An exhibition of iconic Hebridean landscapes by Ron Lawson @ Alpha Gallery, Edinburgh: tranquil, timeless islands of wild scenic beauty
Before the flurry of exhibitions opening for the Edinburgh Festival season, do visit Alpha Gallery in Stockbridge to see this exhibition of paintings and prints by Ron Lawson, running from Saturday 13th July to Sunday 4th August, 2019.
A walk around the gallery will take you on an exhilarating wilderness “cruise” around the Hebrides from Barra to Tiree, Eriskay to South Uist and other islands in this archipelago off the North West coast of Scotland.
As you will see from these quirky, cool illustrations of cottages and crofts, the iconic subject matter is always recognisable as a unique Ron Lawson landscape. Surrounded by a complete barren, emptiness of the rural setting, each building is perched beside a rocky shore, a cold splash of blue sea, machair grasses, sandy beaches ..
……….or perhaps a glimpse of a lost flock of sheep.
What is so distinctive about these panorama views is the swirling sweep of a dramatic, dark sky all around; the pure grey background accentuates the white stone of buildings, rocks and sheep, as the central focus of the picture.
A thundery sky is artistic licence! For those enticed to visit, warm sunshine is often experienced here due to the gulf stream with turquoise blue water reminiscent of the Caribbean. In fact an Asian tourism advert used an image of a Berneray seascape to promote Kai Bae beach, Thailand.!
Lawson spends a few months each Spring exploring a few of these islands, camera and pencil in hand to spot a selection of these charming wee houses with coloured slate, tiled and thatched roofs. Whether these are empty, abandoned, working crofts, a boatshed or family home, there’s no indication of humanity, perpetuating the extraordinary wildnerness isolation of these communities.
With an uncanny, realistic perspective of each landscape, they capture, with real compassion, a haunting sense of Hebridean life and heritage as well as the natural, unchanging scenic beauty. While wildlife is not a signature topic, keep a beady open for a cheeky Puffin making an appearance too.
It’s the stunning quality and masterly craftsmanhip of Ron Lawson’s artwork which appeals to collectors both in Scotland and worldwide. This is a most inspiring showcase of richly evocative, atmospheric scenes, island-hopping around the Outer Hebrides – a tranquil, timeless painterly destination.
Ron Lawson: A Solo Exhibition of Original Works
Saturday 13th July to Sunday 4th August, 2019
Alpha Gallery, 52 Hamilton Place, Stockbridge, Edinburgh, EH3 5AX
Open daily, 1100 to 1700 (or by appointment)
Tel. 0131 226 3066 E. email@example.com
The Edinburgh Food Festival 2019: 19th to 28th July @ George Square Gardens – a fun, foodie Summer Picnic Party for all ages
Edinburgh Food Festival, the annual foodie event, is back again for the 5th year, bolder, brighter and bigger than ever. Before the Edinburgh Festival Fringe kicks off, Assembly George Square Gardens is the perfect, environmentally green location for a summer picnic from 19th-28th July 2019.
Surrounded by tall trees with the ground covered in a soft astro turf carpet, to protect the grass, it’s a fabulous place for all ages, couples, party groups of friends, family holiday time with the kids to enjoy a great day or evening out.
The deliciously appetising programme offers a feast of good food and drink supplied by 20 local producers and exciting, ethnic dishes served up around the stalls.
Tried and tested at my recent visit at the weekend are the scrumptious Jarvis Pickle Pies from Berwickshire. These traditional hand-crafted and baked pies have a thick pastry and range of fillings, such as the richly flavoured Vegan Mushroom and chestnut with truffle. The pungent earthy scent is divine.
And to drink? I recommend Bellfield Brewery’s gluten free, vegan Craft beers: Session Ale, (delicate fizz), Bohemian Pilsner (light, hoppy, happy), and the refreshing Lawless Village, IPA.
