The Pompadour by Galvin, Caledonian Hotel, Princes Street, Edinburgh

 

Not many famous London-based chefs have put their names over restaurant doors in Scotland. Apart from an ill-fated Glasgow venture involving Gordon Ramsay, I can't think of a single one. Ambitious empire builders are far more likely to be found opening in the Emirates than in Edinburgh. So the arrival of the Galvin brothers, Chris and Jeff, in a grand old hotel in the Scottish capital, is an interesting development.

The Galvins, both chefs of some repute, have built a terrific little group of restaurants since they joined forces seven years ago to launch their original Bistrot de Luxe in Marylebone, offering a highly-polished version of cuisine bourgeoise, without all the fine-dining fuss and bother. Despite upmarket locations in Harrods and the Park Lane Hilton, and a brace of Michelin stars, their mini-empire still feels like a family business.

All of the Galvins' existing restaurants are located within Zone 1 of the London Tube map. Their new collaboration with the Hilton group, in the swankily refurbished Caledonian Hotel, involves an 800-mile round trip, should one of the brothers decide to carry out a spot check. In interviews to publicise the launch, they made much of the fact that they'd be spending lots of time in Edinburgh, and presumably that's the case – they've been brought in as much for their expertise in making restaurants work as for the pulling-power of the Galvin name.

The more accessible of their two new restaurants in the Caledonian is the ground-floor Brasserie De Luxe, a handsome set of interconnecting rooms built round a circular seafood counter, and pre-loaded with school-of-Vettriano nostalgia. Upstairs is the big-ticket Pompadour, once Edinburgh's grandest and most expensive restaurant, now polished and primped back to full Belle Epoque splendour.

It's a pale, exquisite meringue of a room, the kind of place an Anita Brookner heroine might visit for afternoon tea, to stare mistily across at the Castle over cucumber sandwiches (although only one of the vast, semi-circular windows offers that premium view; the others look out towards a neon McDonald's sign twinkling bathetically over the tramworks on Princes Street). With its wedding cake cornicing, pale chairs and heavy naped tables, it's all very muted, as if everything has been marinated in eau de nil – although of course you don't go to somewhere called Pompadour expecting Formica and a dirty burger.

Head chef Craig Sandle, poached from Number One at the Balmoral, Edinburgh's other great railway hotel, is in charge of the kitchen and clearly the Galvins have chosen the right man for the job. My meal at the Pompadour was as good as any I've eaten within the Galvin group – which is to say, very good indeed.

After a selection of pastry-based morsels, a pre-starter arrived in the form of the Galvins' fabled crab and scallop lasagne. The silky pliability of the pasta was miraculous; even more so in a starter proper of rabbit ravioli, filled with meat as melting as oxtail, partnered with the citric snap of artichokes barigoule. Marinated scallops were served sashimi-style, sliced into a corona with Charlotte potatoes and Jerusalem artichoke under a pointillist dusting of chives; a pretty plateful which felt fancier than the Galvins' normal style.

My guest, Jenny, is a non meat-eater, so we didn't sample the signature dish: a whole poulet de Bresse, rubbed with foie gras butter and truffles, and poached in Armagnac inside a pig's bladder, then carved table-side for two to share. But the mains were both wonderful, the kind of satisfying, sophisticated dishes the Galvins do so well. Veal sweetbreads, crisp to the bite but foamily light inside, came with a bacon cassoulet, with Coco de Paimpol beans to lend texture. Roast monkfish with celeriac purée was galvanised by a bourguignon garnish so dense and sticky it may well have violated Jenny's piscatarian principles.

A shared tarte tatin concluded what was a great meal, if a slightly underwhelming experience. The staff seemed in awe of their grand surroundings, and there was no real sense of anyone owning the room, which had the tip-toe-y feel associated with Michelin-starred dining. Many of the widely spaced tables were unoccupied on a Saturday night; a new Galvin opening in London would be rammed with tweeting early adopters.

Our bill came to more than £100 a head, with a £35 bottle of Gruner Veltliner (and, irritatingly an extra £4.75 for what we assumed was a free refill of mint tea). In other words, suitable for only special occasions. The decor is a bit too girlie for the bankers, which left us wondering just who the Pompadour would be right for. The Michelin inspectors, is one obvious answer. They're going to go nuts for this place. And if the Galvins can succeed in making the room feel even a tiny bit as vibrant as the food, then Edinburgh will have a fabulous new place to watch – and experience – the fireworks.

The Pompadour by Galvin, Caledonian Hotel, Princes Street, Edinburgh (0131 222 8975)

A la carte dinner £58 for three courses before wine and service

Food ****
Ambiance ***
Service ***

Tipping policy: 'Service charge is 10 per cent discretionary. All tips and service charge go to the staff'

Side orders: Edible Edinburgh

Gardener's Cottage

This restaurant in a historic building serves excellent food using the seasonal, local produce – the smoked mutton, pickled pear and nasturtium is a typical dish.

1 Royal Terrace Gardens, London Road (0131 558 1221)

Timberyard

The focus here is on sustainability and artisan producers – try the smoked sea trout with beetroot, dill, heritage potatoes, mussels and celery (£17.50).

10 Lady Lawson Street (0131 221 1222)

The Ship on the Shore

This restaurant in Leith serves great fish and shellfish – the smokehouse platter includes halibut, queen scallops, salmon, Arbroath smokies, mussels, haddock and mackerel.

24-26 Shore (0131-555 0409)

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Life and Style
Powdered colors are displayed for sale at a market ahead of the Holi festival in Bhopal, India
techHere's what you need to know about the riotous occasion
Arts and Entertainment
Larry David and Rosie Perez in ‘Fish in the Dark’
theatreReview: Had Fish in the Dark been penned by a civilian it would have barely got a reading, let alone £10m advance sales
News
Details of the self-cleaning coating were published last night in the journal Science
science
News
Approved Food sell products past their sell-by dates at discounted prices
i100
News
Life-changing: Simone de Beauvoir in 1947, two years before she wrote 'The Second Sex', credited as the starting point of second wave feminism
peopleHer seminal feminist polemic, The Second Sex, has been published in short-form to mark International Women's Day
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Recruitment Genius: Product Advisor - Automotive

    £17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to the consistent growth of...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Automotive

    £18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity exists for an ex...

    Recruitment Genius: Renewals Sales Executive - Automotive

    £20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity exists for an ou...

    Recruitment Genius: Membership Sales Advisor

    £18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...

    Day In a Page

    Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
    Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

    Lost without a trace

    But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
    Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

    Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

    Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
    International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

    Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

    Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
    Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

    Confessions of a planespotter

    With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
    Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

    Russia's gulag museum

    Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
    The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

    The big fresh food con

    Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
    Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

    Virginia Ironside was my landlady

    Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
    Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

    Paris Fashion Week 2015

    The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
    8 best workout DVDs

    8 best workout DVDs

    If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
    Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

    Paul Scholes column

    I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
    Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

    Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
    Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

    Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

    The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
    War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

    Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

    Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable