Renowned for fine dining at its very finest, the Balmoral’s Number One most definitely lives up to the hype. Every detail, every Michelin-starred ingredient is outstanding. Which is why coming here at least once in your lifetime is an absolute must.
But while this is a tale with a happy ending, it actually begins with us enduring yet another crippling hangover. The only light at the end of this very dark tunnel is the thought of joining our gorgeous friends Jo & Tony for an unforgettable dinner.
But even after achieving the near-impossible task of making ourselves look fabulous, there’s yet another hurdle to jump. A mere three seconds after opening our Georgian front door, and despite rumours of summer, we’re caught in torrential rain. It’s almost biblical in fact, as if the prelude to a plague of frogs.
“No!!!!!” we bellow, possibly in a slow motion. “We’re wearing tweed!!!”
Suffice to say, it ‘s a joyful moment indeed when we finally arrive in the elegant atmosphere of Number One. The red lacquered walls, sophisticated furnishings, and rather striking artwork are instantly impressive.
There’s also oodles of space between the tables. So despite the notion you’re somewhere incredibly upmarket, you never feel the need to speak in hushed tones. In fact the vibe is relaxed, tranquil even.
“Fabulous!” we announce in unison, before turning our attention to a much-needed bottle of champagne. Moments later, our hangovers are forgotten, and we’ve decided the tasting menu with paired wines is the ONLY way to go.
And so the theatre begins …
Including our wonderfully French sommelier, we’re being looked after by a staff of six or so people. As if set to music, they’re soon delivering a series of bites, designed to grab our attention, and tease the indulgent journey ahead.
The Cod Roe Tart and Venison Tartare are exquisite. Even the freshly baked barley bread with vinegar and rapeseed oil has us chanting “wow” at one another. But the real delight in this opening number is the Truffle Bomb.
We’re told to place the entire thing in our mouths, and slowly bite. Sensual to say the least, there’s an explosive burst of truffle, mushroom, madeira and port which is nothing short of orgasmic.
Moments later, our sommelier has returned and is explaining why a cheeky glass of Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve is the perfect accompaniment to the next incredible course: Oyster, Kipper and Lovage. No argument here.
The presentation is phenomenal, it’s like a Zen garden, meanwhile the flavours are even more impressive. Hints of lemon and spice that build to an intense crescendo – almost as if our tastebuds have just ridden a rollercoaster.
Next its the unlikely combination of Cured Duck Foie Gras, Kiwi & Summer Truffle.
Without doubt, it’s the smoothest and creamiest we’ve ever encountered, so already we’re in love. But … combining this delicacy with kiwifruit, and the lightly toasted ginger bread takes it to a whole new level.
Tony’s knife crashes to his plate, and loudly he announces “This is bold, this is creative, this is EXCITING!!”
Our mouths full, we nod vigorously in agreement, and burst into spontaneous applause. But then suddenly we pause for a moment. We’re so elated we’ve almost forgotten about the wine. How very embarrassing.
Produced in Hungary, the Dry Furmint ‘Isten-Hegy’ 2015 is aged in oak, with many a citrus note, and tantalising hints of fresh orange peel. Like a Riesling, but much subtler, it only makes our fabulous foie gras taste all the sweeter.
Could this meal get any better we ask??
As for our answer, that comes in the form of the outstanding Scallop Kedgeree aptly matched with the Gewürztraminer, Weingut Schaffer-Froblich 2018.
“Heavenly wine,” Jo says, in between rather large sips. “So floral! It tastes like the garden after it rains.”
We’re loving her poetic turn of phrase, and can’t wait to hear what she has to say about the kedgeree.
“I love it!” she almost sings. “Absolutely nothing like the slop we used to make in primary school cooking class!”
Okay, so not quite the review we were expecting. But Jo’s right, this is definitely a sophisticated dish: rich yet delicate; delightfully creamy but with crunch, thanks to the grains of puffed rice; and the scallop, well, it just melts in the mouth.
No sooner do we finish waxing lyrical, and our sommelier returns, insisting we’re about to fall in love – all over again – with the Godello ‘Louro’, Rafael Palacious 2017. He is indeed correct.
This gorgeous Spanish wine is perfectly silky, boasting citrus and melon flavours, as well as hints of chestnut flower. Like a chardonnay, but much mellower, and without any of that buttery aftertaste nonsense. This is a real delight.
When paired with the North Sea Cod, Pickled Clams & Tarragon, a feeling of joy is absolutely guaranteed. Not only is the seafood top notch, it’s garnished with picturesque flora, bringing a series of unique and surprising flavours to the dish.
But let’s talk about its crowning glory, the tarragon butter! Fashioned with a playful nod to mushy peas, it has an almost liquorice taste, and is something we’d happily eat both on its own, and in outrageously large quantities.
Though if pushed to name our favourite savoury dish, drumroll please … it would have to be the Peelham Lamb paired with a rather cheeky red, the Bandol ‘Cuvee Classique’ Domaine Tempier 2012.
Even smoother than the foie gras, the lamb’s total perfection. What’s more, with contrasting flavours such as feta, pickled watermelon, charred thyme, and a mind-blowing smoked aubergine, every bite is a new and inspired experience.
Trouble is, this ecstasy is soon followed by melancholy …
Yes, it’s true. Once you’ve savoured the very last morsel, and tried to discreetly lick the plate, you’re slightly depressed the course is over.
Fortunately, this emotional blow is softened by the realisation dessert is in itself three separate courses. So we happily pop the razor blades aside, and embark on a “pre-dessert” of Carrot, Sea Buckthorn & Brown Butter Financier.
Offering stunning contrasts of both sweet and sour, this dish is merely a hint of what’s to come. Soon we’re also enjoying a glass of the Jurancon Uroulat 2016, a gorgeous French dessert wine with notes of honeysuckle, apricot and mango.
Then comes the actual dessert: Roast Pineapple Soufflé, Coconut & Liquorice Root – now this is craftsmanship! The tart taste of pineapple, the wave of pleasure as you get that first hit of the liquorice, and the soufflé – light and fluffy to the point of sublime.
Tony’s eyes roll back. Either he’s having a seizure, or this is perhaps one of the best desserts he’s ever had. He soon confirms our suspicions, it is indeed one of his top five things he’s ever had in his mouth.
We are in total agreement, what an incredible meal this has been. The inspired tastes, the exceptional presentation, and of course the amazing service have made this an unforgettable experience.
The final act – allegedly – is the Petit Fours, with dazzling tastes of white chocolate truffle, tablet, dark chocolate mint, and pate de fruit. Our only complaint, we REALLY don’t want this meal to end.
So while most people would have run out of appetite or money by this point, the Social Bitches instead find themselves seduced by the cheese trolley, figuratively soaked in port, and asking the inevitable question: More wine babes??
Truly a five-star night!
Reviewed July 2019
The Balmoral Hotel
1 Princes Street
0131 557 6727