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Suzi Edwards

Edinburgh

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My second week in Edinburgh began with a poor meal at the Point Hotel. They were serving only a limited choice Christmas menu, from which I chose a game terrine, which included some smoked goose I think, but tasted of very little and was almost certainly bought in. A main course of beef fillet with fondant potato and red wine sauce was ho-hum in the extreme, with an almost inedible salty sauce. Service was disinterested to the point of indolence. I skipped dessert.

Thankfully, Tuesday evening found my colleagues and I having a cracking time at Marque Central. Housed in the Lyceum theatre off the Lothian Road, the restaurant was originally opened a couple of years ago by Lara Kearney and John Rutter, ex-of Andrew Radford's famous Atrium restaurant, and I believe the pair are still running things.

A group of 4, we dined in the main upstairs dining room. Comfortable enough and with bags of atmosphere, the interior could however really do with smartening up, as could some of the upholstery on the chairs which look water stained (the result of a leak perhaps?). We were each offered a choice of 3 badly photocopied menus fixed to a heavy metal (i.e. it was heavy and made of metal) clipboard: pre and post theatre dinner at £15.00 for 3 courses, table d'hote at £17.00 for 3 courses plus a reasonably priced a la carte.

All contained attractive sounding dishes, mostly drawn, or adapted from the a la carte which was the optioned we plumped for. "Tuscan sausage, bacon and shallot beignet, tomato and haricot blanc" was a delicious and sophisticated variation on bangers and baked beans with a meaty, spicy sausage (actually made locally for the restaurant rather than imported), nicely cooked beans and a crispy, cheesy fritter. What could be better?

A "broth of smoked haddock, new potatoes, spring onion and gruyere crumble" looked stunning, presented in a bowl that could easily double as a small child's paddling pool. Parfait of chicken livers appeared to be of high quality, but oddly presented as a slice sat on a tart flambe.

Main courses of "beef fillet with shallot confit crust, smoked haggis fritter and roast parsnips" and "chicken, prosciutto, champ, creamed wild mushroom and savoy (cabbage)" were better received than my "baked seabass, baba ganoush, prawn wontons, roast potatoes, tomato and fine beans" which was fine, but entirely wrong for the time of the year. But maybe I should have guessed that from reading the menu.

Desserts of crème brulee, chocolate fondant, bread and butter pudding and a chocolate and praline parfait were much enjoyed, as was some excellent coffee. The meal had begun well began with some powerfully flavoured vegetable mini-soups (exact details escape me) and very good home made breads. Wine was reasonably priced with much under £20.00 (alas my memory fails me as to what was actually drunk) and service was pretty much spot on the whole evening. Bill including service came to around the £40.00 a head mark.

This turned out to be the best meal of my entire stay, although fishcakes, green curry and several beers at the Thai Orchid in Grindlay Street was not in the least unpleasant.

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Is Jackson's any good anymore? I haven't been in a good few years, but I have fond memories of dinners there - although it doesn't look like they have the lamb poached in birch wine on the menu anymore. :sad: It's just down the High Street from the Witchery and Dubh Prais.


"Tea and cake or death! Tea and cake or death! Little Red Cookbook! Little Red Cookbook!" --Eddie Izzard

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For me, it has to be Number One underneath the Balmoral Hotel. Classical French style with one of the best (if not the best) fresh bread selection in any restaurant I've tried.

Don't whatever you do mistake this for Hadrians in the Balmoral itself! Number One has a separate entrance about twenty yards to the right of the main Balmoral entrance going down some steps.

Number One rightly deserves its Michelin star and is undoubtedly on a par with any similar London establishment.

The menu is not toned down at all, so for the more adventurous it is a delight. For example, the pan fried foie gras is excellent as is the sweetbread.

There's also an excellent tasting menu, which can be taken with the sommelier's selction of wines by the glass.

The wine list is pretty extensive too.

I go there every time I am in Edinburgh.

Cheers, Howard

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Howard, how does Number One compare to Martin Wishart, if you have been there?

Hello Andy

Sorry I have never had the opportunity to try Martin Wishart's, although it's on my list.

Number One is pretty classic French style with an accent on the use of Scottish ingredients such as venison. I can certainly recommend it.

Cheers, Howard

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Thankfully, Tuesday evening found my colleagues and I having a cracking time at Marque Central. Housed in the Lyceum theatre off the Lothian Road, the restaurant was originally opened a couple of years ago by Lara Kearney and John Rutter, ex-of Andrew Radford's famous Atrium restaurant, and I believe the pair are still running things.