“The perfect combination of science and art” is the logo for Bellfield’s award winning beers – sample a few here at the Food Festival and the new Tap Room. soon to be launched at their Brewery, Abbeyfield, Edinburgh
Healthy meat-free eating is very prominent at this year’s FoodFest: FacePlant Foods travels around Scotland selling their vegan goods which you can sample at their pop up stall here. Travel the culinary world as you stroll around the garden with such international cuisine as Mana Poke’s freshly prepared Hawain dishes such as diced raw fish and rice.
Punjabi Junction, “The food of the Punjab at the Heart of Leith,” will be dishing up some amazing authentic Indian dishes – the spicy lentil dhal with rice is superb. Great to support this community café, which serves traditional home-cooked dishes while supporting women from Edinburgh’s minority ethnic backgrounds.
Plenty of meat and fish too, of course, such as the Fox Hat BBQ experience and Alanda’s Scottish seafood and fish & chips based in East Lothian. For dessert?, Alanda’s Ice-cream of course!
Summer would not be summer without a perfectly poured, ice cold G&T. Edinburgh’s Pickering’s Gin will be showcasing their award-winning spirit from their quirky red Japanese airport fire engine, EnGINe 47. Sample a range of cool cocktails as well as the classic Pickering’s gin and tonic, with ice and slice. Cheers!
Whatever your taste and appetite, there’s a fantastic choice of tasty food and drink galore, from Prosecco and pizza, beer and burgers, cookies and chocolate. See the full mouthwatering list of producers and street food below!
The good news is that it is Free Entry to the garden with the Festival running from 12 noon till late so that visitors can enjoy Scottish and international dishes from brunch and lunch, to Afternoon Tea and Cocktail hour, snacks and supper.
Check out the special events, Meet the Producers and Chef demonstrations which include Scott Smith from Fhior, Barry Bryson at Cater Edinburgh, Jérôme Henry, Le Roi Fou, Italian-Scot, Carina Contini, and former MasterChef winner Derek Johnstone now at Borthwick Castle. These events are free and non-ticketed, but limited space so it’s first come first served. For dates and times see the website and social media links below.
With all the food stalls, beer tents and showtime marquees, experience a colourful Carnival mood and Garden Party ambience. It’s so relaxing and fun with your family and friends selecting and sharing a summer picnic of street food, sitting at tables or lounging on the grass.
Rain or shine, do visit the fabulous Tree Top Bar, a unique drinking den for adults, where you can lounge about on sofas and sample a few tipples.
Join in one or two of the Workshops – rather a misnomer as these are fun experiences!. The Kilted Finlay Wilson runs his daily Yoga classes, Hipsters and Hobos, Find, Forage, Ferment, Raw Pop Up – the fine art of “shucking” hand dived scallops, and especially for the kids, the Edinburgh Food Social Taste Adventure and Hands On Cooking Show.
The Festival welcomed over 25,000 visitors in 2018 and with this year’s event running for ten days, the number will certainly rocket. Where better to go this week with the fabulous summer sunshine.?
“We can’t wait to take part again this year with our selection of freshly caught Scottish seafood, old school fresh fish and chips and multi-award winning gelato. We look forward to welcoming more visitors than ever in 2019.” Alanda Black, East Lothian’s Alandas Scottish Seafood, Fish & Chips and Gelato
Experience a taste from this banquet of fine food and delicious drinks from:
Jarvis Pickle, Chick & Pea, Poco Prosecco, Bellfield Brewery, Pickerings Gin, Face Plant Food, Mana Poke Bowls, Thinking Chocolate, Pickering’s Gin, Alanda’s Scottish Seafood Grill, Alanda’s Gelato, Paddle & Peel, Punjabi Junction, Edinburgh Food Social, Scoff, Cargo Burger, Cargo Spud, Crepe & Waffle House, Genius, Seabuckthorn Scotland, The Scottish Bee Company, Kabbabar. #CookieDough by R&G Catering. Norelli – Neapolitan Street Food, Umami Spice Girl, Fyne Ales, Moskito Bites.
