The Easter bank holiday weekend has been something of a gastronomic delight for me. I was fortunate enough to be whisked away to Edinburgh. Whisked away by family I hasten to add and not on a romantic weekend mini break. This was something of a change for our family, not that we have ever exactly had an Easter routine like we do at Christmas, but it is the first time that we have all gone away for a long weekend together. The best part about going away with my parents is that they make sure that you travel first class from London Kings Cross to Edinburgh and that you stay in a bad boy hotel. On this occasion, the bad boy hotel in question was the Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh.
I won’t lie, on Friday morning things got off to an inauspicious start; I couldn’t find the dress that I needed (it turns out that it was hiding in my boyfriend’s flat), the taxi driver took a very strange route from Parsons Green to Kings Cross and when we arrived at coach J, there was no indication that it was a first class carriage. Fear not, it was a first class carriage so we piled on and then things got rather worse again. On entering the carriage we were greeted by the dulcet tones of a stroppy yank who had “just flown in from Cape Town”. It transpired that the problem was that his family was not sitting together, they were spread out through the carriage and he seemed to be insisting that a mistake had been made. He was frankly, making an ugly scene and upsetting both staff and fellow passengers alike and winning no sympathy from those of us who were unfortunate enough to be in earshot. The harangued staff member then insisted on seeing my ticket and reservation in manner that clearly implied that I must be in the wrong seat. I handed over my reservation but did add that he could ask in more a polite fashion. Eventually the problem was solved and the obnoxious yank calmed down. The journey then passed without further interruptions although inexplicably the train was incredibly poorly stocked as no one at East Coast Rail had made the connection between an almost fully booked train and the approximate number of poor quality sandwiches that were likely to be required. But at least I had a seat.
The Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh is a delight in practically every sense of the word. The hotel, for those of you who do not know it, is on Princes Street and about 4 minutes from Waverly Station; it has three bars, two restaurants and a spa. I have eaten in both of the restaurants and they are both excellent, one is superb. I would love to bore you with the details of everything that I ate over the weekend but it would take far too long so I will only do so for what was our finale dinner on Sunday night.
We ate at the hotel’s Michelin starred restaurant called Number One and it was quite frankly the best meal of my life to date. I thought that I had eaten some fairly special meals but they have all been surpassed by my meal at the Number One and I think that this may have been the case for all of our party. The restaurant is considered to be one of the best restaurants in Edinburgh and I would have to agree, it was a delight from start to finish and I now aspire to a new standard of excellence myself.
To my way of thinking the meal consisted of seven parts (the most powerful magical number you know): a pre-dinner drink and canapes in the restaurant’s bar, an amuse bouche, starter, main course, a pre-dessert, dessert finally followed by coffee and petit-fours.
Canapes: Confit Rabbit Lollipop, Haggis Bonbon, Haddock Fishcake, Mozzarella with Basil Dust
Amuse bouche: Beetroot Cured Salmon with Asparagus Jelly
Starter: Scallops with Savoy Cabbage Puree, Chicken Wings and Truffle Jus
Main: Suckling Pig, Squash Puree, Haricot Blanc, and Sweet and Sour Apple
Pre-Dessert: Creme Caramel, Strawberry Sorbet, Berry Coulis
Dessert: White Chocolate and Walnut Delice, Roasted Baby Banana and Rum Ice Cream
Petit Fours: Chocolate Ganache, Lemon Jelly and Chocolate Truffle, Passionfruit Macaroons, Choux Buns dipped in Caramel and filled with Grand Marnier Cream, and a hand-made Bounty
This was the single most delicious meal that I have ever eaten. Each part of the meal was exquisite and the service was impeccable. All of the staff were polite, knowledgeable and amiable but not obsequious. I thought that the rabbit lollipop was absolutely delicious and I would very much have liked more but then that’s not really the way with canapes but they certainly increased my anticipation of the courses that were to follow. Although I reverted to type, I will regularly order scallops and some form of pork, I did not feel as bad as I usually do for not being adventurous and going with something completely different because these two dishes were, completely different. The scallops and chicken wings was a great combination and it was the best chicken wing that I ever eaten – sticky, tender and not a trace of anything unpleasant.
The scallops and the chicken wing combination was not the only first for me in that meal. I have never been presented with a pre-dessert before. I loved it. I am not sure that I can conceive of eating a meal that doesn’t include a pre-dessert now, to just go straight to dessert seems terribly poor form!
It was more than a pallet cleanser although mine did include a strawberry sorbet; there was also a tiny baby creme caramel and some berry coulis. I don’t normally like creme caramel but this tasted unlike any creme caramel that I have come across previously and I ate the lot.
At Number One, diners are presented with one of two pre-desserts depending on whether you are having a sweet dessert or cheese for your dessert. Two of our party had opted to have cheese for dessert so I was fortunate enough to taste both of the pre-desserts. The cheese pre-dessert featured a celery sorbet which was very pleasant and was overall a much more savoury pre-dessert that also cleverly incorporated a pallet cleansing aspect.
The portions were amazing because on first glance they appeared to be on the small side but after having eaten the lot I can safely say that I could not have eaten anything else. If ever you find yourself in Edinburgh then I cannot recommend Number One enough and I certainly hope to find myself back there again.