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.
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. email@example.com Tel. 0131 557 5000