What do you think of when I say ‘hotel restaurant’? Not great, right? What do you think of when I say ‘restaurant with rooms’? A foodie destination well worth the journey? Paul Tamburrini is bridging the gap between the two with his brilliant restaurant bearing his name in Edinburgh city centre, says Savour’s Rosie Jenkinson.
A hotel restaurant in reality should be a wonderful thing – you enjoy a delicious meal, take the short walk to the lift and ascend to your room before settling down for the night.
However, hotel restaurants don’t usually make people’s foodie bucket lists. I don’t know of many people who travel out of their way to visit a restaurant attached to a hotel.
But this is what makes Paul Tamburrini so special, because people do. They make a reservation to dine here for special occasions or stop by for dinner, without having a room.
The restaurant is attached to Macdonald Holyrood Hotel, in Edinburgh: a fantastic location where you can see Holyrood Park and Arthur’s Seat from the lobby and a short walk in any direction will lead you to some of the city’s famous landmarks.
On a parallel street to The Royal Mile, the hotel attracts serious diners rather than those who stumble upon it by accident – although if they did they would be in for a lovely evening.
Pairing up with the world-class chef was a new concept for Macdonald Hotels – and it is Paul’s first solo restaurant venture too. He’s previously worked as chef director at Martin Wishart’s The Honours brasserie in Edinburgh, head chef at Cameron House in Loch Lomond and was executive chef at One Devonshire Gardens in Glasgow.
His restaurant is fine dining but with a casual, comfortable atmosphere. We visited on a semi-busy Friday night and loved the muted tones and layout of the venue. We were sat in a booth by the window and although we looked out on the rest of the restaurant and bar, it still felt intimate and relaxed.
We put ourselves in chef’s hands with a surprise tasting menu and first was a delicious mushroom velouté that was
rich, earthy and creamy without being overpowering.
The next dish: pressed terrine of baby beetroot with apple, whipped yoghurt and roasted pecans, showed how only a few ingredients can make an outstanding dish when in the hands of an expert chef. It was a perfect mix of flavours, textures and colours.
The star of the tasting menu was the Orkney sea scallops, with caramelised cauliflower florets, cauliflower purée and a drizzle of curry oil. The scallops were fat and juicy, and the cauliflower purée was rich and bursting with flavour. Each element stood out on its own, but together tasted fantastic. I could happily eat this again and again.
We were debating what could be served next from the menu – the risotto, or a steak? Instead, a rack of lamb was plated at the table, with sweet and sour carrots and buttery peas. The Asian tastes of the sweet and sour carrots were a little jarring compared to the melt-in-your-mouth lamb and fresh peas, which were delicious with every bite.
At this point, we thought we were going to be on to our last dish – so definitely a dessert. What greeted us was a cheese course with a delicate ‘flower’ of hard, truffle-flavoured cheese, a slice of walnut bread and quince jelly on the side. Our waiter, Theo, explained that the cheese curls are made with a special cheese scraper that attaches to the wheel of cheese. I’m not usually one for cheese as a dessert, as I always love to finish with something sweet – but this was amazing.
The final dish of the night, totalling in at six dishes, was mascarpone ice cream topped with a tiramisu mousse, sitting on a bed of espresso granite. The espresso packed a punch and was well matched with the gentle ice cream and tiramisu flavours.
Yes, we had come here primarily to eat – but we were so thankful that we had a room booked at the hotel. Whether it’s food and a night’s stay – or a dining destination, Paul Tamburrini should not be overlooked.
As well as the à la carte menu, there is also a ‘simply done’ menu with a selection of three starters, main courses and desserts available on an evening. Two courses for £21 and three courses for £25, which is excellent value for money.
Plus, the bar menu is open throughout the day serving a range of snacks and light meals.
READ MORE: Chef Interview with Paul Tamburrini