Stewart McRobert settles in for a tasting menu at the relaxed Edinburgh restaurant.
Chef Paul Tamburrini has an exemplary track record. Cameron House Hotel. One Devonshire Gardens. Martin Wishart. He’s held senior positions at each of these prestigious Scottish establishments.
That makes a visit to his self-titled restaurant at the Macdonald Hotel in Holyrood Road, Edinburgh a tempting proposition. One spring evening, I had the chance to find out if the experience would live up to the expectation.
Attractively located on the edge of Holyrood’s royal park, first impressions are that the surroundings are modern and comfortable, but not overly ostentatious. That’s a plus point.
Restaurants at this level can be tempted to overdo the pretention and preciousness. Not at Paul Tamburrini. Here, you’re presented with a relaxed environment where you can focus on enjoying the food that is served up to you.
Given his background, the emphasis on friendliness over fussiness is understandable. Mr Tamburrini (left), was born in Glasgow and, as his name suggests, he’s half-Italian. His approach, he says, is all about fresh Scottish ingredients and classic French style married together in his own, distinctive vision.
His love of cooking has been handed down through an Italian culture that venerates exceptional food and a Scottish passion for the goodness offered by the country’s farms and fishermen. “Home cooking was a big thing in my family,” he admits.
Leaning on that hinterland, at the same time he’s careful to bear in mind the words of a fellow chef who once said: ‘Good food is good food’.
Our first opportunity to see how this simple theory is turned into practice was a dish of sauteed foie gras with sauternes jelly. It was a cleverly conceived and executed plate. It looked exquisite and the taste matched up.
Next came Orkney sea scallops with caramelised cauliflower and curry oil. The soft, yielding scallops were a credit to their origins – an example of Scottish ingredients at their best. And the accompanying cauliflower and curry oil provided a satisfying complement.
Needless to say, when it comes to food, we all have our own ideas of what’s perfect and what’s not. The dish of duck breast, aubergine miso and creamed kale that we had next is where Mr Tamburrini and I might disagree. From my point of view the duck was ever so slightly overcooked, though the impressive kale went down a treat.
I have to admit that I’m a sucker for great chocolate. So, I was already well disposed towards our final dish – chocolate pave with rum and raisin ice cream – before I plunged in. It didn’t disappoint. The combination of intense chocolate and refreshing ice cream, though perhaps a little sweet for some palates, was a richly rewarding way to end this particular meal.
Paul Tamburrini says the decision to open his own establishment two years ago was prompted by a desire to be progressive and creative, and always to provide high quality.
Judging by our overall experience, he’s succeeded.
• Since writing this review, Paul Tamburrini at Macdonald Holyrood Hotel has ceased trading. The hotel is still open though, and has a restaurant.