Let me make a quick but heartfelt plug for the original Marque Restaurant in Causewayside. Intimate (where Marque Central is a bit barn-like for my liking), with great food, excellent service and--I believe--a BYOB policy on Sundays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

Oh well since I'm here I might as well add that, over Christmas, I had a great time at Nargile Turkish restaurant in Hanover Street (meze-tastic, but no Buzbag unfortunately); a pretty patchy and, for what it was, horrendously expensive New Year's Eve meal at Merchants Restaurant; and I plan to take the Beyonce for a birthday meal at Rogue Restaurant this Saturday. I haven't had anything less than a good time there and now it's reopened its cocktail bar I expect my pleasure to be redoubled. No doubt more anon.

Cheers all

Spanks

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Edinburgh has two Michelin star restaurants: Number One and Martin Wishart. I tried the tasting menu at Wishart’s a couple of months ago, and this week I decided to see what Number One could do. While both restaurants have their strengths, I would have to give the slight edge to Number One.

Located in the basement of the Edinburgh’s marquis hotel, the Balmoral, Number One exudes a sense of luxury. There is an ample and comfortably appointed lounge area to enjoy a drink before sitting down for your meal. The walls have a dark, highly polished sheen. They’re covered with small modern artworks that don’t distract you, but in fact are witty and eclectic if you take the time to study them. The tables and banquettes are plush and generously spaced.

The service at Number One is impeccable. As I watched them operate over two and a half hours, I couldn’t help but be impressed by the teamwork and precision. A team of five servers covered the whole restaurant (it is not that large, and not all the tables were taken), and while they had their individual duties, they operated as a coordinated unit. Now the sommelier serves you a glass of wine, and the next moment he’s serving appetizers at the next table. Now the lovely French woman is serving your soufflé, and the next moment she’s refilling wine glasses at the opposite corner of the restaurant.

I ordered the chef’s tasting menu with paired wines, which clocks in at £85 before tip. There were five courses plus two amuses and six glasses of wine in this degustation. Although most of the portions were small, as you’d expect on a tasting menu, I walked out quite full, and in fact skipped breakfast the next morning. All of the dishes were plated beautifully, in designs clearly intended to delight the eye as well as the stomach.

I had never ordered a full wine pairing before. It adds a significant premium to the meal, but I have to say it’s worth it. You get a selection of diverse wines that is expertly chosen to suit the menu, quite a few of which you probably would never order on your own. They are smaller pours than wine ordered by the glass, but with six of them included it’s about as much as most people care to drink. I did have trouble pacing myself, though: you were never sure how much time you had before the next course was to arrive.

The amuse-bouche was a tiny cup of tomato consommé, which I found a bit disappointing. The more successful amuses-bouches display some culinary wit, which this uninspired dish lacked. The champagne paired with it was similarly unexciting.

A wonderful foie gras came next, served with oatcakes and mushroom chutney. It was paired with an intense New Zealand fruit wine that complemented the liver taste perfectly. The fish course was a scallop in a light curry sauce, accompanied by braised oxtail. This was the hit of the evening, and unfortunately that lonely scallop was gone all too quickly. This is the drawback of a tasting menu.

The meat course was less successful. Six slender lamb medallions were sufficiently tender and tasty, but I’ve had far better lamb elsewhere. Sauces are Number One’s strength, but this lamb was served in its own juices. Nothing was done to raise it above the ordinary. The grilled sweetbreads that came on the plate were far more memorable. Some writers have suggested that meat courses are not as well suited to a tasting menu, because they require larger portions to make a culinary statement. I can certainly see the point, although I’ll have to try the format a few more times before deciding whether that’s true.

The cheese course was generous to a fault. The server wheeled over a cart with a wide range of selections. I told him I preferred the exotic and offbeat, and he cut six thick slices. It’s easy to order a $15 cheese course in New York and get three skimpy pieces, so this was refreshing indeed. He asked if I wanted any more, so there didn’t seem to be a hard limit. Anyhow, at six pieces this was a more substantial course than the entrées had been, so I thought it best to stop there (with dessert still to come). I can’t describe cheeses, but the six I sampled were wonderful. They were paired with a sweet port wine.

There was a small pre-dessert of apricots and cream, followed by the main dessert, a raspberry and white chocolate soufflé. This is a specialty dish at Number One, which I’ve had on previous visits. It came with a white dessert wine, which the sommelier described as a palate-cleanser. I’m still trying to guess what that means.

It was an expensive evening, but well worth it. This could turn into an expensive hobby.

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Located in the basement of the Edinburgh’s marquis hotel, the Balmoral, Number One...

