Hotel bars and restaurants can sometimes be a hard product to successfully appeal to the local market, make them too tied into the overall hotel experience and people feel put off visiting. With the multimillion pound renovation of the G&V Hotel in 2016, the hotel’s bar (Epicurean) and restaurant (Cucina) have been transformed into a local Food and Drink experience that should absolutely be on your list of places to visit in Edinburgh!
At TLE we like to keep our finger on Edinburgh’s culinary pulse so we checked out the bar and restaurant to see for ourself what has been happening both on the menu and on the plates at this super cool destination.
Background & Concept
Cucina is modern Italian dining through and through – from the staff, the head chef, the menu, the full dining experience is a true taste of contemporary Italian culture. Forget a trattoria style restaurant with terracotta artex, the space has a clean-cut contemporary look which is alive with colour thanks to Scottish designers Timorous Beasties (we have had our eye on their work for many years). Printed wallpaper in a dramatic pattern, dynamic art and strong colours have been ingeniously employed with wave-shaped art pieces offering an interesting contrast. The imposing pillars are wrapped in colour to become an art piece, as well as being a cleverly functional way to break up the restaurant. Bright red and turquoise table surfaces, squishy cushions with colourful floral and paint prints and diner-style booths (offering a comfortable option for larger groups) complete the chic urban style. There’s lots going on, lots of impressions, but it works.
In true Mediterranean fashion the outdoors also has a look in at the hotel with their own outdoor terrace nestled in the backyard of the building, that can be accessed from the restaurant. It’s a complete hidden gem in the city and a great spot for when the days start to become a little warmer.
The hotel’s bar has also been completely redesigned, I used to drink in the former bar (which did great cocktails I might add), but the space always felt a bit like an extension of the hotel lobby and not a place for spending the evening in. The new bar Epicurean has risen out of this space like a golden phoenix, now a closed off space it finally feels like a cocktail bar worth visiting. The space is dark and moody with splashes of colour that nod to the Scottish Colourists and dark, vertical wooden panels on the wall create the perfect backdrop for the blue and purple lights from the bookcase. The striking white marble-topped bar is the perfect contrast with the black and white hounds-tooth tiled floor, and the dark wooden panels from the walls are also represented in the bar front. Music is as cool as the bar – when we were in they were playing a mix of house and techno which immediately took me back to my clubbing days, this is the perfect bar to get the evening started!
Created by some of the best mixologists in town Epicurean serves colourful cocktails and aromatic infusions using home-grown flowers and herbs from G&V’s unique Evogro hydroponic and fresh and natural ingredients from the hotel’s rooftop honey bees!
The menu has been designed by Head Chef Mattia Camorani (you can view the menu here). Mattia used to work with Michelin Starred chef Giorgio Locatelli (Locanda Restaurant London) and has developed a menu at Cucina that takes the Italian flavours we all love and the freshest of ingredients to create dishes that might be unfamiliar to many of us but incredibly delicious – forget the standard Italian classics you get in other restaurants. For example for starters you could opt for West coast mackerel, fennel puree, confit lemon & borage, or Squid Ink cannelloni with crab meat and langoustine bisque. For mains you could have Sea bass with sun blush tomato crust, global artichoke puree, tomato & green olives or BBQ corn fed chicken breast, mash potato, swiss chard with lentil & barley ragu, or have a pasta from their concise Pasta and Risotto section.
When you come into the hotel you will spot their hydroponic herbs growing on the ground floor and these fresh herbs are used in many of the dishes in Cucina, the hotel is also home to rooftop bee hives with the honey being used in the restaurant too.
Italy is a powerhouse of wine production with every region of the country producing it. Cucina’s wine list matches this diversity with a list offering well-known Italian grapes to rarer vintages. There are over 80 wines to choose from and with bottles starting at £21 it is extremely affordable. Navigate through the wine list the way we did and get some help from the sommelier who will help you pair a wine to your meal order it’s worth taking their advice!
What We Ate
Before starters while you wait for drinks the waiter comes around with a bread basket full of breads made fresh in the restaurant, they are all Italian in style and come with a rich fruity olive oil and balsamic vinegar to dip the bread into, delicious.
For starters I opted for the Cavolo e Curry, which is a lightly spiced dish made from a slice of cooked cauliflower, topped with watercress, and a matching puree dip to accompany it. It is light and fresh and quite different to what you would normally expect on an Italian menu and my dining partner went for the Lingua di bue con salsa giardiniera – thin slices of Inverurie ox tongue accompanied with a very light giardiniera salad.
When I said to my dining partner we were going to Cucina, he spent the days before examining the menu and decided he had to try one of their pasta dishes. Having read reviews online he opted for the Wild Bore Ragu – Conchiglie con ragu’ di cinghiale. It is presented simply, but it has the most incredible taste (and I mean incredible to the point that we wouldn’t stop talking about it). Homemade conchiglie pasta is covered in a rich sauce made from wild boar and finished with parmesan, I tried a few bites and have to agree it is some of the best pasta I have tried.
For my main I went for the steak option Tagliata di carne con rucola e scaglie di parmigiano – Char-grilled ribeye steak with rocket & parmesan, my steak was medium rare just as I had asked for, already sliced into thin slices and the big slices of parmesan work well with the meat. Again a simple dish, but incredibly tasty.
The dessert menu cleverly offers dessert wine suggestions for each dessert option, which we also tried! We shared a Cassata Siciliana – which is a beautiful pudding of caramel sponge with a pistachio ice cream centre covered in piped sweet ricotta cheese and dusted with candied fruit, that looked too pretty to open. And we also shared one of their indulgent cheese boards with a large selection of Italian cheeses, honey from their own bees and plenty of crackers!
The Finances and Details
Cucina and Epicurean are well worth a visit – the bar is a great place to spend an evening with a great atmosphere, so head in for a drink, you will love the new look bar! Cucina is great value for money given the quality of the food and drink and it has a modern look that is a breath of fresh air to the norm in the city.
Address: 1 George IV Bridge, Edinburgh, EH1 1AD
Tel: 0131 240 1666