It feels like it has been boarded up for an age, but the renovations are over and The Printing Press is now in operation.
Why the association with printing? Well it’s tenuous at best and to do with two people that used to live at 25 George St and whose descendants went on to found a ‘famous’ publishing house that you would only have heard of if you lived many decades ago. It’s a stretch, but thankfully it hasn’t become a motif, it’s just a name.
Once you are through the revolving door the name is forgotten and you are met with one of Edinburgh’s most elegant interiors. The checkered marble floor (not dissimilar to The Dome’s entrance across the road, or parts of the Cally Hotel, for that matter) gives way to a rich, dark wooden floor of the polished interior – part terrace of a Roman villa, part contemporary restaurant and with a bar and chandeliers that wouldn’t be out of place in the Art Deco era. It may sound an odd combination, but as you can see above the designers have made it work perfectly; it’s welcoming, embracing and luxurious all at the same time.
The Printing Press has some serious pedigree though, it’s the brainchild of Des McDonald (Vintage Salt, Q Grill and Holborn Dining Room to name a few in London) and is part of the multi-million-pound investment currently going into the George Hotel. It will be taking the best of Scotland’s larder throughout the year, and if our dinner is anything to go by, Head Chef Colin Flemming (The Road Hole Restaurant at The Old Course Hotel, St Andrews; Restaurant Martin Wishart) is starting out well.
When we arrived the bar was pretty busy, but once we had walked through to the restaurant the mood was much more sedate and although seemed quiet to begin with (as you might expect on a wet Wednesday evening) it soon picked up. People who like food are already in the know about this place, always a good sign.
The menu has a full range of classic dishes and options for the more adventurous. Our meal, by sheer accident, ended up very aquatic, but that is not a reflection of the menu in full – it just happened to be what caught our eye. You can see the current menu here. Our starters – Hot Smoked Salmon, and Loch Fyne Diver Scallops – arrived fresh and lip-smackingly good; the salmon served with horseradish potato scones, the scallops on ink barley. The main event again featured fish – the Roast Cod was delicious, the braised lentils it was served on being a particular triumph, whilst the Sea Bass shone on a bed described as ‘sea vegetables’ with blue mussels tucked in throughout.
None of the plates seemed overly large, but we were both very full by the end of main courses and required a short breather before heading in the direction of dessert. Following the trend set by the rest of the menu, there are some classic options here (such as a lemon torte), some distinctly from Scotland (Marmalade Steamed Pudding with Drambuie custard), and others nodding to contemporary trends (salted caramel features) – there’s no disappointing end to the menu here. Both our sweets were heavenly, and well worth the lingering time we took with them – the lemon being tart enough to cut through the tart’s sweetness, the salted caramel balancing sweet and salty beautifully.
Special mention has to go to the waiting staff; they were happy, chatty and enthusiastic – and if it was just because they were told to be then they are excellent actors. Our waiter was happy to make suggestions, offer wine choices, and generally seemed happy with the work he does. In a city that (we often find) struggles to offer waiting staff who give a damn, the service here proves once again how important great service is to a good meal out; hopefully more restaurants will start taking heed of whatever it is that The Printing Press is doing.
Dinner for 2 (exc. drinks) was about £70, although when I asked for the bill I was told “not a chance”, so it is roughly what I would expect from a restaurant like this on George Street – it’s not a chain, a bistro or vying for a Michelin Star any time soon – it sits happily towards the upper end of the spectrum, but not ridiculous for the quality of the food on offer.
Should you go? Yes. Most definitely.