The Caledonian

Grazing by Mark Greenaway

14/05/22

The Caledonian Hotel, Princes Street, Edinburgh

After sampling a note-perfect tasting menu at Dean Banks’ Pompadour, we’re keen to try a similar offering from Grazing by Mark Greenaway, which is located in the same building. The Pompadour’s offer was for lunch time, while this is available in the evening, so along we dutifully trot at the appointed time to find the place busy and bustling, which – after so long in the doldrums of the lockdown – is gratifying indeed.

The staff are charming – particularly the bubbly waitress who handles our table – and we opt to try the matched wines. We’re in good spirits.

Things get off to a great start with Greenaway’s signature treacle and stout sourdough, accompanied by whipped butter. (Yes, I know it’s only bread and spread but, seriously, it’s absolutely gorgeous.) We also have the crab toast, which is served in a shell and features melt-in the-mouth crab meat with shellfish butter and almond cream. It’s light, delicious and we make very short work of it.

Up comes the first wine, a Californian chardonnay. We’re normally ABC people (Anything But Chardonnay) but, when sipped with the next course, a salt cod croquette, the astringent flavour really cuts through the intense tomato fondue and goat’s cheese that accompanies the fish. This course is faultless.

Next up there’s a wild mushroom and hazelnut ragu and this too is just fabulous. It’s topped with celeriac, which neither of us is wild about, but this version tastes terrific and a glass of Riesling-style wine proves to be the ideal match. So far, so impressive.

But the main course – slow roast chicken – proves to be a little bland. It comes with haggis crumble and roscoffe onions, the latter a little undercooked and chewy. It’s not terrible, you understand, but after such perfection, it feels like a false note. The pinot noir we drink with it helps to boost the flavours a little.

Next, there’s cranachan ice cream, which is sweetly vibrant but neither of us is mad about the little doughnut which encloses it. It’s served cold and has a chewiness about it.

We’ve added a cheese course to the basic offering and, when it arrives, it turns out to be the evening’s biggest disappointment, a postage stamp-sized affair comprising a couple of soggy crackers and some tiny nodules of cheese in a tangy source. It’s tasty enough, but is gone in a single bite like an amuse bouche – but we’re not feeling particularly amused, considering we’ve paid a £9 per person supplement. Happily, a glass of champagne arrives to lift our spirits.

Finally, there’s a second pudding, a chocolate and stout cake served with malt ice cream and honey. Again, we’re not bowled over by a ‘sweet’ that tastes predominantly of beer – and, lest we forget, Grazing is the home of what is probably our all time favourite dessert, a sticky toffee pudding soufflé, the closest thing to heaven on a plate that I’ve personally encountered. This boozy creation frankly isn’t in the same league. Our final drink of the evening is a robust port, which does at least help to disguise that slightly odd flavour.

A game of two halves then. Three absolute winners, followed by a series of steadily declining misfires. One thing is for certain: when it comes to tasting menus, consistency is key – and in the ‘Battle of the Caledonian,’ Dean Banks wins by a knockout.

4 stars

Philip Caveney

Grazing by Mark Greenaway

11/05/19

The Caledonian, Rutland Street, Edinburgh

We were excited to learn that Mark Greenaway was taking over the space vacated by the Galvin brothers in the Waldorf-Astoria hotel. Greenaway’s food holds a special place in our hearts: we ate at his short-lived Stockbridge Bistro on our (very low key) wedding day, and rather marvellous it was too. We also enjoyed his flagship restaurant on North Castle Street, and – when that closed – kept an eye on the local press to see what he’d do next.

And Grazing is it. This new project is a more casual affair, with a hearty-sounding menu and a breezy, friendly atmosphere. It’s Saturday night, and we’ve been busy all day. We’re hungry and looking forward to an enjoyable evening.

Things get off to a promising start with the arrival of some stout and treacle bread and duck skin butter. The lightness of the bread belies the density of the flavour, and we’re both mightily impressed. We eat it far too quickly, and the waiter brings us more. We endeavour to approach the second portion with more circumspection; we don’t want to fill up before we’ve sampled the menu.

We both go for the same starter, because it sounds so enticing. Who could resist a crumpet with smoked trout and a poached egg? Not us! And it is absolutely fabulous: packing a real punch, yet somehow delicate. This is the kind of dish that gets people talking. (But only once they’ve cleared their plates.)

For the main, we decide to try one of the ‘grazing for two’ sharing dishes, the fish pie. This comes with two sides. The ugly potatoes sound delicious, but – we reason – there will be mash on our pie, and we don’t want double-spud. So we opt instead for Kentucky fried cauliflower and green beans with hazelnuts and goat’s cheese. The green beans are delicious, complemented well by the crunch of the nuts and the creamy, salty cheese. I’m less keen on the cauliflower, but then I rarely enjoy breaded/battered/deep-fried things, so it’s probably more me than it. Philip likes it well enough, and polishes it off.

Our reaction to the fish pie is a bit mixed. There’s no mash topping; it’s a naked pie. We should have ordered those potatoes after all; it might have been nice to be warned. The chunks of fish are large and perfectly cooked; there’s egg in there, and the white sauce is rich and piquant. But it doesn’t feel very indulgent; it’s not that we need a bigger portion, exactly; we just need to feel like we’re being spoiled. And this is somehow meagre, a little mean. A shame.

For dessert, Philip has the sticky toffee pudding soufflé, which is the standout dish of the evening. I wish I’d chosen it too. It looks magnificent, and has the substance to back up its style. It’s a light take on a stodgy dish, all the datey, caramelly, sticky joyousness without the heavy carbs. It comes with a hot caramel sauce and honeycomb ice cream, and is a knockout.

I’ve ordered the brown sugar cheesecake, mainly because it comes with tomato, and I’m fascinated to see how this works. In reality, it’s a little disappointing: there’s nothing wrong with it per se, but I can’t really taste tomato (presumably it’s in the syrupy sauce drizzled on my plate); the cheesecake is pleasant, but not memorable.

There’s a decent wine list, from which we select the a French Touraine sauvignon blanc. It’s fresh and clean tasting, exactly what we want.

All in all, our experience of Grazing is a bit hit and miss. I’m sure it’s possible to have a 5 star meal here, if you chance upon the right dishes. We’ve had a lovely evening, and I’m sure that we’ll come back. But we’ll know what not to order, too.

4.1 stars

Susan Singfield