Bistro de Luxe by Paul Tamburrini

McDonald Holyrood Hotel, 81 Holyrood Road, Edinburgh, EH8 8AU, United Kingdom

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In the old town of Edinburgh, this 80-cover restaurant opened in late 2017 at the MacDonald Holyrood hotel. Head chef Paul Tamburrini was formerly chef director at the Martin Wishart brasserie The Honours. Prior to that he was head chef at Cameron House and was executive chef at One Devonshire Gardens. Although the bistro is in a hotel, it has its own entrance and is run as a stand-alone entity rather than directly by the hotel. The room had well-spaced tables, wooden floor and a bar at one end of the room. The menu was a la carte, with starters mostly around £9, mains £21 or so and side dishes £4, with desserts £8. Five different steaks cuts were offered, cooked using a Josper grill.

The wine list had a choice of 80 bottles, drawn from quite a widespread set of countries, from Uruguay to Australia, ranging in price from £20 to £300, but with most wines (almost two thirds) under £50. Bizarrely there were no vintages shown, and who exactly is going to spend £115 on a bottle of Maison Dampt Bougros Grand Cru Chablis without knowing the vintage? The excellent and in-demand 2012 vintage would be a bargain given that it currently retails at £112 but the same grower’s 2011, a troubled and less ripe vintage due to chaotic weather, would be by comparison a rip off for a wine whose shop price is £39. Bargain or rip-off? You can't tell without knowing the vintage. We drank a bottle of (non-vintage) Ruinart champagne, which was £125 compared to its retail price of £48.

Bread was from a local bakery called Freedom Bakery, with good white and brown sourdough. Spiced lentil and red onion soup was flavoured with lemongrass and pepper and had good, spicy flavour, served with croutons (13/20). Hand-dived scallop with tagliatelle and Croatian black truffles was excellent, the scallop carefully cooked and having good inherent sweetness, the pasta having pleasing texture and the truffle quite aromatic and going well with the shellfish (15/20).

Chicken from Gascony was poached and roasted and served with leeks and a morel nage. The chicken had good flavour and was carefully cooked, and the leeks were delicate. The flavour of the sauce was good though the morels were fairly tiny, with somewhat limited flavour (14/20). On the side, chips were made in the kitchen and were triple cooked, crisp and cooked through. Carrots were also nicely cooked. Tagliatelle of crab had good texture, the crab appearing as quite large pieces and having good flavour, the seasoning accurate (14/20).

Key lime “pie” had a slightly grainy texture though plenty of lime flavour, along with good meringue and coconut sorbet with pleasant texture and flavour; the design of the dish was fine and the balance perfectly pleasant, but the texture was not quite as it should be (12/20). Better was a take on tiramisu, with Mascarpone cream cheese ice cream and espresso granita. This had deep coffee flavour and smooth texture (14/20). Coffee was from a Stockholm company called Johann and Nystrom, and which was pleasant. This came with a trio of pleasant petit fours, with salted caramel, nougat and passion fruit jelly with good texture.

Service was excellent, the staff friendly and helpful. The bill came to £106 each, of which the food element was £44 per person. If you shared a modest bottle of wine then a typical cost per head might be around £75. Overall this was a very enjoyable meal, the cooking capable and the menu appealing.

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