The last time I visited Rhubarb at Prestonfield was 2011. The occasion was a celebratory lunch for my new job and my dining partner was a very pregnant friend, JN, who was 10 days from her due date.
The dining room wasn’t busy on that occasion, a Tuesday lunch, but I remember it as a fabulous afternoon spent eating fine food and sharing good conversation. JN ignored what pregnant ladies shouldn’t eat and happily enjoyed a glass of champagne, tucked into blue cheese and ate offal.
After our lunch date, I was off to see the film Water for Elephants and thankfully JN opted for her baby yoga class instead. I’m glad she did as her waters broke at the class. It would have put a very different spin on my enjoyment of the film.
Opulent dining with stunning views
Fast forward six years and I am sitting in the opulent dining room at Rhubarb and my dining guest is again JN. With us both having recently celebrated a significant birthday, there’s no chance she’s pregnant this time.
Walking down the long drive, lined with yellow daffodils and overlooked by the yellow gorse- covered Arthur’s Seat to be met by two majestic peacocks, dining at Rhubarb is a theatrical treat from start to finish.
On a Thursday evening, the restaurant is busy. There were 23 other diners occupying 10 tables, of mixed ages.
This stylish and glamorous restaurant occupies grand Regency rooms at the heart of Prestonfield. The restaurant’s name comes from the fact that this was the first estate in Scotland to propagate rhubarb in the eighteenth century. They still grow it, love it and feature it on their menu wherever they can. More of that later.
Their wine list is not all big names and big prices
Their wine list is extensive and their acclaimed cellar has won every award going. There’s some very serious wines on there that will set you back a monthly mortgage but there’s also more affordable prices too, with a selection of well-curated wines by the glass (from £7) and by the bottle from £23, which happily go with the menu selection. And if the wine list bamboozles you, their sommelier is on hand to help you select.
For dining, there’s the choice of the Table d’Hote dinner menu priced at £36 for three courses, with a choice of three starters, mains and desserts or the a la carte, with five choices each.
We opted to push the boat out and to try the a la carte menu. I was tempted by two of the starters, the Jerusalem artichoke (£11) and the Fois gras (£17), which won me over as it’s not something I have very often.
JN opted for the Mull shellfish with roast cauliflower parfait, roast langoustine, brown crab, spoot (razor clam) and vegetable a la Grecque (£16), a sauce made with olive oil, lemon and several seasonings, such as fennel, coriander, sage and thyme.
With my fish and seafood allergy I couldn’t try this but JN declared it delicious although she wasn’t that keen on the slice of pressed cauliflower, which she felt didn’t work texture wise. I thought it was celeriac but the helpful waiting staff put us right.
My roulade of foie gras and confit duck, with pineapple chutney, Madeira, pickled shimeji (cute edible mushrooms, native to East Asia) and tiny kisses of spiced meringue (£17) was pretty as a picture on the plate. Served with toasted brioche, there was a beautiful balance of flavours and textures and the spiced meringues were an inspiration. I’ll be stealing that idea.
We both chose the meat options for mains. My loin of lamb with spiced belly, smoked garlic puree, tabbouleh, cumin gnocchi, burnt aubergine, and cardamon braised carrot (£32) was a winner and JN’s loin of venison, with parsley root, red wine salsify, kale and Medjool date was melt in the mouth, with earthy and sweet flavours provided by the marrying of the dates in this dish.
Although fit to burst, although in JN’s case not from being pregnant this time, we were tempted by the desserts. On our lovely and very helpful waiter, Stavros from Greece suggested Jo choose the dark chocolate and hazelnut croustillant, Aragnac prunes, caramelized banana and creme fraiche (£10.95) over the Tropical Fruits. It was a good choice, oozing richness.
My dessert had me somewhat puzzled. I had ordered the ‘white chocolate’, which was described as caramelised white chocolae, crystallised almonds, blackcurrant and wild mint ice-cream. For someone with a relatively sophisticated palate I was struggling to make out the different elements on the plate with the description on my menu, which I had thankfully taken a picture of.
Fortunately for me, I queried what the rose-like creations had been on my plate with Stavros, who answered ‘the vanilla confit rhubarb’, which I challenged saying that hadn’t been in the description. He soon realised the problem. This had been the dessert from an older menu and a few rogue ones had found their way into the pile given to diners.
Not to worry – anything with white chocolate is good as far as I am concerned. Instead, what I had been served, whilst also ‘white chocolate’ (£10.95) was a totally different creation. It consisted of a white chocolate mousse, yoghurt ice cream, pistachio daquoise and the pink rose creations, the with a vanilla confit. I’m glad I checked or I would have thought I had lost my touch.
Rhubarb certainly lived up to our expectations once again and thankfully didn’t result in a birth this time.
If you’re looking for somewhere a little bit special to celebrate a birthday or special occasion, Rhubarb at Prestonfield House certainly fits the bill, ticking all the boxes of delicious cuisine, fantastic service and fine dining in a historical setting with the most amazing outlook.
I’ll definitely be back and if a full-blown three course lunch or dinner isn’t on the cards, I’m told by my friend EH that the Prestonfield Afternoon Tea is the best in Edinburgh; and this is from a lady who knows a thing or two about afternoon tea. At £25, it’s on my bucket list of things to tick off in Edinburgh.
Rhubarb at Prestonfield
Edinburgh EH16 5UT
Telphone: 0131 225 1333
Kerry dined as a guest of Rhubarb