Readers will know I’m a huge fan of whisky and last year when I attended the relaunch of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society on Queen Street, I dropped subtle hints to my friends and family that I’d love a membership for my forthcoming big birthday.
Sadly it never materialised but an invitation from the Dining Room at 28 Queen Street recently did. I jumped at the chance.
They’ve made huge strides since last summer with their newly refurbished premises on Edinburgh’s Queen Street and their continued commitment to bring the best of whisky and its conviviality directly to members, casual customers and aficionados alike, won them the List’s annual Special Award for 2017. I can concur it’s well deserved.
Dining in the company of ‘Social Bitches‘ aka Derek and Isaac, our evening started in Kaleidoscope, the new ground floor public bar, which took over the place of the previous dining space.
No longer do you have to be a member to drink here and it’s open to everyone. It’s a snug, semi-circular bar staffed by knowledgeable staff and loaded with 200 malt whiskies.
We chose three different cocktails. Sharing was the name of the game here, even though the boys don’t always like this.
I chose the whisky based ‘Old Fashioned 1983’, Isaac the Koh Samui, with its base spirit gin and Derek settled on the Peat Tea Infusion, a fragrant iced-tea with a peaty Islay punch, as they’d run out of coriander for his initial choice of Elena de la Vega, made with tequila, cocoa infused vermouth, agave, fresh lime, red apple and coriander.
They were all beautifully presented and slipped down far too easily on a hot spring evening.
Making our way to the first floor Dining Room, up the impressive sweeping staircase, you can’t help but be impressed by the modern mixed with traditional Georgian design. Our corner banquette gave us a wonderful view over the restaurant and the very lush, green Queen Street Gardens.
We were here to try the new Spring A La Carte menu from chef James Freeman. His food is described as ‘not a hint of cliché . . . he chooses his ingredients thoughtfully, cooks them beautifully, and presents the dish in an unfussy, but hugely appealing way. ‘
Three different menus are on offer including the A La Carte available at lunch from 12-12.30pm, and dinner from 5pm (£42.00 for any 3 course), Tuesday to Saturday; their lighter Menu Du Jour, available 12-12.30pm Monday to Saturday, and dinner from 5-6.30pm from Tuesday to Saturday (£21.95 for 3 courses), a good pre-theatre option; and their Taster Menu, an indulgent five-course meal, paired with either wines or whisky, which are included in the price, available from 5pm onwards from Tuesday to Saturday for £75 per person.
Like different wines? Consult Silvère, the trusted sommelier
When your dining partners and you have different wine tastes, choosing a wine can be a challenge. The ‘Social Bitches’ are rather fond of their ‘New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs’, whilst I’ll drink most things about from SB!
Silvère, the Dining Room’s distinguished and very knowledgeable sommelier, with his lovely goatee beard twisted into a plait, suggested he choose paired wines for all our dishes. He got every one spot on, even choosing a Greek wine, Manolesakis Estate – Exis White, for Isaac’s starter of Terrine of Wild Boar and foie gras, which had the ‘nose’ of a SB, so hit the mark where Isaac was concerned.
We started with an amuse-bouche of smoked haddock with a Cullen skink foam and potatoes, which was paired with one of the Society’s Single Cask Malts (36.117), which have the most lyrical descriptions. This malt, ‘A wedding scene’ reads: ‘the nose evokes wedding cake and flower posies, Parma Ham, pineapple humps and strawberry jam: hints of leather, spice and cigars to finish. The palate marries chocolate and walnut cake with black pepper on strawberries, ice-lolly sticks and pleasant woody spice.’
Whilst I gave the haddock a wide berth, with my seafood allergy, the boys loved it and I loved the malt. It was the perfect introduction to the wonderful pairings that were to follow.
Sharing is caring – even if the boys hate it!
As all my god-children know, my motto is ‘sharing is caring’ so we mixed up our starters, so we could try each others.
Derek rather selfishly chose the hand-dived scallops (paired with Saint Veran, Domaine de la Coix Senaillet, France Bourgogne), which I can’t eat but the explosion of flavours and textures in my rabbit, confit and roasted loin with buckwheat, carrots, peas and tarragon (paired with a red Carignan Cotes de Thau, Baron de Badassiere, France, Langeudoc) was just sublime , as was Isaac’s terrine of wild boar and foie gras (paired with the Greek white).
For mains, two of us had opted for the roast rump and glazed cheek of beef, my favourite cut of meat, whilst Isaac opted for the loin and belly of Scotch lamb. However there was a slight mix up with the order and two lambs were served and one beef. I was happy to swap my choice although Silvère said he would re-order but I was hungry and like lamb too.
Derek did have to share his beef though so it was a win win for me, especially as Silvère had already chosen a wine for my beef (paired with Tinto de Corte Amalaya, Argentina, Calchaqui Valley, Salta) and then offered me another one to match my lamb (paired with Saint Joseph, Domaine les Alexandrins, France, Vallee Du Rhone)!
To finish our gastronomique dining, we were offered another amuse-bouche of lemon curd, with goats cheese ice cream with almond crumble – another winner.
Then it was time for desserts, opting againg for different desserts in the name of sharing.
My Scottish strawberry and champagne parfait exuded strawberry flavours, which is not always the case and was the perfect palate cleanser. Once again, our sommelier’s wine choice, (Vin de France Muscat Moelleux, Domaine Jones, France, Roussillon) complemented the dessert perfectly.
Derek’s dark chocolate ganache with aerated chocolate, oat ice cream and malt sauce, looked like it might be quite heavy but was actually as light as a feather and very delicious. I was less of a fan of Isaac’s sour cream pannacotta with treacle-filled doughnuts and apple sorbet though but that’s a personal taste.
If you’re a fan of whisky and want to explore further, make sure you put the Dining Room at 28 Queen Street at the Scotch Malt Whisky Society on your list of places to dine at. Chef James Freeman is producing food that excites and with Silvère, their sommelier on hand, along with their attentive staff, you’ll be taken on a wonderful dining, wine and whisky journey and what’s even better, is that you no longer need to be a member to eat here. They even accept mere mortals like me and the Social Bitches.
However I’m still hankering after that membership. I think I need to drop some bigger hints!
The Dining Room
The Scotch Malt Whisky Society
28 Queen Street
Edinburgh EH2 1JX
Tel: 0131 220 2044
Kerry dined as a guest of the Dining Room at the Scotch Malt Whisky Society