Always up for a little fine dining amidst fabulous decor, the Social Bitches deem Christmas to be the perfect excuse to re-visit one of Edinburgh’s most iconic hotels. Having previously enjoyed the decadence of a ten-course meal at Balmoral’s Number One restaurant, not to mention many a cheeky cocktail at the bar, on this occasion it’s up to Brasserie Prince to satisfy our rather voracious appetites.
Needless to say, Chef Alain Roux and his talented team are more than up to the challenge. Combining classic French cuisine with the finest in Scottish produce, the menu is crammed full of saucy temptation.
It’s even, given the Balmoral’s status, pretty reasonably priced. Remarkably, so is much of the wine list. Of course we’ll be drinking our way through it soon enough, but first let’s start at the beginning …
We arrive unfashionably early, but impeccably dressed. Immediately we like the vibe. The staff are super friendly. The atmosphere is sophisticated, yet relaxed. The lighting creates the perfect ambience, and the decor offers a playful take on the restaurant’s regal theme. By the way, loving the green, loving the stripes!
What’s more, there isn’t a hint of the people and traffic outside. Quite a feat given we’re on the corner of two of Edinburgh’s busiest streets. Instead, all we can detect is the delicate tinkle of piano, and the happy hum of fellow diners.
Seconds later, and without saying a single word to our lovely waiter, we’re somehow sipping our first glass of Piper Heidsieck. We’re also making short work of a wonderfully tangy green olive tapenade, and remarking that dinner is off to a excellent start.
When we do eventually pick up a menu, we’re excited by what’s on offer. Our first decree is a perfectly chilled bottle of the Gewurtztraminer. Hailing from Alsace, with strong notes of citrus and peach, it’s wonderfully sweet and an absolute joy to drink.
It’s also an apt companion to Isaac’s Smoked salmon with raw onion rings, capers, lemon and rye soda bread. Speaking with his mouth full, he attempts to express that this simple dish is utterly fresh, smoky in flavour, and absolutely bursting with flavour.
My fellow Social Bitch is also very excited by the size of his portion, which means there was no need to order a second starter. Oh well, what a pity, never mind, for as it happens the Beetroot & goat’s cheese salad with red pepper vinaigrette is equally dazzling.
With both baby beets and puréed beetroot, not to mention a rather lovely cheese that’s somewhere between a feta and a brie, this is a salad all other salads should aspire to.
But the award for best starter EVER goes deservedly to the Steamed Shetland mussels with lardons & cider sauce. So rich, so intense, every gorgeous mouthful sees yours truly moaning like an over-enthusiastic porn star. Awkward.
Even after the exceedingly generous amount of mussels are gone, it’s impossible to resist mopping up every last drop of the cider sauce with the moreish crusty bread. The only downside being, we’re both starting to feel [ can’t believe we’re saying this ] FULL!
Desperate to make it to dessert, perhaps even the cheese trolley, we ask to take our time between courses. Our waiter smiles, and explains there’s no need to rush. Fortunately, the popular trend of the two-hour-table-flip has not made it to Prince, bonus!
So after a short respite, and another gorgeous bottle of wine, we are ready for the mains. And here, we’re once again giving full marks for both quality and quantity.
For a start, the Roasted duck breast with potato purée & orange sauce is mind blowing. Cooked to a perfect shade of pink, it’s beautifully tender, and the skin feels as if it’s been lovingly rubbed with just a hint of salt.
But the real triumph is the sauce. Tasting of freshly squeezed orange juice, it brings zing and vitality to everything on the plate. So much so, even something as simple as spinach is suddenly one of the most amazing things we’ve ever tasted.
And while there’s really no need to also consume an entire dish of the wonderfully smooth and creamy mash, we feel compelled to loudly sing: Non, je ne regrette rien.
Isaac, meanwhile, declares his Red wine braised oxtail daube with dauphinoise potato is even more impressive. So incredibly tender, the slightest nudge sees the meat effortlessly fall from the bone. Then as it touches the tongue, it simply melts.
No doubt the secret here is the very liberal use of red wine. It feels almost as if chef’s poured in an entire bottle, which by the way is definitely NOT a complaint. The end result is an intensely rich sauce, almost sticky in nature, that’s nothing short of heavenly.
As the last mouthfuls disappear, we have to admit we’re now feeling incredibly full. Are we losing our touch?? Bravely we push on, and after a few generous pours of tawny port, we feel ready to finally tackle the dessert menu.
Thank heavens we’ve persisted, the Chocolate and coffee opera cake is sheer delight. Like tiramisu, but denser, sweeter, and slightly more syrupy, we are big fans. What’s more, the closer it gets to room temperature, the better it tastes.
But our absolute favourite is the Chestnut Mont Blanc with black currant coulis. This classic French dessert simply dazzles, thanks to its many delicious and delicate layers.
Meringue, cream, chestnut, berry – there’s so much going on here, but both its taste and presentation clearly demonstrate that Alain Roux and his team are creating artistry. A compliment that can easily be paid to our entire meal.
Unable to walk, but utterly impressed by every aspect of our night, once again we say: this is truly a five-star experience!
Merry Christmas from the Social Bitches xx
PS You can see our review of the Balmoral’s Number One Restaurant HERE
Reviewed December 2019
The Balmoral Hotel
1 Princes Street
0131 557 5000