Find out all about the Edinburgh Food Festival here …
Keep up to date with all news of Edinburgh Food Festival 2019 at http://www.edfoodfest.com
Social media: Facebook (www.facebook.com/EdFoodFest), Instagram (@edfoodfest, #EdFoodFest19) and Twitter (@EdFoodFest, #EdFoodFest19).
“Grazing by Mark Greenaway” at the Waldorf Astoria, Edinburgh: modern fine dining – artistic, imaginative, casual and fun.
“The essence of Mark Greenaway’s genius in the kitchen is his seemingly endless inventiveness.” Ian Rankin
It was the week of the Big Tease back in March before Chef Mark Greenaway revealed the secret location of his much anticipated new Restaurant. There was a relish of rumours and soupcon of social media messages: 1st March: “Goodbye New Town .. hello ??,” followed the next day by a video clip of someone walking along Princes Street with a view of the Castle and the tag line, “Where do you think the new Restaurant will be?”
The next big hint was the enigmatic line, “Fancy a meal in the West End?” and then finally, a quirky aerial shot of the planet zooming in to the actual location. And what a prestigious address it turned out to be!.
On 8th March, the news broke that the Chef was taking over the former Galvin Brasserie de Luxe at the Waldorf Astoria, The Caledonian, with an opening date in mid April. Having known his ingenious style of cuisine for over ten years, Ken and I recently went along to visit “Grazing by Mark Greenaway” to experience this exciting new venture.
In order to appreciate the enormous significance of this exciting venture, it would be timely to have a brief look back at Mark’s culinary and creative journey over the past 25 years. After school, he stared his first job in a hotel kitchen near Lanark, where he persevered as a KP until given the opportunity to train as a chef. The seed was sewn and moving on to another hotel, he mastered the art of a pastry chef, winning an award for his elaborate “Milk chocolate mousse, raspberries in caramel with lattice tuile”. This was the springboard for adventure down under, heading off to Sydney, for a steep learning curve under a tough task master – as he relates, “every plate had to reach absolute perfection 100% of the time.”
Back in Scotland, as Head Chef at Dryburgh Abbey Hotel, his imaginative dishes were rewarded with a Chef Médaille d’Or for Dinner Excellence (2009). Soon time for change, launching his own eponymous restaurant on Picardy Place, Edinburgh, showcasing seriously inventive dishes. (Rising Star Chef of the Year, 2011). Now as a renowned chef in Edinburgh, he was then selected, for two years. running to represent Scotland in “Great British Menu” on BBC 2.
The next bold step was the launch in 2013 of Restaurant Mark Greenaway with an intimate setting for his distinctive style of cuisine. With the honour of 3 AA rosettes, it was placed #13 in Square Meal’s list of the UK’s Top 100 Restaurants and named runner up as Best Restaurant in Observer Monthly (2013, 2015, 2016). An enticing review too in the Michelin Guide, 2016: “The well-travelled chef employs interesting texture and flavour combinations. Dishes are modern, ambitious and attractively presented.”
Branching out, with a new challenge, he also opened Bistro Moderne in Stockbridge. As I wrote in my review in January 2014: ” .. a touch of Blumenthal in this scientifically-inspired, smoke-filled, deconstructed, unique cuisine.”
With his passion for local, seasonal produce on his menus, he decided to promote the best of Scottish food and compiled his beautifully designed cook book, “Perceptions: Recipes from Restaurant Mark Greenaway” (Relish Publications).
With mouthwatering illustrations and step by step recipes, it’s aimed at the masterchef and keen amateur, with culinary tips and a list of his own suppliers so that you can create the quality of his fine dining food at home. A few months later, much to Greenaway’s surprise, “Perceptions” was named the best cookbook in the world at the Gourmand Awards, 2017.
The success of Restaurant Mark Greenaway and “Perceptions” must have been an incredible boost to morale and further ambition. It might be a short walk from Castle Street to Princes Street, but this is a truly impressive step up, opening his own Restaurant at the five star, Waldorf Astoria – The Caledonian. Enter either through the Hotel lobby and Peacock Alley loung, or the main entrance around the corner on Rutland Street.
