My friend and I were talking about what the building that houses Courtyard by Marriott used to be. We remember walking past it and seeing it boarded up for years, buddleia growing in the gutters, sun-bleached crisp bags stuck on the railings. It was a sad end to the party street that begins at the Omni.
The Courtyard by Marriott hotel gave the old building a dignified new life, one that Edinburghers can share with cocktails on the terrace or dinner in the restaurant. We’ve visited The Lantern Room before: Kerry went when it first opened and returned for afternoon tea earlier in the year. A couple of weeks ago, I went to have a look at the new menu.
The Lantern Room has moved into the down-stairs space where different sections allow diners and parties to use it without clashing with each other. I enjoyed watching members of a wedding party traipsing up and down the stairs but was blissfully unaware of the party they were having. The restaurant is a calm, measured space with wood panelling and seating in grey and grass green. Light colours reflect the light that filters in from the tall windows and glass walls ensure a feeling of space. We sipped a glass of the house champagne and perused the menu.
Summer in the city
I had a difficult time choosing because the smoked salmon and crab chowder sounded good. But it was one of those rare balmy Edinburgh evenings which made me think cool fish instead of soup, and instead of ham hock terrine or baked Camembert. So, I started with the Edinburgh Gin cured salmon with juniper berries, pickled cucumber and lemon mayo. The salmon was served in a confident slab and was that wonderful rich, translucent shade of pink that well-cured salmon gets. I enjoyed the action of cutting and eating it. It was firm in texture, salty – but not too salty – and complimented nicely by the vinegar tang of cucumber.
My friend has the halloumi and charred Meditteranean vegetables with pesto dressing. The veg had body, the halloumi wasn’t over-cooked and the dressing was zingy. It’s a good combination: salty cheese, earthy pesto, fresh vegetables. Everything went well with the crisp Gavi di Gavi we enjoyed with our food.
Fish all the way
The Lantern Rooms food is classic French with modern twists. Among the mains you’ll find coq au vin, wild mushroom ravioli as well as confit of pork belly with chorizo pomme puree and caramelised apple (very tempting). I went for the monkfish and curried mussel broth; my friend for seared tuna on a salad of mouli with a chilli, coriander, mint and lime dressing. The tuna was seared to give a smokey, charred flavour but not so enthusiastically that it went dry. The salad and dressing added acidity and crunch to the dish.
My monkfish was cooked to perfection and the mussel broth was lush. It was a perfectly judged dish: the curry flavour didn’t over-power the mussels or the fish. We had tenderstem broccoli and a red onion, tomato and basil salad on the side. Perfectly refreshing flavours for both tuna and monk fish.
The desserts were temptingly French – tarte tatin, créme brulée, cheese board – with the exception of the cheese cake. I went straight for the chocolate fondant. It’s a challenge, isn’t it? Like a soufflé, if it’s on the menu, I want to try it. It was good. Deep chocolate flavour, melting insides, cool vanilla ice cream on the side. My friend had the white chocolate and raspberry cheese cake. I was too busy enjoying my dessert to pay much attention to his.
There’s an interesting tension between hotels and their restaurants – or casinos and their restaurants, for that matter – that sometimes makes it difficult for the restaurant to market itself the way it would like to. The menu has to work for diners from the outside as well as guests at the hotel. I think The Lantern Room strikes that balance well. The all day dining menu has the dishes you expect at a hotel – sandwiches, burgers, easy to eat things – and the a la carte menu offers a more nuanced, French-inspired menu that shows off Scottish ingredients and the skills in the kitchen. The wine list is wide-ranging, the bar well stocked and the service friendly and respectful. We really enjoyed our visit and I look forward to returning for that chowder when the weather gets cooler.
1-3 Baxter’s Place
Edinburgh EH1 3AF
Telephone: 0131 526 3778
Book a table online.
Caroline was invited to dine by The Lantern Room