Location: Edinburgh, Scotland
Address: 69 North Castle Street
Type of Meal: Dinner
Mark Greenaway’s surroundings were simple but comfortable and the dining room held a surprising number of tables for the small location. My only suggestion, for the next revamp, is to change the chairs. They are simply not practical for anyone with a purse with its holes in the back and rounded backing (nothing to hang your purse from); alas, mine had to sit on the ground. Additionally, they were not that comfortable which may be a downfall for patrons ordering the 8-course tasting menu whom would need to sit for a while. Luckily, we were just popping by for a quick dinner so they were good enough for us.
Soon after ordering we were brought an amuse bouche of sage and pumpkin foam with toasted pumpkin seeds. I find pure foam starters to be a hit and miss, but Mark Greenaway's version was delicious with the fragrant warm foam set against the nuttiness of the pumpkin seeds. The dish had a richness to it making it taste like lobster bisque (I know a bit strange for pumpkin) and proved to be a great start.
After the amuse bouche, I was expecting bread to be brought out as a large disk of butter sat on the white linens. Surprisingly, it did not and instead my appetizer arrived first. Rather, the bread is served between the appetizer and main which is certainly unconventional, but perhaps saves you from filling up?
The spelt risotto (£7) was beautifully presented with a deep yellow sauce set against the brown grains of spelt. If you like cheese, this would be a great option as there’s plenty of it – a layer on the bottom of the plate, four croquettes of fried cheese included and a generous shaving of parmesan on top. Indeed, the croquettes were crispy, hot and delicious an unexpected treat on an already rich dish. But, the risotto itself was a bit hard for my taste. Of course, I realize the barley and spelt based risottos generally have a harder shell so has more of a bite, but these grains hadn't split at all so it just tasted like I was eating kernels of grain in a cheese sauce. Perhaps if they were cooked a bit more or mixed in some rice the dish would have been better as the flavours were certainly there.
My main of halibut (£24) was cooked well and another colourful presentation. Although it was good, I found the protein to be overshadowed by the pickled vegetable garnishes accompanying the main which were so vibrant in flavour. Every time I had a taste of the vegetables and then went back to the fish, the halibut tasted really bland. Now, this isn’t necessarily bad as there is some contrast, but just seems to be a shame that the main part of the dish gets lost. It was served with a lemongrass foam but found this didn't add much in terms of flavour.
The black rectangle on the fish is actually a piece of squid ink pasta; a bit mushy and not flavourful at all which is strange as squid ink tends to offer such a distinct aroma. The highlight of the dish, for me, was two slices of carrots which were wrapped around chopped up pieces of either fish or scallop with micro dices of pickled radish. These garnishes were such a great combination of tartness and silkiness of seafood that I wish there was more of them.
The pan roasted hake fillet (£21) that my husband ordered was definitely the better dish of the two and exhibited a fusion of Asian and French flavours. It had the flavourful crispy skin, which I adore with a piece of plain fish, surrounded by a fragrant sesame ginger broth. A side of purple mash included was smooth and had an interesting potato flavour mixed with what seemed like black sesame and red bean. Topping the fish was a lobster tagliatelle made into a dumpling form - sadly my husband polished this before I had a taste.
Normally, I am not a big dessert fan but heard about their peanut butter cheesecake (£7.50) and had to try it. The dessert consisted of layers of pressed peanut butter and smooth cheese cake piped between peanut butter sheets. A large piece of dark chocolate peanut bark topped everything and had a hint of saltiness giving the cake a sweet and savoury aspect to it but not overwhelmingly so.
As if this were not enough a warm syrupy caramel sauce is brought to the table and poured around the cake itself adding such a delicious buttery toffee taste to everything. Thankfully, the sauce wasn't too sweet and was just enough to complement the already decadent dessert. A white log decorates the cake and at first we put it to the side thinking it was a regular run of the milk while chocolate cylinder. When we finally tasted it we were delighted to find it ice cold and creamy in texture going so well with the warm sauce. I believe it might have been a frozen white chocolate gouache? This dessert was absolutely delicious and worth all the hype it receives. During our visit, it wasn't on the regular menu and only offered as part of the market menu. Thankfully, the chef was accommodating and made it for us anyways. Mr. Greenaway, put it back on your menu!
Perhaps it was due to our late seating and there were no other diners around, but the staff were extremely friendly and helpful, not only taking the time to chat with us but explain some facts of Scotland to us. Overall, the experience was a great one and Mark Greenaway is worth a visit. They also offer a great deal with the special market menu, available from 5:30-6:45 offering 2 courses for £16.50 or 3 courses for £20.
Overall mark - 8.5 out of 10
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Gastro World's Grading System
- Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
- 6 - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
- 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
- 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
- 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
- 10 - absolute perfection!