Hotel restaurants often run the risk of feeling like just a restaurant in a hotel. They can be a place for business people to have a quick bite to eat whilst working on a presentation. Or a place for tired tourists to fill up after a long day’s sightseeing. In short, restaurants can easily be a secondary focus for a hotel. However, with its inviting atmosphere, brightened by large windows overlooking Charlotte Square, the George Street Bar and Grill utterly dispels any sense of being an afterthought. Located within the Roxburghe Hotel, perhaps better known for its luxury spa, this hotel restaurant in the heart of Edinburgh’s New Town could have easily established a restaurant for residents and left it at that. However, it’s clear in the passion of the hotel’s general manager, Marcello Ventisei, that this was never going to happen here.
The soft grey furnishings and cleverly placed tables give the feel of intimate dining, rather than a sizeable hotel restaurant. We were in on a sunny midweek evening, and the restaurant was busy enough to have an atmosphere. The alcoves and split levels, however, comfortably divided the space, cutting through the buzz and providing privacy.
This month the George Street Bar and Grill launched its new summer menu and we were invited to try a few of the dishes on offer. The menu is a mix of comforting classics, including Caesar salad and rib eye steak, and some of Head Chef Andy McRobert’s more innovative creations, such as carrot tarte tatin and mojito mess.
We began with a tian of crab accompanied with avocado purée and crostini. The dish allowed the crab to be the main attraction, with the avocado providing added freshness. A perfect summer starter. Refreshing accompaniment came in the form of a generous Aperol Spritz.
Next on the menu was a dish for the adventurous: butter roasted boudin noir. Reportedly envisaged on an inebriated night out, Andy emphatically described it as ‘not a French black pudding’. In appearance, however, you could be forgiven for making that assumption. Cutting in, the skin gave way a silky smooth texture and rich filling which rendered the table silent in appreciation. Lightness, to counter the richness, was provided by apple purée and sweet mustard reduction. Even if you’re not normally a fan of black pudding I would heartily recommend giving this dish a try. Be prepared, however, for a generous portion.
There is a notable range of fish dishes on the summer menu. Andy enthused about allowing fresh flavours come through, and it showed in the pan fried fillet of sea trout. This was served with sea buckthorn butter sauce, an unknown flavour to us and our fellow diners. Fortunately, Andy was on hand to explain: sea buckthorn berries are small orange berries many times more acidic than lemons. For this dish the berries were sweetened with Madeira wine to create a reduction, with the resulting sharpness providing a welcome kick to the perfectly cooked fish.
Finally we reached dessert, my companion’s favourite course. One of the tipsy desserts on offer was apple bavaroise with apple sorbet, apple crisp and a cider jelly. The second option was mojito mess, comprised of crisped sugared mint leaves, golden meringues, rum jelly and lime sorbet. These boozy dishes formed delightful desserts for those who cannot decide between a cocktail and a dessert. And let’s face it, why would you ever want to make that choice?
We finished our meal remarkably full and unable to fault any of the food we tried. Our only complaint, if you can call it that, would be the liberal size of the Aperol Spritz. As complaints go, its one we are happy to live with!
The passion Andy demonstrated for food was paralleled by the restaurant’s dedicated customer service. It was clear that the staff go to great lengths to make regulars and newcomers alike feel welcome.
The menu has clearly been developed with care to provide impeccable combinations. Combined with dedicated staff and an enviable location it’s difficult to think of a diner the George Street Bar and Grill wouldn’t please.