Thanks for the great report, but I must also add that the bread served at Number One is worth a special mention.

They have several different loaves wheeled about on a trolley. They're always very fresh, and worth a trip just for them.

Can't think of any restaurant that has better bread.

Cheers, Howard

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looks like i'll be going back to the fringe this year....anything new up in edinburgh that might be worth a look?


Suzi Edwards aka "Tarka"

"the only thing larger than her bum is her ego"

Blogito ergo sum

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Centotre in George Street opened a wee while ago. It's run by several members of the Contini family (who run Valvona and Crolla's). It's been getting very good write-ups in the Sunday Herald and the Independent, but when I went one Saturday afternoon it was mobbed, so we didn't stay. Might try it before the Festival strikes.

An "official" Valvona and Crolla vin caffe is being opened near Harvey Nicks, but it doesn't look anywhere near completion yet.

Cheers

Spanky

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ah, sweet, sweet valvona & crolla. i can't wait to go back there. i've been trying ot order stuff off their website but the e-commerce doesn't seem to be working for me.


Suzi Edwards aka "Tarka"

"the only thing larger than her bum is her ego"

Blogito ergo sum

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I've been working four days per week in Edinburgh for the past month, and had some opportunities for eats. If you're going up there for the festival, you might find these notes interesting...

Here's some quick comments - I did have enough material for individual reviews, but right now I'm way too busy.

---- Number One

Situated in the basement level of the Balmoral Hotel, this centrally located restaurant has a Michelin star and presents itself in a traditional manner, both regarding the food and general atmosphere.

46II0032.jpg

Crab starter, good, but the pheasant & fois gras starter is my favourite

Booking is surprisingly easy, but usually it was always on a Monday night.

Last time I'd been in was in February, and previous to that I'd only been in twice. So it was rather impressive when the Maitre d' welcomed me by name without prompting.

46BI0025.jpg

Langoustines and angel hair pasta with curry sauce - sorry, not my favourite

I've dined there four times in the past month, and each time it has been a pleasure. The fresh bread selection is always addictive, with a selection of seven breads (for example, white, brown, garlic, bacon, cheese, olive, rosemary) cut from fresh loaves.

46BI0027.jpg

Lamb is OK, but I was slightly disappointed - too much like my mum makes!

My favourites on the menu at the moment -

o The pheasant and pan fried spiced fois gras starter

o The curried scallop from the tasting menu (ask for it even if going a la carte)

o Assiette of pork - with truly the most delicious crackling and pea risotto, needs a solid red like a Burgundy or other pinot noir as sauce is strong

o Cheese trolley

o Mango fruit dessert (dare I say my favourite of the lot, even if it is a bit too healthy?)

46BJ0028.jpg

Cheese, we like cheese.

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Roquefort and 1989 Yquem - did I just die and go to heaven?

FWIW, my main no-goers on the menu at the moment are:

o I found that the current lamb on the menu is rather too meat and two veg traditional English, although the sweetbreads take it up a good few notches.

o There is a langoustine starter wrapped in angel hair pasta that wasn't really my cup of tea.

46BK0030.jpg

Pre-desert

46BK0031.jpg

That mango fruit dessert - not to be missed

Attention to detail in Number One is good: wine and water was regularly replenished, occasionally the bread went short, but there was never a time when I felt that I couldn't easily gain the attention of service. I would also say that the service is always friendly, not at all surly, and certainly not over formal.

---- Martin Wishart

This is situated in Leith, about a ten minute cab ride from Central Edinburgh. I had dinner there one Thursday night about three weeks ago. Check their opening days - for example they're shut on Mondays. It proved difficult to get in without booking up a few days in advance. I had three punts before I finally made it.

Firstly, I was very impressed when, having never stepped foot in the restaurant before, I arrived and was greeted by name without even an introduction. Very clever, if a little spooky. I somehow wonder if there is an Edinburgh restaurant mafia grapevine out there - certainly I know that the maitre d' of Number One is pretty friendly with the folks at Martin Wishart.

I went for dinner and after about ten seconds was convinced that I should take the six course tasting menu (there is also a five course) with sommelier's selections. Turned out to be just devine. Chef picks at random some selections and they arrive pristinely and well timed. You can say in advance if you don't like something, and chef will figure something out.

The sommelier was especially good fun and a joy to chat with. His selections were nothing short of perfect - clearly he knew his stuff. You can choose either half glasses or full glasses. Several of these wines were not from the 'by the glass' section of the wine list.

If you go a la carte on the wine, I thought that although the selection is excellent, the prices were on the exhorbitant side. Another great reason to do the tasting menus with wine selections.

