Edinburgh has a large of number of excellent restaurants, in fact you are somewhat spoilt for choice. We have 5 Michelin star restaurants and a pocket-full of award winning restaurants scattered all over the city, that is except for George Street which has, for a number of years, been somewhat void of good food; in my opinion anyway.
This ‘showcase street’ of the city’s Georgian new town has always been a mismatch of jewellers, solicitors offices, the odd bank and unfortunately a number of uninspiring chain eateries.
So for many it’s a very welcome sight to see not only a new restaurant on the street, but a new restaurant run by one of London’s most prominent restaurateurs Des McDonald.
For anyone who doesn’t know the name Des rose to fame as head chef for the legendary Ivy in London and then moving from kitchen to board room and became CEO of Caprice Holdings, which has a string of London restaurants to its name (Q Grill Chalk Farm, Vintage Salt etc) . We are not strangers to Mr McDonald and have already eaten in his acclaimed Holborn Dining Room in London.
The Location & Background
Where did the name come from? The name of the restaurant is inspired from Edinburgh’s rich literary heritage, it’s not just JK Rowling that has helped inflate Edinburgh’s global status to a literary centre of the world there are a string of writers living in the city.
The Printing Press sits on what was formerly a townhouse – Number 25 and in 1780 was the home to Susan Ferrier (think a Scottish Jane Austin) by 1840 records show a John Oliphant living there whose descendants created one of Scotland’s most prestigious printing houses so the restaurant name could not be more fitting to the location.
As you walk in through the restaurant’s revolving door you are immediately greeted by the maître d. To your right you have the bar area serving wines and cocktails.
Ahead of you, you have a seating area for the bar, that also doubles up as extra space for the restaurant at busy points and beyond you have the formal restaurant where the ‘action happebs’. This is definitely a place for the evening, it’s cosy and decorated in a 1920’s speakeasy style. Soft lighting from chandeliers above you and ‘gas style’ wall lighting combined with large white and black marble floor tiles give the feeling of being in Manhattan for a moment not Edinburgh. It’s a similar look and feel to the Holborn Dining Rooms but a lot of softer finishes.
The menu has one clear vision in mind and that is to offer seasonal meat, game and fish dishes using local suppliers; And why not, Scotland has some of the highest quality produce in the world so why bother looking elsewhere for something that we already have on our doorstep.
Their signature dish is the Spatchcock Borders Grouse, served with red cabbage and brambles. The game is supplied by Campbell Brothers, who bring more than 100 years of butchery experience to the table.
Food is prepared on a Josper grill to give it a charcoal finish – Josper grills are few and far between, try the Honours in Glasgow which also has one, these grills separate the men from the boys in the restaurant scene!
The menu is simple to navigate and the offering well thought out. Nine starters, a range of salads and sandwiches, mains and steaks, sides and snacks (more about the snacks later).
An extensive wine list offering red and white, old and new world as well as a good range of champagnes, many by the glass mean you can pair up wines to each course without being limited to drinking a bottle by the course; which is fine in my books 😉 or sticking to the house wine.
It’s a meat and game restaurant so much so that vegetarians get a slither of a look in which is understandable, but slightly disappointing – for starters I was limited to soup, but for mains they have a daily vegetarian special – which was delicious, but I didn’t understand why they don’t even mention on the menu that they have a vegetarian option. For my meat-eating partner he was in heaven.
But before the starters let me tell you about our waitress and the butter. Our waitress was a bubbly and ever so helpful North American girl called Linda. New to the restaurant she knew her stuff, but was also quick to tell us she didn’t know everything about the menu, which I think is a great quality – don’t wing it, go and find out from someone else. Linda really went above and beyond and it wasn’t just because we were writing about the restaurant, I could hear her attention to detail for all the tables she was serving near us, so top marks Linda!!
And the butter… well what can I say, there really isn’t anything better than good bread and butter. Served to all tables – Sourdough with Abernethy butter it is the best butter I have tasted in a long time, I was troweling it onto the sourdough. (You can buy the butter from Fortnum and Masons).
I started with the pumpkin soup which is served with a slice of muffin. It was bloody delicious, extremely rich, and the muffin was a nice change from bread.
The roasted wood pigeon appeared to be hitting the spot with my dinner parter as ‘mmm’ sounds came from across the table. At the end of the meal he did say that it was one of the best starters he has had.
The mains were both winners. I had the Puy Lentils, Rosted Cauliflower, Turnip & Wild Mushrooms. Great to see some imagination put into a vegetarian dish so full marks. The Grouse dish (which was subsituted for Partridge) also got the same “mmm” and “delicious” noises from across the table as well.
Puy Lentils, Rosted Cauliflower, Turnip & Wild Mushrooms
A Cheeky Side
Who doesn’t love a Mac & Cheese, this Scottish insitution of a meal is calorifically indulgent and perfect in the winter months. It is called a ‘snack’ on the menu but was about the same size as my mains and finished with a crusty top, perfect!
We finished with the cheese, I always will if chesse is on the menu. Tha board included an Ayershire Barwhey and Lanarkshire Dunsyre Blue as well as a goat’s cheese, plum chutney, crab paste and quince jelly – not to mention crackers. It was a good sized portion, the crackers worked well with the cheese (the cheese could have done with resting at room temperature a touch more though).
My eyes nearly popped out of my head when I saw my friends Salted Caramel Pot… I might have chosen badly with the cheese when I saw this dessert. A test of a good pudding in my book is if you can stand the spoon upright in the pudding, and you certainly could, this dessert was jam-packed with caramel and finished off with dark chocolate. I ended up eating half of it, it was a winner!
Dinner for two including wine is around £95 plus tip. It’s a great place to go and all you Edinburgh foodies you should definitely try it. My only criticism is not having a wider choice of vegetarian options (one vegetarian option that isn’t soup for a starter wouldn’t go amiss), but that aside the whole experience definitely gets top marks.
Address: 21-25 George Street, Edinburgh
Phone: 0131 240 7177