They waffled animatedly about local produce and supporting young chefs. However, my eyeballs kept wandering round the lounge, like a pair of itinerant bluebottles.
I just hadn’t realised how much our beloved Caley had deteriorated, into something akin to an Alan Partridge-esque Linton Travel Tavern.
Fast forward, and this historic venue has been resuscitated with a platinum-plated CPR machine.
Now there’s the atrium-like tea room that is Peacock Alley; the smoky-blue ground-floor brasserie (once Henry J Beans, aka happy hour central) and, of course, upstairs, The Pompadour, which was opened in 1925.
As the latter is a listed space, they’ve simply freshened it up.
The snapdragon of a pink chandelier has been polished, the nicotine-stained frescoes refreshed, they’ve added a sarcophagus-sized drinks cabinet that opens like a vintage trunk, and the chairs are upholstered in pistachio velvet.
It’s romantic, and feminine, like leaping into a bathtub of Ladurée macarons.
I’m guessing the chef patrons will soon (if they haven’t already) be decamping back to London, to tend to their other eateries.
But, that’s OK, as the kitchen is in the experienced hands of head chef Craig Sandle, formerly of Number One at The Balmoral.
The food has the Galvin brothers’ signature French vibe, and prices demonstrate where they’re pitching themselves. Eating here costs slightly less than a meal at Martin Wishart’s and about the same as a nice new pair of shoes.
We opted for the a la carte menu, at £58 for three courses, though there’s also a seven-course Menu Gourmand, at £68, or £120 with matching wines (sommelier Peter Adshead is brilliantly enthusiastic, so this should be well worth the outlay).
Our pre-starter was a pleasingly slippery lasagne of Scrabster crab and scallops, with beurre nantais as the cement that held this fishy outhouse together. This was beautiful, like the distilled soul of the sea.
Next up, ballotine of mackerel tartare, which featured vital mini-cubes of firm raw fish, topped by an oozy-hearted quail’s egg and doused in a green chervil custard. Magic.
As was the ravioli of rabbit, with an earthiness that was lifted by perfumey sarriette (or summer savoury) and wedges of artichoke barigoule.
My main – a buttery soft seared fillet of Angus beef – was accompanied by a mound of creamed spinach, potato galette, and a blob of sump-black, slow-cooked beef, which was as rich and sweet as liquorice.
The special, a Glenalmond Estate grouse dish, was slightly less thrilling, perhaps because it was comparatively (and, granted, pretty appropriately) rustic, with tight hunks of game that were scattered with girolles and teamed with pommes Ana.
Puds were like nectar. Pre-dessert, a shot-glass-sized buttermilk pannacotta with a layer of Sauternes jelly and a topping of quince-spiked crumble was comforting and refreshing at the same time.
Then came a tower of smooth Valrhona chocolate chiboust, alongside a quenelle of tart cherry sorbet and a little pile of sticky and chunky cherry compote.
A plateful of roasted white plums was topped by a snowdrift of toasty topped lavender-spiked sabayon. Afterwards, just as I wondered if the magnificently manly food (bar the sweets) from Sandle and the Galvins really matches the feminine space, they brought us a plateful of pastel-coloured macarons. Joy.
My only complaint, then, is that this place was virtually deserted, as was the downstairs Brasserie de Luxe.
They’ve been way too quiet about the opening and, at the time of writing, there still isn’t a proper website that allows one to peruse the menus.
Perhaps they’re waiting until every detail of The Caley makeover has been completed, as there’s still a Guerlain spa in the offing and, yawn, a new car park.
However, in the meantime, the resurrected wonders of the Pomp deserves a lot more pomp.
The Pompadour by Galvin
The Caledonian, Princes Street, Edinburgh (0131-222 8888, www.thecaledonianedinburgh.com)
Dinner for two, excluding drinks, £116
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Friday 24 May 2013
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