You join us walking down the long, winding and somewhat dark drive to Melville Castle. It’s a lot further from the road than we initially realised, and it’s pretty dark. And we’re hungry. Which is a good job really, because we’ve been invited here to try out the Brasserie’s menu.
EH18 – Melvillecastle.com
We’re outside Edinburgh Editor’s remit a little – we’re in Midlothian, after all – but after looking at the hotel online we were excited to see what the food was like. Melville Castle, for those wondering where we were, is one of those places that feels very far out in the country, but actually isn’t. If you found yourself in the brasserie bar not knowing how you’d got there, you’d smell the scent of the wood burning fire, look at the rustic chic, the trees and lawns outside and probably think you were somewhere in Perthshire. But alas no, you’re about a mile away from Dalkeith, not far off the bypass. The number 3 stops just by the gates.
Sitting very comfortably in the bar area of the basement Brasserie, we were soon presented with some dinky bread rolls and a monogrammed, wood-clad menu. A menu that whilst only having six starters and six mains on it still took ages to break down – I could have happily enjoyed every item on it. A problem not shared by Fred, my reviewing partner in crime for the evening, he only had eyes for one dinner.
After some discussion with the waiter, I opted for the haggis croquet whist Fred had the smoked salmon platter. They were both delicious. My haggis delivered exactly what the menu promised, although had I not known it was a whisky sauce I’m not sure I would have known. Likewise the salmon passed muster well, although perhaps they were a little over enthusiastic with the potato and salad, it seemed a little much for a starter.
Sitting sipping a couple of glasses of wine – the wine list is really well priced for the kind of place it is, in fact you can get a small glass of the house red for about £3 – we took a little look round the eclectic artwork of the brasserie. It ranges from some little paintings in mini golden frames to more modern photos and paintings of Edinburgh landmarks. All in all it’s quite relaxed, the chilled out part of the hotel as I expect the dining room upstairs is a bit more formal.
Our mains were soon being delivered by the other waiter (there were three in total, including the guy we assumed to be the manager – a little excessive, I think we were asked if we enjoyed each course three times). One pan-fried roe deer haunch with braised red cabbage, fondant potato and game jus; one honey roasted and spiced pork belly, crispy black pudding, toffee apples and cider sauce.
Both were good, but whilst being totally satisfied I wouldn’t say either of us were blown away. The ‘roe deer’ (why it’s not called venison we’re still not sure) suffered a bit from a lack of colour – everything on the plate was roughly the same kind of hue, which was exacerbated by the dim lighting in the room – and the ‘honey roasted and spiced’ pork belly lacked both notes of honey and spice.
This is not to say that we did not enjoy our meals – far from it – but both of us felt the menu (with all its somewhat odd and haphazard use of grammar) hyped up the dishes a little too much for what made it onto the plate.
The desserts too had several options, but with neither of us felt that would could eat the cheese boards, so opted instead for the more-ish sounding sticky toffee pudding. It’s a somewhat overused dessert, but I’m glad to say that this one was delicious. Light and moist, it came with its very own indulgent salted caramel sauce, chocolate lattice and a scoop of ice cream. There was no way either of us had room for it. But who can resist? Obviously we finished them with ease.
Walking back up the drive we chatted over the meal. We really enjoyed what we had, and (although we didn’t see the final bill) a price in the region of £27 for three courses it is pretty good value for the quality of food on offer. The one stumbling block we came across was what would draw people out to ‘the sticks’?
Looking around the Brasserie we looked like the only people who weren’t putting the meal on the room. The food was good, but you could get something similar in town; it’s not quite the quality of meal that would make Melville Castle a ‘destination’ for diners. If we lived near by and could drive there we would probably go back, but otherwise would we make the effort to get there? If we’re being honest, I don’t know. For a wedding or a corporate event, it’s a great venue, and it’s a shame that more people won’t get to try the Brasserie because the food is good. Or perhaps we’re just too lazy to walk down the long drive? I guess you’ll have to try it yourself to find out.