It’s been 18 months since Amy reviewed Paul Tamburrini’s at The Macdonald Holyrood Hotel. That’s a long time for a restaurant, especially in a place like Edinburgh where the competition is fierce, so it’s interesting to see what’s happened there. We’d been invited to come in for a tasting menu. I received a glass of light, cheerful bubbles and settled in to a comfortable booth while Amy reviewed what she’d been up to in the last year and a half. (It’s been a busy time.) Around us, diners were arriving for dinner.
I enjoy the luxury of a tasting menu: there’s a freedom in not having to make a decision but just eat what comes to you. And when what comes to you is as delicious as Wednesday’s meal, well, you’re in for a lovely night.
A life of luxury
The amuse bouche was a generous mug of crab velouté, foamed high and hiding an oyster. It was both delicious and fun to eat. Sweet with cream and crab, the silky soup was delicious. The oyster at the bottom of the mug gave a gorgeous taste of the sea.
Paul Tamburrini serves very good bread: we had two servings of their sourdough, baked perfectly and with a wonderful chewy crust.
Next up was a scallop with caramelised cauliflower, cauliflower puré and dots of curry oil. It was served with a Grüner veltlineer that picked up the warm curry notes. The scallop was perfect, the puré lush and the caramelised cauliflower came blessed with a butter foam.
Whomever matched the wines likes all the grapes I love. The foie gras was served with a Sauternes gel, popcorn and a miso and aubergine paste. It was served with a Gewurztraminer that has fabulous fruit but not too much sweetness. The foie gras was crisp on the outside, meltingly soft on the inside. The popcorn was a fun addition and the puré so good Amy and I spent some time trying to figure out how to copy it. Smooth, full of umami, mysteriously dark: that paste is pure genius.
Amy had a beetroot jelly with golden beetroot and a goats cheese mousse. I like the balance of beetroot and mousse. And the bright white quenelle of mousse looked elegant against the blood coloured jelly.
Fish and cheese (but not on the same plate)
Next up was a brill in a butter sauce with broccoli puré, purple sprouting broccoli and a broccoli crumb, mussels and a mussel velouté. White and green makes a very pretty plate: it was almost too pretty to eat. Almost. The delicate flavours of fish, mussels and broccoli were well balanced. Amy and I agreed that broccoli needs texture to taste right. It was something I’d never thought about before. If I’d been blindfolded, I wouldn’t have known what the puré was because I associate broccoli with firm stems and the very particular texture of the flowers. It’s always interesting to learn something new. We ruminated on the ways of broccoli while I sipped a soft and friendly Pinot Noir.
We decided to share a cheese board. My very favourite sommelier poured a deep amber Amontillado and gave us the names of the cheeses. Which we promptly forgot. There was a dense and creamy goats cheese which I loved. It tingled the palate, that wonderful mould tingle. There was a washed rind cheese that smelled richly of things we don’t eat and tasted like heaven. The Stilton was creamy and sensible, as such cheeses go, homely and soothing. The truckle was a well-matured Cheddar, our least favourite because it was the least surprising (and it couldn’t quite stand up to the Amontillado – not everything can, but oh, the Amontillado was good).
Choux craquellin avec noisette
The dessert – served with Sauternes, I’m a very lucky girl – was a choux with Nutella cream and a hazelnut craquellin, a quennelle of chocolate ice cream on the side. The textures of the choux were great: the hazelnut really came through the cracking topper and the cream was sweet and delicious. A spot of gold leaf added glamour.
Paul Tamburrini is worth a visit. There’s some very good cooking happening here, the very best Scottish ingredients treated with respect and elegance. The service is friendly, the food lovely and the wine cellar well stocked. You’ll walk out, look up at the crags and the sky over Edinburgh and feel good about the world.
81 Holyrood Road