Restaurant Review: The Magnum (March 2015)

Posted on: March 19th, 2015 by Simon Carter & Daniel Darwood

Magnum Restaurant and Bar Edinburgh

Located at the junction of Albany Street and Dublin Street, in a quiet corner of Newtown, The Magnum Restaurant and Bar is slightly off the beaten tourist track. It is, however, close to city centre, with York Place, St Andrew’s Square and Princes Street only a few minutes’ walk away. A well-established feature amongst locals – it has been on the same site for over thirty years – Magnum has benefitted from a makeover by owner Chris Graham. The wide exterior frontage in green remains much the same, but inside the dark grey walls punctuated by red cornices give a smart, elegant feel. This is enhanced by soft wall lighting, chandeliers and photographic prints. As befitting its name, magnums of champagne liberally decorate the bar area.

Magnum Interior

All this contrasts oddly with fairy lights which drape the large windows. In daytime they look odd, but at night they provide an attractive glittering effect to brighten an essentially dark room.

Well-spaced, polished wood tables and black leather upholstered chairs are arranged across three dining areas. With space for 40 covers, or 70 if the bar is used, they provide a comfortable and relaxed environment.

Flexibility is the hallmark of eating at The Magnum. Guests have a choice of dining rooms and can choose from either the bar menu or the carte. In the great Scottish tradition portions are generous and prices are very fair given the quality of ingredients – sourcing is a major priority – and the skill shown in the cookery. The set lunch and early evening menu is a snip at £12.95 for two courses, £14.95 for three. Starters on the carte range from £4.95 to £8.95, mains from 12.50 to £22. 50.

An interesting Old and New World wine list, with helpful, concise notes, puts quality above quantity at prices not to be sneered at. This also applies to the champagne where the Bollinger Special Cuvee is a relative bargain at £72.

An interesting set of menus – bar, set and carte – offer ample choice: for instance, the a la carte menu has six starters and nine mains. Due respect is paid to Scotland’s culinary heritage, as shown in Cullen Skink, Buccleuch or Vegetarian haggis and Cranachan cheesecake. Mediterranean influences come with courgette frittata, open lasagne, and pea and parmesan bruschetta. Even more traditional mains – burgers, steaks fish and chips – come with adventuous garnishes.

Monday lunchtime may lack the buzz of a busy weekend but offers a more peaceful, relaxing couple of hours to enjoy Magnum’s cooking.

Scallops with black pudding buttons, tomato confit and herb oil from the carte proved a well-conceived “surf and turf” starter. The scallops were accurately seared to give a caramelised crust and soft, succulent flesh. The black pudding was particularly flavoursome, whilst the tomato confit added a moderate degree of sweetness, balancing the savoury elements. The oil finished the dish perfectly, adding a herbal lift.

Magnum Scallops

My main course of seared duck breast was well rested to maximise its flavour and tenderness. Perched on slices on new potato, it worked well with wild mushrooms and broad beans which added deep earthy notes, and sweet roasted shallots. Smoked bacon lardons and a deeply flavoured broth added further layers of flavour to this attractively presented and substantial dish. Indeed, the portion was so large it did not need the bowl of delicious thick cut chips which I had mistakenly ordered as a side dish.

Magnum Duck Breast

The dessert of Assiette of Apple comprised three elements: a miniature tatin of perfect pastry and rich caramel; a creamy panna cotta set to the correct degree of wobble; apple puree and a refreshing sorbet with the right balance of sweetness and acidity. Apart from the over thick brandy snap basket, this was a well-executed dessert.

Clearly, The Magnum offers an experience equal to available at some of its more expensive but less inviting competitors closer to the city centre. It has, nevertheless, attracted a loyal following of locals who admire its consistency and high standards of cooking. The welcoming, efficient and helpful service of a young front of house team also makes a visit to the restaurant a memorable occasion. fine dining guide is happy to add The Magnum Restaurant & Bar to its portfolio and will watch its progress with interest