Less than seven miles from the New Town, Melville Castle isn’t just the perfect place to get married. Oh no, no, no … as these Social Bitches discovered, it’s also ideal for drinking far too much wine, and enjoying a brasserie that’s fabulous beyond belief.
Our story begins with us finding ourselves living next door to a wonderfully handsome and friendly man called David. One day, as we spoke of this and that, Isaac asked the most tedious of questions.
“David,” he said. “What is it you do for a living?”
“Well,” David responded quite casually. “My family own a castle, and I suppose I look after that.”
Oh how very Edinburgh we laughed, for incredibly, this wasn’t the first (or the last) time we’ve encountered such a response.
Anyhoo, Isaac’s next question was slightly more interesting. He asked when could we come for a visit.
Sensing we might have impossibly high expectations (pretentious, moi??!!?), David delayed our visit as for as long as humanly possibly
But finally – a mere five years later – he invited us to enjoy drinks, dinner, and an overnight stay at Melville. Naturally, we immediately accepted.
Passing through the castle’s gates, we were surrounded by more than fifty acres of lush woodland, and a gently winding river. All of which was bathed – because YES Scotland is sometimes sunny – in dappled light.
Impressed by the romance of all it all, Isaac imagined how lovely it would be to take this journey in a horse and carriage.
I, on the other hand, was thinking it had been an entire nineteen hours since we’d last had a drink, and prayed there would be bubbles on arrival.
Moments later, we arrived at a gorgeous Georgian Castle. Thoughts of champagne temporarily on hold, we couldn’t help but say: Wow! Perhaps we should have gone for the horse and carriage after all?
Built in the late 1780s, it’s the work of renowned Scottish architect James Playfair, who designed it for the first Lord Melville, Henry Dundas (whose impressive portrait hangs above the fireplace in the reception hall).
Mind you, the estate itself has more than 860 years of history, which includes regular visits by Mary Queen of Scots and her saucy Italian male secretary. Perhaps they too enjoyed the romantic setting.
Though, much more importantly, we breezed past the castle’s sweeping staircase, and on to the library. There amongst its deep red hues and gold cornicing, we were indeed greeted by David and a perfectly chilled bottle of Piper-Heidsieck.
Eventually we headed downstairs to the restaurant, where we were soon enjoying a menu that easily competes with some of Edinburgh’s best. We were expecting good, we discovered excellent.
No longer involved in the day to day running of the hotel, David was keen to hear our feedback. And naturally, over three courses and another, well, umm four-ish bottles of wine, we were more than happy to give it.
But let’s back up the horse and carriage, and start at the beginning …
With the likes of Smoked salmon, Goats cheese panacotta and Haggis bon bons & whisky sauce on offer it felt difficult to choose just one dish each.
But after interrogating our waiter, we finally focused our attention on the Salted cod and spinach fishcakes with rouille sauce and a soft poached egg.
Absolute perfection! We adore the simple but hugely satisfying combination of flavours. We’re also rather excited by its substantial proportions. Too often entrees are gone in four bites, but this wonderful beast keeps on giving.
Moving on the mains, we were again spoiled for choice. Our waiter who had been so helpful in the previous round, suggested the Buccluech beef burger with swiss cheese and crispy bacon deserved our intimate attention.
But throwing back another glass of wine, Isaac took a trademark two-a-half seconds to decide on … yes, no prizes for guessing … the lamb. Does he ever order anything else, you ask? Well, just as he likes it cooked … rarely.
Mind you Melville’s Lamb rump with potato terrine, green pea purée, savoy cabbage, smoked lardons and mint jus is really rather fabulous.
It delivers a perfect pink, and perfect textures, as well as flavours that enhance this most succulent of meats rather than overpower it.
I meanwhile was equally delighted by the Short rib of Scottish beef, served with grain mustard mash, seasonal vegetables and bourguignon sauce.
Again, such a simple dish, but every bite is pure bliss. The beef is melt-in-your-mouth tender, and sauce utterly addictive.
After two courses, we found ourselves in need of a small break, one that was soon filled with conversation and wine. Though possibly not in that order.
Eventually, along with a few cheeky glasses of dessert wine, Isaac ordered another of his much-loved favourites: Sticky toffee pudding with butterscotch sauce & honeycomb ice cream.
Impressed with how very moist his sponge was, he found himself almost not in need of the extra jug of butterscotch sauce he’d insisted upon.
He’s also quite excited by the addition of honeycomb to the mix, so long story short this take on a classic dish gets a very big thumbs up.
But the prize for choosing the best dessert goes to … yours truly. The Dark chocolate delice with hazelnuts, cherry compote and black currant sorbet is amazing.
It looks like a work of art, but the real joy comes when it tantalises your tastebuds. I even found myself slowing down – which almost never happens – in order to make this rich and creamy experience last longer.
So to our friend David, and Melville Castle’s rather talented chef, our feedback is simple. Seriously, don’t change a thing. We love the menu, and had no idea leaving the city could be so incredibly rewarding!
Our perfect evening ended with a cheeky takeaway bottle of sauvignon – surprise, surprise – allowing us to happily pass out in a fabulous and hugely comfortable four-poster bed. Oh the heady sophistication of it all …
There are also rumours of a Sunday lunch being introduced, and we say: YES PLEASE!
Reviewed June 2018