The Caledonian Hotel is somewhat of an institution in Edinburgh, standing proudly on the junction of Princes Street and Lothian Road. Not only does the hotel itself impress, but the in- house restaurants are also very well regarded in the city and Catherine from The Luxury Editor went along recently to try out their Saturday lunch menu.
Background & Concept
The Pompadour by Galvin has been open since 2012 and is the Caledonian’s prize culinary offering. Created by the two Galvin brothers, Chris and Jeff, The Pompadour offers world-class food, inspired by the brothers’ French cuisine background, using fresh and seasonal ingredients. The restaurant’s reputation proceeds itself, and having heard nothing but good things from those who had previously visited, I was very excited to sample what was on offer.
After ascending the grand and curving staircase, we turn to our right and receive a formal but friendly greeting at a reception desk. Our coats are promptly swept away and we are shown to our table near the middle of the room, but still with an impressive (and undoubtedly unrivalled) view of St Cuthbert’s Church and Edinburgh castle beyond. Despite it being a very grey day, the outlook from the restaurant is stunning.
The tables were set perfectly with all the flourishes expected of such a restaurant: crisp white linen tablecloths, polished silver cutlery, and smart staff who were attentive but not obtrusive (my wine and water glasses were never empty).
As you walk into the dining room you are immediately aware of the grand, but at the same time subtle, decor. The walls, a shade of eggshell blue, have panels that are hand-painted with intricate almost oriental designs. There are crystal chandeliers that don’t hang too low, and plush carpets that feel freshly laid underfoot but are neutral in colour. The wall lights are decorative gold branches but with classic shades. The dinning room is incredibly beautiful but simultaneously understated. My favourite feature was the unique arched windows on two sides of the room, a clue as to the building’s heritage and former purpose.
The atmosphere in the restaurant was somewhat subdued, despite the more contemporary music playing. For me lunch is more of a social meal and I would appreciate a buzzier atmosphere. Bear in mind however, the restaurant was not full, and the one day they open for lunch has just been moved to Saturday from Friday.
The Menu & Food
There are 2 different lunch menus on offer; the 3-course lunch menu and the 5-course taster menu. We opted for the 3-course lunch (due to my dietary necessities), but both claim to offer the ‘best Scottish ingredients that change with the season.’ The Pompadour can also cater to food intolerances and dietary requirements as requested. As a part-time vegetarian (who eats poultry and seafood), the 3-course menu had enough choice. It’s good to note that there were no full vegetarian options on the lunch menu, and so an alternative vegetarian menu would need to be requested (something they are easily able to do).
In the end, I chose to put myself out of my comfort zone for the starter and opted for the Saffron braised squid with butterbeans & sea herbs; followed by the Corn-fed chicken breast with olive oil panisse, carrot puree & sauce niçoise (much more within my comfort zone); and to finish, the Salted Valhrona dulce chocolate crèmeux with prune and rum ice cream. My companion, who wasn’t as limited by dietary requirements, chose Pork cheek with crackling, pickled cabbage and Shitake dashi to start; followed by the Haunch and faggot of venison with wild mushrooms, pommes Anna, red cabbage and calcots; and finally, Apple Tarte Tatin with vanilla ice cream to finish.
The Sommelier was most helpful in aiding us with wine choice, offering friendly advice: for me a Pouilly-Fume to complement my squid, for my companion a Gigondas to go with the venison. Most helpfully, many of the wines are sold by the glass or by the half bottle. This suited us down to the ground as we had chosen such different food options.
We started with an amuse bouche (caviar on a blini with crème fresh) which was delicate and a hint at what was to follow.
The starters arrived promptly afterwards and we were immediately impressed with the presentation of the dishes. Having had bad experiences with squid in the past, I was apprehensive about my starter. I needn’t have worried as the squid was cooked perfectly, and the ‘sea herbs’ combined with the juices from the meat created a delicious bouillon. My companion’s pork cheek was a lovely east meets west fusion, the succulent pork complemented by a miso-style broth with intense flavour.
After a very successful starter, the main courses came out, again beautifully presented. The corn-fed chicken dish may have been unassuming at first look, but because of it’s simplicity, it was perfect. I particularly enjoyed how moist the dish was thanks to both the carrot puree´ and the sauce Niçoise. My companion also really enjoyed her Venison; the meat melted in the mouth and was served with a fruity jus and a selection of seasonal vegetables. Two very clean plates were sent back to the kitchen!
Dessert is often my favourite part of a meal as I have an insatiable sweet tooth! Once my chocolate crèmeux arrived, I wasn’t disappointed. Again, the presentation was incredible and I had no idea where to begin! I often feel that dessert is overlooked, even in top restaurants, but the flavours and textures in this dish bounced off each other: the sharpness of the dark chocolate versus the natural sweetness of the prunes and the rum, the smoothness of the ice cream versus the slight crunch of the crumble. My companion chose a traditional French favourite, the Apple Tarte Tatin served with vanilla ice cream, which often features in French-style restaurants, but was delicious in it’s simplicity.
Finance & Details
The 3-course lunch menu is £29 per person which, considering the quality of the dishes, is very good value. Bearing in mind there a many other restaurants in the city who would charge similar prices for something not nearly of the same standard, it’s definitely worth keeping The Pompadour in mind for an occasional lunch date. The wine list is very comprehensive with some great premium wines, although there isn’t much choice in the lower range, so keep this in mind.
Overall, we thoroughly enjoyed our experience and left the restaurant, back into the Edinburgh rain, feeling very satisfied and quite relaxed. Despite the high price of the wine, we feel the lunch menu is good value for money, and the tranquil but comfortable ambience is perfect for an elegant lunch for two after some shopping (as we did), but also for a more special occasion when they arise.
Address: Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh – The Caledonian, Princes Street, Edinburgh EH1 2AB
Phone: 0131 222 8975