“Grazing by Mark Greenaway” is a classic Brasserie in design with comfortable, blue banquette seating and well spaced tables with smart crimson & blue plaid chairs. Appetising suggestions for food & drinks and sharing plates are listed on blackboards around the walls.
Diners can also sit on stools at a couple of high tables at the front, or the central island bar for a quick, casual meal.
Guests are invited to “relax, unwind and graze. You can share a starter, main or dessert, or indulge and have something all to yourself.” This is a fresh new concept, showcasing a blend of traditional, modern and sharing plates based on seasonal Scottish ingredients. “Fine dining” has been reinvented here to create a casual, leisurely ambience without linen tablecloths and uniformed waiters. The attractive, welcoming space accommodates 170 for lunch and dinner as well as private dining and a Chef’s table.
The Grazing menu is well laid out and so flexible to suit all tastes and appetites, divided into various sections: Snacks, Small and Big Plates, From the Grill, Grazing for Two. The set price for each Plate is very reasonable. As dishes are designed for sharing as well as for one person, it is wise to ask your server to explain the sizes of different portions.
Under Grazing for Two, all dishes are for sharing such as Barbecue truffled Shiitake mushrooms, a cured meat and choux pastry Picnic served in a basket, and Fish Pie. From game and haggis to seafood and steak, this is modern Scottish cooking such as 11-hour Slow Roast Pork belly with apple and mash, and a rich dessert which has already become famous, Sticky Toffee Pudding Souffle.
So where to start and what to choose.? Our charming waiter Gwen suggests that we share a few Snacks to enjoy with a Cocktail. As a simple twist, sip a Scottish Martini and a Scottish Negroni, both served with a Scottish Gin. (Edinburgh, Daffy’s, Rock Rose, Hendricks et al).
Perfectly shaken and ice cold, my Martini hits the spot and Ken’s pink tipple, (gin, campari, red vermouth) was created for Count Negoni, exactly one hundred years ago. Cheers!
With these we were presented with four gourmet canapes to share: Puffed cod skin, Potato chip with caviar, Carrot tartlet, and Smoked Salmon mousse (in an egg shell), a light as air fishy foam, which just melts in the mouth. Each of these snacks is elegantly exquisite.
For my starter, Tempura Soft Shell Crab has an amazing delicate crunchy texture – a generous portion but Ken was happy to sample his share, while he quickly devoured a colourful salad of Mackerel with apple and beetroot, a fine balance of salty and sweet flavours.
Meanwhile we sipped a glass of one of the house red wines, Cuvee, Jean Paul Syrah & Grenache, France, South West (2017), a classic Rhone with notes of rich fruit and soft spice. I could not resist the Cod Cheeks, fat juicy goujons, lightly fried. Posh pub grub!
Ken selected for his main course, Heritage Beetroot Wellington, wrapped in a thick pastry parcel. We shared a side of Kentucky Fried Cauliflower with garlic aioli, and Ugly Potatoes smothered in melted gruyere. These extras are delicious, inventive veggie dishes in themselves.
After this feast, no space for dessert – a tempting choice for those with a sweet tooth, Frangipane Pear Tart, Ice-Cream, Chocolate Doughnuts, Sticky Toffee Pudding Souffle, as well as Farmhouse Cheese with oatcakes.
No wonder that within seven weeks of opening in April, “ Grazing by Mark Greenaway” was presented with the much deserved accolade of 2 AA rosettes. As he commented: “This is a huge achievement for such a young restaurant .. at the beginning of our Grazing journey … a great start as we make our make in the city.”
As 2019 is the centenary of Hilton Hotels, plenty to celebrate at the Waldorf Astoria.
Plan your visit soon for a light lunch, (Grazing Plates, £9 each. 2 Plates + 1 side, £20), a “Grazing for Two” romantic dinner, Cool Cocktails and canapes at the Bar, or a Sunday Roast with family and friends.
