Billed as the first tasting menu in the capital to pair its dishes with beers and spirits, I was intrigued to try One Square’s newest offering. Having had an AMAZING time at One Spa a few weeks previously, I was looking forward to similarly high standards.
There’s no twist I’m afraid; the food was excellent quality. The Scottish-focussed menu clearly demonstrates the skill of Executive Chef Craig Hart, who presented his dishes in front of us, with a touch of “here’s one I made earlier.” A personable, knowledgeable chef, Craig handled his local ingredients with passion and flair. His food is sophisticated and appealing, although errs a little on the sweet side for me.
My only reservations lay with the drinks pairings, which struck me as creativity for creativity’s sake. It’s a nice idea to emphasise Scottish provenance by offering beer and gin, but it allows neither to shine: over five courses, we only sampled two beers. This barely scratches the surface of the flavour profiles beer can bring out of food, not to mention the number of breweries Scotland boasts these days. Did we need both beer and spirits?
Alternating between the two didn’t strike me as effective either; we weren’t taken on a coherent journey, drinks-wise. It might be personal preference, but enjoying a rich whisky before finishing with a tart cocktail didn’t pull everything together for me. (Everyone else’s personal preference seemed to be more simply, “I don’t like beer.” Which brings us back to creativity without purpose – who is the menu designed to appeal to?)
Misunderstood intentions aside, the food was fabulous and in isolation, the drinks delicious. We started with earthy brown crab from Orkney, quinelled and served with crisp Braeburn apple slices, lightly pickled mooli radish and flavourful herbs. It was light, balanced and textured. Let’s say nothing of the blonde ale served with the dish.
The subsequent enormous hand-dived scallops were charred at the edge and sensually plump. The accompanying smooth carrot puree was a contrast to puffed oats, which had quite the crunch. Washed down with a fine G&T, it was a satisfying combination that made a change to scallops’ customary salty partnership with black pudding.
As part of my ongoing quest to stop eating meat (current success rate 60%), I opted out of the lamb with hazelnuts and capers. I experienced mild regret (during a mouthful from pal Holly’s plate…) as its deep, rich flavours and myriad textures were far more cohesive than my cauliflower “steak.”
A massive slab of baked cauliflower peppered with kale, cauliflower puree, raisins, goats cheese and topped with a soft fried egg, the fake steak lacked the careful execution evident elsewhere. The egg was an interloper; the occasional carefully curated mouthful of cauli, cheese and raisin was a delight.
Thankfully, the follow up was an absolute triumph from which I had to restrain myself from seconds. The Strathdon blue cheese trifle with walnut biscuit was justifiably creative, with every element in harmony. I could have eaten the delicate, dangerously moreish cheese mousse all night long, and it sat well with the soft sweet biscuit, cut through by tart chutney and the pure tang of blue cheese. An intense hit of alcohol from its paired whisky brought everything together, adding warmth and silkiness. The dish of the night.
Finally, we were served an artistic fruit jelly on top of a soft and creamy vanilla mousse. It was a good dessert but couldn’t beat the panache of its predecessor; it was more beautiful to look at than exciting on the palate. Its co-star, a Verdant Dry Gin, strawberry and Prosecco cocktail topped with candy floss, was fun and a little more offbeat than elegant, compared to the dish. However, it was probably the only time I preferred the drink to the food: the sweet puff of sugar absorbed the sharp gin, creating a melt-in-the-mouth alcoholic treat.
Overall, I enjoyed the tasting menu more than perhaps the honesty of this review suggests. I would gladly dine at One Square again, and I believe you’re in good hands with Craig Hart and his love of Scotland’s natural larder. I’ll just be picking my own drinks!
1 Festival Square, EH3 9SR
Amy was invited to dine at One Square’s invitation,