it was a light delight. On the eve of the Italy v Scotland Six Nations rugby international dad led early celebrations by ordering haggis ravioli with roast swede, chicken butter, warm Drambuie jelly and crisp potato (£5.50). He savoured every morsel, and loved the Drambuie jelly.
"The crab sandwich was presented like something from Alice In Wonderland"
We were back in the West End with my “crab sandwich” – dressed Scottish white crab on toasted malt bread, brown crab butter & crab tea (£7.50) which was presented like something from Alice In Wonderland. The salty broth was poured from an oriental teapot into a dinky glass teacup while I spread the quenelle of smooth brown butter on to a slice of miniature loaf and sprinkled the white crab on top. Utterly delicious without a speck of shell to spoil the effect.
What on earth would arrive next we wondered gleefully, fully on board with the theatrics and anticipating the next act.
For the main event mum tucked into roast rack of suckling Iberico pork, red onion, port & Earl Grey infused plums, fondant potato and mustard seeds (£18) which she thoroughly enjoyed and found well cooked, but crucially, also moist. She particularly liked the tangy taste of the plums.
“Fish without the faff” was how father described his elegant salt & rosemary-baked seabass with black pepper and dill crushed potatoes & brown shrimp butter (£17) which was released from its parchment sarcophagus and expertly skinned at the table by our waitress. All dad had to do was eat it.
I stuck to the fishy theme with half a kilo of mussels (£8) swimming in classic marinière sauce and cream, though I could have teamed them with a chilli, lemongrass, coriander and coconut broth. Plump and tasty, there wasn’t a dud shell among them.
The desserts listed on the encore menu were too tempting to resist so we chose two to share.
The Jaffa cake (£6) – dark chocolate and orange ganache, orange bavarois, orange jelly & vanilla sponge – was handily deconstructed, making it easier for us to completely demolish it.
The family chocoholics jousted forks to secure the larger share of the delicious solid central pillar. But the “Fire and Ice” Banoffee Baked Alaska (£6.50) featuring flaming rum, caramelised banana, toffee and vanilla ice cream, sponge & toasted meringue was the perfect finale. Dry ice wafted towards us as it made its stately approach to our table and when our lovely waitress set it ablaze with her lighter it was all we could do not to applaud.
Main courses £11-£21
ALSO ON THE MENU
If mum prefers afternoon tea to lunch, it is served here daily from 3pm-5pm. Starting at £20 per person for treats including a selection of teas and coffees, there is also a £26 per person menu which features a glass of chilled Moët & Chandon champagne or pick one of Juniper’s classic cocktails.
On a budget? The Twenty’s Plenty menu offers a choice of two main courses from a list including chilli and coriander marinated salmon and corn-fed chicken supreme plus two drinks for £20 and is available from Monday to Friday, noon-5.30pm.
Twenty Princes Street Grill & Smokehouse
Royal British, Princes Street, Edinburgh
(0131-652 7370, www.twentyprincesstreet.co.uk)