Bistro Deluxe by Paul Tamburrini at the Macdonald Holyrood Hotel is a welcome addition to the rapidly expanding high end restaurant scene in Edinburgh. Located near the base of the Royal Mile, adjacent to the Scottish Parliament, it fills a much needed gap in Edinburgh’s Old Town which is which largely bereft of fine dining establishments. At least SMPs have a neighbouring restaurant of quality away from the bustle of their own establishment. However, it is attracting attention from a much wider field of discerning foodies.
The spacious wooden floored dining room has an inevitable corporate feel but is no less attractive for that. With a bar at one end, it is dressed in warming tones of brown, grey and cream, with well positioned wall and spotlighting. Comfortable leather banquettes and smart curved backed dining chairs are arranged around well-spaced, marble or wooden topped tables, providing a maximum of 80 covers. Dominating the view as you walk in is the PT motif of the eponymous chef.
Paul Tamburrini’s impressive CV includes leading positions in prestigious Scottish restaurants. He was executive chef at One Devonshire Gardens in Glasgow, then head chef at Cameron House, Loch Lomond, and, most recently, chef director at the Honours Brasserie in Edinburgh. His association with Michelin starred Martin Wishart is therefore well established, so it was only a matter of time before Paul set up under his own name.
Paul’s confident cuisine is inspired by renowned French chefs Guy Savoy, Michel Bras, and Frédéric Anton but bears its own creative hallmark. Sourcing of the finest, mainly Scottish, produce is the essential prerequisite for dishes with sometimes unexpected yet compatible combinations. Variations in taste, texture, temperature and colour give interest to precisely timed, finely tuned cooking. Plates are not overcrowded, sometimes with only three ingredients, allowing the main one to shine, and letting flavours to speak for themselves. Presentation, on a variety of porcelain and earthenware, is clean and precise.
The a la carte menu, which moves with the seasons, has six to seven choices in each course in addition to oysters, five steaks from the Josper Grill, and two sharing dishes – rack of Scottish lamb and cote de beouf. This is a sensible balance between the creative and more established, safer offerings. Pricing is realistic, given the quality of the ingredients and the skill in cooking. Appetisers range from £7.50 to £12.50, mains from £17.50 to £25, and desserts from £8 to £16, the latter being a tarte tatin and panna cotta ice cream for two.
A wide range of Old and New World countries feature on the 80 bottle wine list, with prices mainly between £20 and £50.
A visit on a quiet evening in February lacked the exciting buzz of a busy weekend service but was no less enjoyable for that. Moreover, without major distractions, we could concentrate on the food, which certainly did not lack sparkle.
A tasting menu, featuring smaller portions from the carte, delighted in its range of deftly prepared courses.
We began with
Next came a pressed terrine of baby beetroot, which, unlike many inferior versions, was not too gelatinous. Vibrant in colour with a good balance of sweet and earthy flavours, it was accompanied with a yogurt foam topped with dried broccoli crumbs which gave contrasting textures and tastes. (Wine: Semillon /Sauvignon Blanc, Fraser Gallop Estate)
Orkney scallops are one of the treasures of Scottish seafood. Here, the cooking did full justice to this highly prized bivalve. Accurately timed to produce a seared crust with soft opaque flesh, it retained its essential sweet flavour and succulent texture. Along with a smear of – now ubiquitous – cauliflower puree, the scallop was paired with caramelised cauliflower florets of contrasting texture and dressed with a fragrant, but not overpowering curry oil. These elements complemented each other well and with only three ingredients on the plate, there was nowhere to hide, not that was there was any need with this dish. (Wine:
Equally accomplished was a course of ox cheek braised in red wine. The meltingly soft texture and deep flavour of the meat, the result of long slow cooking, was enhanced by the addition of mushrooms, baby onions and lardons, giving a bourguignon effect. Smooth, smoky mash proved the perfect accompaniment, soaking up the rich sauce, more of which was offered separately. (Wine: Pinot Noir, Garzon Single Vineyard)
Finally, key lime pie proved a suitably light, tangy dessert to end the meal. The lime curd had a good balance of sweet and sharp flavours, whilst coconut sorbet provided a refreshing counterpoint. Shards of meringue gave height and crispness to this well-conceived and attractively presented dessert of contrasting tastes, textures and temperatures.
Good coffee and petit fours completed a memorable meal. It was enhanced by the welcoming, knowledgeable, efficient and unobtrusive service led by manager Adshead who also selected the flight of wines and gave a succinct description of each. His extensive experience at other top Edinburgh hotels ensured the service would be seamless.
Paul Tamburrini’s restaurant has entered a highly competitive market in the gastronomic capital. Given the strengths demonstrated on our visit, its chances for long term success are strong. Fine Dining Guide will revisit to sample other dishes from the menu and will follow its progress with interest.