As always, Mark Greenaway is a culinary genius due to his signature slant – a touch of molecular magic in the kitchen, artistic vision on the plate with a sense of theatricality for a truly exceptional, exciting and unique dining experience.
“Grazing at Mark Greenaway”
Waldorf Astoria, Edinburgh – The Caledonian,
Rutland Street, Edinburgh EH1 2AB
Lunch: 12 noon to 2pm. Dinner, 6pm – 10pm.
Tel. 0131 222 8857
Postscript: There has been a flurry of 5 star reviews from happy diners:
Great concept, lovely design and warm, professional, friendly service.
Enjoyed it so much. A lot to choose from and all made with love. Desserts were outstanding,
Soft shell tempura crab, divine, and the icing on the cake, Sticky toffee pudding soufflé.
Sunday lunch: Roast beef platter to share ..the tastiest, juiciest roast beef, perfect roasties, big fluffy Yorkshire and vegetables. Amazing value at £28 for two for such quality.
“The End of History” by Jack Thorne: a time-travelling, political Comic-tragedy of Manners @ The Royal Court Theatre, London
Jack Thorne and John Tiffany have collaborated as writer and director on several plays, including the critically acclaimed,“Harry Potter and the Cursed Child,” for which they both received Tony and Olivier Awards – it was the most awarded West End play in the history of the Oliviers.
The hearth and heart of a home is the kitchen. Alan Ayckbourn’s farce Absurd Person Singular observes the changing friendships of three couples in their kitchens at three successive Christmas Eve parties. In similar vein, this is the ideal communal family space for a realistic homely environment in “The End of History.” It’s simply designed with a refectory dining table and bench, oven, sink, pots & pans, fridge, comfy armchair, piles of books, newspapers and all the usual clutter. Central patio doors lead out into a garden which we see change during the seasons.
The kitchen is the constant setting for three distinctive dates in 1997, 2007 and 2017, a series of family get-togethers, memorable for all the wrong reasons.
In soft shadowy light, a short prelude shows the typical, fast paced bustle at breakfast time. Scene one, 6pm, November, 1997, Sal, (forty-something), and her daughter Polly, a law student, discuss the complex sleeping arrangements for Carl, the older son and his new girlfriend, Harriet whose parents apparently own “half of Hampshire”.
It’s an awkward first encounter; with her hands fluttering and arms waving, Sal chatters away, interrogating the shy, young girl – “What does your mother do?” … “ As in work? She doesn’t,” is the quick, curt reply.
Initially engrossed in The Guardian, husband David joins in a humorous yet heated conversation about Tony Blair, left wing values and inherited wealth with a volley of satirical comments, bickering and swearing, much to the growing embarrassment of their “posh” guest.
But then in a moment of silence, Carl reveals some shocking news, which ricochets like a bombshell with an outburst of accusations, shame and blame. Sal tries to pretend that all is fine, stirs the pot of curry and checks the rice for supper.
Their 17 year old son, Tom then arrives home to find that he has missed the family crisis, but happy to munch a slice of leftover naan bread.
This is the start of an emotional rollercoaster ride as we fast forward to summer 2007 to witness another revelation, an unexpected life-changing decision from Sal and David, as they wait for a Chinese takeaway.
“Ethically, politically, pragmatically, personally” is the refrain for the family’s regular debates, or more likely arguments, revolving around parental socialist ideals. (The kids by the way are named after Carl Marx, Polly Hill and Thomas Payne.)
John Tiffany is a master craftsman of atmospheric mood, pressing the pause button at precise moments to add dramatic tension, punctuating Thorne’s short, sharp conversational dialogue with its free flowing rhythm and pace.
Dimly-lit time change sequences are delicately choreographed with a haunting music soundtrack (The Quiet by Imogen Heap), like mini silent-movies, as the calendar pages are torn off, year by year to reach 2007 and then 2017 respectively. By the final Springtime scene, the garden is filled with colourful plants and the tall trees overhead are in full blossom, a sign of rebirth.
