No chef can be all things to all diners, but Mark Greenaway has a good try, writes Emma Newlands.
Grazing by Mark Greenaway, Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh The Caledonian, Rutland Street, Edinburgh EH1 2AB, Tel: 0131-222 8857, Markgreenaway.com
In The Simpsons episode King-Size Homer, the iconic character memorably attributes pushing his weight over the 300-pound mark to having discovered “a meal between breakfast and brunch”.
And at Grazing by Mark Greenaway, housed in the Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh, I have found my own fast-forward button – butter flecked with crispy slivers of duck skin that helps kick off the meal.
Yes, I don’t mean to brag, I don’t mean to boast, but I like duck skin butter on my treacle and stout toast.
The winning combo is among the highlights of a meal at the 160-cover site that opened its doors in April in a space formerly occupied by Galvin Brasserie de Luxe. It also comes after Restaurant Mark Greenaway shut its doors last year, although the chef promised that this venture would offer elements of its predecessor.
The décor is a tasteful partnering of colours including greys, petrol blue and cranberry red with tartan of various hues, and the menu offers a similarly eclectic offering. It is billed as “a mix of traditional, modern and sharing plates, incorporating locally sourced ingredients and unique concept dishes created by Mark”.
So far, so good, although the reality of ordering proves something of a head-scratcher – with sections encompassing snacks, small plates, big plates, “garden” dishes with small and large options (the only sanctuary for vegetarians looking to order a main course), steaks, and sides.
There is also the brief but prominent selection of sharing dishes, including fish pie and roast monkfish (which is £58), and I reckon these would be good for groups where people can all dig in and enjoy a bit of variety.
But my dining partner and I are veering in different directions menu-wise.
Following the delicious bread and butter warm-up, while I’d been tempted to order the famed BBQ shiitake mushrooms on toast to share, which I had sampled on a previous visit, we opt for a “not prawn cracker” with bacon jam from the snacks section, and beef tartare with garlic croutons and Parmesan – one of the small plates.
The former inevitably requires an explanation from the waitress, who says it is made from tapioca starch. When it arrives it is certainly intriguing-looking, like the “dancing” plastic bag in American Beauty.
And I’m not entirely convinced by either the overall flavour or presentation, arriving as it does on a box full of grains, a display that may make it good for the ’Gram but serves as another piece of evidence for the admirable We Want Plates campaign.
I’m far fonder of the tartare – which I order based on the scientific “the table next to us are eating it and it looks really good” approach – a mouthwatering portion that arrives under layers of wafer-thin crispbreads and is just acidic enough, letting the taste of the blushing pink meat dazzle. If the mysterious bowl/plate/table decoration hybrid it arrived on wasn’t several inches high I’d have picked it up and licked it clean.
For mains, I opt for the 280g beef ribeye with green beans, hazelnuts and goat’s cheese, while the order from the other side of the table is for the fish and chips.
My steak is a little on the fatty side but the matured Scottish beef is delicious and ultra tender with a skilfully browned exterior and juicy pink centre. It pairs well with the billionaire-rich brown butter and bone marrow hollandaise.
The fish and chips come with a surprising twist in that the latter are not the usual breezeblock-style chunks but super skinny to the point of resembling a decoration rather than an accompaniment.
We’re pretty full by this point and although I’m tempted to order one of the sharing desserts, the waitress says our first choice – the frangipane and pear tart with vanilla ice cream and jam – is pretty sizeable. Therefore we instead opt for a strawberry pavlova, which does exactly what it says on the tin (so no complaints).
But it’s overshadowed by the sticky toffee pudding soufflé, a light and pleasantly wobbly delight, harnessing the rich flavours of the dish without the dense texture that usually puts me off.
We realise when the bill arrives that our espressos were around the £5 mark each, while a service charge has also been added.
Its bid – understandable in a demanding restaurant market – to be many things to many diners makes this place feel, distractingly, at times like ordering dishes from different restaurants, while it was priced at the “special occasion” end of the spectrum.
But I can’t say I didn’t thoroughly enjoy the meal. And next time I’ll just order the duck skin butter for most of my courses anyway.