The Caledonian is of course, home to the Galvins’ Pompadour, a superb fine-dining restaurant we’ve already reviewed and loved. But the brothers have another venue housed in the same hotel, this one with a less formal, more bistro-like ambience, so we decide to head along and try out one of their special deals, which offers two courses and a glass of prosecco for just £17.50 a head. (Three courses: £21.50)
There’s a nice bustling atmosphere on the Sunday evening we choose to visit, though we note that the special deal doesn’t exactly give us a great deal of choice – just two starters and two mains from their seasonal menu, but they both sound suitably enticing, so we make our respective selections. I have the carrot & coriander velouté, served with pickled carrot and coriander oil. This is beautifully done, the thick sweet soup making a perfect contrast to the crunchy vinegary pickle and I use some of the excellent sourdough we’ve been greeted with, to mop the plate clean. The confit chicken roulade is also nicely cooked and presented, a tasty savoury dish dressed with a thick tarragon mayonnaise.
No sooner have the plates been cleared than the main courses appear and it’s hard not to feel a little rushed. The coley fillet, with cauliflower and almond cous cous is very good indeed, the fish virtually melting in the mouth; bit I must confess to being rather less pleased with the lamb shank with aubergine caviar, courgette and fennel and basil puree, mostly because the lamb has been ‘pulled.’ Pulled meat seems to be everywhere these days but it makes for a less satisfying eating experience, because no matter how flavoursome it might be (and this surely is), there’s no real texture to it. To confound matters, the side order of fries we order doesn’t appear until we’ve actually finished eating and when it finally does show up, it’s just a tin container filled with the kind of tasteless frozen fries you’ll find pretty much anywhere. To be fair to the restaurant, because of the delay they don’t charge for these, but their absence means we’re waiting instead of relaxing while we eat, and this puts a bit of a crimp on the meal.
We eschew a pudding and indulge ourselves with a second glass of prosecco. A quick perusal of the wine list shows that there isn’t a decent bottle of plonk under £40 and this strikes us as a failing. While we’d be happy to spend that if we were having a more expensive meal, there should surely be a range of lower cost wines to accompany the bistro experience?
All-in-all, we’d go back to The Pompidour in a heartbeat, but the Brasserie probably needs to up its game a little if it hopes to compete with its more sophisticated neighbour.