The impressive cast features Kate O’Flynn as Holly who matures from bolshie student to smart, savvy solicitor, while David Morrissey plays David as a thoughtful, quietly urbane intellectual.
The transformation of Harriet from a frail, fragile girl, intimidated by Sal, into a strong-minded woman, is serenely handled by Zoe Boyle.
Carl (Sam Swainsbury) is quietly serious, desperate to break free from parental control, while the youngest, nicknamed Tom Tom, (Laurie Davidson), is a sensitive, lost soul, later finding a kindred spirit in Polly.
Lesley Sharp, (who played the quick-witted, gutsy yet feminine D.C. Rachel Scott in the crime series, “Scott and Bailey”) is pitch perfect as Sal. This is a luminous portrayal, capturing the joint roles of caring mother, loving wife and feisty feminist with a hint of thin-skinned vulnerability. In this modern Kitchen Sink drama, Sal is an angry, middle aged woman, a proud, passionate Greenham activist, with the backbone to her political DNA only revealed in the last scene.
The only quibble is the over-peppering of F words throughout – is this really the vocabulary of middle class parents and teenagers in the late 90s? Also a tendency for actors to stand stock still during conversations, rather than sitting down, grabbing a beer, making a coffee – everyday, natural behaviour at home.
The Royal Court Theatre is the ideal intimate space and from lights down, utter silence as the audience is gripped in the power of shared experience and gasping aloud in unison as the narrative unfolds.
It’s difficult to place Jack Thorne’s ambitious, astute, time- travelling new play into one single theatrical genre, as it shifts in three tight, taut scenes over thirty years, from a black comedy of (appalling) manners to a bleak tragedy. Expect pin-sharp, satirical humour in a hard-hitting, heartfelt family drama, performed with a fine sense of realism, truth and honesty.
Production Photograph credits: Johan Persson
“The End of History” written by Jack Thorne and directed by John Tiffany
Show times: Thursday 27th June until Saturday, 10th August, 2019.
Mon – Sat: 7.30pm. Thu & Sat mats: 2.30pm
Royal Court Theatre, Sloane Square, London, SW1W 8AS
Box Office Tel. 0207 565 5000.
The script is available (Nick Hern Books, £9.99).
Experience a taste of modern French cuisine – with a refined Edinburgh accent – @Brasserie Prince
The Balmoral, Edinburgh, a Rocco Forte hotel, has long been a destination to stay, eat and drink with superb hospitality at its Michelin-starred Number One Restaurant, Palm Court and Scotch bar. If you’ve not visited for a while, the former Hadrian’s Bistro has been completely transformed into a distinctively creative dining experience. As part of the influential Roux dynasty of chefs and restaurateurs, Alain Roux and his father Michel Roux, O.B.E. have collaborated in the launch of “Brasserie Prince by Alain Roux.”
To appreciate the importance of this significant partnership, it was in 1967 when Michel Roux and his brother Albert, co-founded Le Gavroche in Mayfair, London, which today remains a legendary institution with his son Michel Roux Jn. in charge. Michel’s Waterside Inn has held three Michelin stars for longer than any restaurant in the world outside France. After training as a Master Pâtissier in France, Alain joined his father at the Waterside, taking on the role as Chef Patron.
For the past decade, Scotland has long benefitted from the family’s culinary expertise, with Albert Roux overseeing “Chez Roux” at four hotels, Greywalls, Cromlix, Rocpool and Inver Lodge. The team of father, son and granddaughter, Albert & Michel Roux Jn. joined by his daughter Emily Roux, also opened two fine dining Restaurants at Inverlochy Castle and Crossbasket Castle.
The Roux Scholarship, founded in 1984 by Albert and Michel, continues to be an important culinary competition encouraging young chefs to aspire and achieve excellence. Their astute recognition of talent began with the first recipient, Andrew Fairlie who soon became a renowned chef, running his eponymous 2 Michelin star restaurant at Gleneagles from 2001 until his early death this year.
Bringing his own distinctive flavour to Edinburgh, Alain Roux has the position of Signature Chef at Brasserie Prince located in a prime corner site on the ground floor of The Balmoral. This inspirational Forte-Roux alliance showcases authentic French cooking, inspired by seasonal Scottish produce:
“This exciting brasserie will be defined by irresistibly simple, delicious food led by fantastic Scottish ingredients. I want to serve the dishes that I love to cook myself at home and seek out with family and friends when we go out to eat. A menu informed by my French heritage but totally inspired by Scotland.’
Alain Roux, Signature Chef at Brasserie Prince
Tuesday 11 June 2019 celebrated the first birthday of this charming Brasserie and clubby Bar Prince, so time for Ken and I to check out the new summer menu. Arrive either through the ornate Hotel lobby or the direct entrance up a few steps from the street. With a fresh, colourful design, the first impression is of an open plan, free-flowing Restaurant and Bar.
The L shaped layout neatly divides the two casual and comfortable drinking & dining venues. The interior design was a partnership between Martin Brudnizki Design Studio and Olga Polizzi, Rocco Forte Hotels’ Director of Building & Design, and who is Sir Rocco’s sister.
On arrival at 12.15pm, we start with a leisurely cocktail before lunch in Bar Prince; (I agree with the late restaurant critic Michael Winner, who insisted that an aperitif is essential to the dining experience!).
The furnishings are akin to a traditional Lounge, with fireplace, bookshelves (with Roux cook books of course), vintage-style lamps, a sleek art deco chandelier, floral wallpaper from House of Hackney in a painterly pattern of verdant palm leaves, spacious booths and peacock- blue leather armchairs with marble-top tables.
The Bar drinks menu has a wide selection of gin, whisky, wines & Signature Cocktails such as Prince Royale (Mulberry Slow (sic) – this should be Sloe – Gin, Campari, cherry Marnier and champagne)
Classic Cocktails offer a Mary Pickford, (Bacardi, pineapple juice, maraschino liqueur), Lemon Drop (Vodka with Cointreau and lemon juice), and a Penicillin, (Lagavulin, ginger liqueur, honey water, lemon juice). Surprisingly, with a clientele of American and European guests, there is no mention of all our timeless favourites : Martini, Manhattan, Old Fashioned, Negroni, Margarita.
From this so-called choice of Classics, Ken selects a Morning Glory (Dewars, 12 year old, lemon juice, absinthe, soda water), which is light and refreshing. Going off piste, I order a spicy Bloody Mary, perfect for midday as a tasty appetiser before lunch.
This is served in a copper tankard, with a stick of celery, olives, sun dried tomatoes and there is certainly a dash or three of Tabasco to hit the spot.
The attractive Bar sweeps round the corner with a row of high-backed tan coloured stools; large communal dining tables in the centre are ideal for a quick office lunch or casual bar supper with friends.
It’s 1pm and time for lunch. The Brasserie itself is a long, slender, elegant dining room with banquette seating all the way around, with light flooding in from the extensive windows facing North Bridge and Arthur’s Seat beyond. The extensive use of mirrors around the walls reflect the light even more and add to the sense of space.
Contrasting the wood panelling, the soft colour palette is a crafted balance of blue, green and pink. Art deco lighting, natural timber, soft leather and mohair wool are inspired by Scotland’s heritage and the Edwardian architecture of this grand 1902 hotel.
A collection of artwork includes a classic travel poster, ‘North British Station Hotel Edinburgh’ depicting the former N.B. Hotel, before its re-launch in 1991 as The Balmoral. Also watercolours of the Highlands and Islands, from Duart Castle to Loch Fyne.
Seated at a Banquette table, we are given the set price Express Menu, 2 or 3 courses (£19.50/£25), with a choice of three dishes per course. First of all, a basket of freshly baked bread with slices of soft baguette and sunflower/ poppy/ caraway multi seed, served with a olive tapenade, as well as butter and Epoch organic olive oil. The soft cotton Brasserie Prince napkins are like small tea towels – an innovative idea.
First of all, drinks. Scottish Speyside mineral water is the house brand and we select Spanish dry white wine, a Sauvignon/Verdejo (2017), from the Castilla Y Leon region, Vina Garedo, with the fresh, citrusy taste of summer. The wine list offers six white and red wines by the glass, and by the bottle, the list is divided by country, from a most reasonable £ 22 – £24. Or why not kick off your meal with a flute of Champagne Michel Roux.?
I start with a generous portion of Smoked salmon, served simply with capers, onion lemon and rye bread, was of the utmost quality, thickly sliced and oozing subtle saltiness.
Meanwhile Ken had chosen Parisian Gnocchi, equally large for a starter, made from Pâte a choux gougères (cheese doughballs), and covered with rocket and slices of grilled red pepper.
I then sampled about half of a green mountain of Pearl Barley Risotto with edamame beans, grilled courgette and sauce vierge. Unfortunately, despite all the ingredients, no distinctive flavours shine through in this rather bland and gloopy dish lacking texture – rather heavy and hearty at lunchtime.
Across the table, Ken was tasting a white as snow fillet of Monkfish à L’Armoricaine, served with Camargue wild rice and broccoli, a fish stew from Brittany cooked in wine and tomatoes, traditionally flambéed in cognac.
A choice of three, overly sweet desserts, (Ice cream, Raspberry soufflé, Crème Caramel) so we finished with an Double Espresso instead – perhaps a selection of Fromage could perhaps be offered for those without a sweet tooth.
The Express menu is served Monday to Friday, 12 noon to 2.30pm, & 5.30pm-6.30pm. Recent selections have included Shetland Mussels, Beef Bourguignon, Lyonnaise Salad with poached egg and asparagus, Roast chicken & potato grenailles.
The extensive A la Carte menu for lunch and dinner is divided into bites, sharing platters, soups, salads and a feast of classic French dishes: Frogs’ legs, Lobster thermidor, Steak Tartare. Each day a selected Grand-mere Special – Coq au vin, Cassoulet de canard, Brandade de moru gratinee – recipes from the family’s country recipes.
The only quibble on this occasion, was the variable standard of service from a team of young staff with a few inexperienced waiters, (“Who’s having the salmon?), who lacked the personal, professional attention to detail.
Ken and I certainly enjoyed our initial taste of such authentic French cuisine created with passion by Michel and Alain Roux. Another appetising aspect of the Brasserie is the Raw Bar, where diners can sit on a stool at this theatre kitchen to sample the freshest Fruits de Mer – a platter of oysters from Gigha or langoustines from the Isle of Skye. Perfect with a chilled glass of fizz.
In case you are thinking, surprisingly the culinary French word “Roux” was not actually coined by the Roux chefs. The definition orginates from around 1805. Roux refers to the red brown beurre (butter) created when mixed with flour to thicken a sauce.
“And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.” ― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Borrowing its name from this classic French story, ‘Le Petit Prince’ menu welcomes children to this family friendly Brasserie, where younger diners are catered for and seen not heard with colouring books and crayons. The Balmoral has won an award for its Families R Forte facilities – kids’ passports, mini bathrobes, games and teddy turndown.
To celebrate the first birthday of Brasserie Prince there is a special Seafood Menu available for lunch and dinner from 28th June until 9th August., 2019. Bar Prince is a classic, classy joint and if you call in on Wednesday and Thursday evening, relax with a drink with live piano music served on the side.
So this summer why not plan visit for a taste of modern French cuisine, champagne and cocktails and feel as if you have jetted off to Paris or Nice.!
Brasserie Prince by Alain Roux
The Balmoral Hotel
1 Princes Street, Edinburgh EH2 2EQ
E. firstname.lastname@example.org Tel. 0131 557 5000