The food is not what you might call traditional, but then neither is it a pot pourri of flavours: it is usually clear what the centre of each dish is, although the lamb course I had was distintly lacking in, well, lamb. A piece the size of a large marble was my ration.

In addition to the six courses were a four piece amuse bouche, plus a cheese course from the trolley.

Service was excellent, not too formal, nor too informal, and always attentive. The maitre d' on at the time was rather pushy about trying to eek out of me what I thought - he need not have worried.

I'd say that the atmosphere is slightly less staid than Number One.

I stayed at the Malmaison that night, walking (crawling?) distance from Martin Wishart to save me getting a taxi, although service were more than happy to order one for me.

When I can get a table again, I will go without a second thought. Sadly, it was always difficult for me to make plans more than a couple of days in advance, seemingly too short notice for them.

---- Oloroso

This is situated on top of a new office building in the New Town at the Charlotte Square end of George Street not far from the Caledonian. It consists of an inside bar, an inside dining area, and a gorgeous looking outside balcony with about fifteen tables overlooking the New Town.

Having walked past the bouncer (never a good start, reminded me of Hakkasan in that respect) and I'd figured out how to get to the restaurant itself via a lift and stairs, then following the noise, I was shown by the maitre d' to a table on its own inside between some service doors (cloakroom?) and the open glass door to the balcony. Mmm. I looked around. Despite the inside dining area being only 5% full at the time, there could not have been a worse table. I felt like I was the centre of attention as the hustle and bustle wondered past into and out of the balcony area. However, I'm not one to complain so I lived with it.

The menu consists of a short a la carte menu (five starters, five mains) of an indistinct genre. There is also a grill menu which has steak, steak and more steak. You get to choose your sauce (eg, bearnaise, au poivre etc). I took a pea risotto with battered (?) smoked haddock and a t-bone au poivre with fries.

In about three minutes, the pea risotto with battered smoked haddock turned up.

But I had not ordered any wine yet! After beckoning, the sommelier turns up and we have a short chat. Although French sounding, I didn't get a warm feeling. I suggested a riesling for the smoked fish, but I took his recommendation of a 'full' chardonnay (apparently, a "connoisseur's wine") for the smoked fish (?) and a Zinfandel for the steak. I should have kept on the Zinfandel all the way through. The chardonnay offered was not what I'd call 'full'.

This is sad: the wine list is excellent. Not too over the top on the gouge either.

Battered smoked haddock. My mind immediately turns to thinking about the Scottish and their fetish for deep fried mars bars, pies and seemingly everything else. It was OK, although they need to (a) forget the batter and (b) learn how to cook risotto - it was a bit too watery. The speed of delivery, perfect looking batter, and watery risotto led me to believe that there's a microwave in that kitchen.

Steak was very good, although not the best cut. Cooked just how I wanted it (rare).

It was a very shaky service indeed. Lots of waiting staff spending all their time preening themselves. Obviously this is the place to be and be seen, but not the place to expect a good service.

Prices are up with the best of them but without a service to match.

Not recommended, although if you can brown nose the maitre d' enough you might get a table outside on a nice day. Then, go to the bar and order the wine yourself. Don't bother with the waiting staff or you'll die of dehydration.

Cheers, Howard


Edited by howardlong (log)

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what a wonderful post howard. thank you!

makes me very annoyed that my holiday has been cancelled.


Suzi Edwards aka "Tarka"

"the only thing larger than her bum is her ego"

Blogito ergo sum

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olorosso was the place where some colleagues booked a large table for lunch, shortly after opening i think.

They took drinks orders etc, settled everyone in and then told them they had no electricity and could only offer cold meats, not quite the fat boy blow out they'd expected.

they left and by the sounds of it didn't miss out!

gary


you don't win friends with salad

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given my meal there was 12 months ago i now feel i can come out and admit that i left oloroso without paying. it wasn't for want of trying, but after asking for the bill three times only to have them not come and take the card after 25 minutes i got the feeling they weren't actually bothered about us paying. so we left.


Suzi Edwards aka "Tarka"

"the only thing larger than her bum is her ego"

Blogito ergo sum

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Let me make a quick but heartfelt plug for the original Marque Restaurant in Causewayside. Intimate (where Marque Central is a bit barn-like for my liking), with great food, excellent service and--I believe--a BYOB policy on Sundays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

I just remembered I made this recommendation. Please ignore it--the place has since shut up shop, which is a shame.

Howard, great post on those three restaurants! Oloroso is usually fine for a cocktail or two, but not somewhere I'd go for dinner. As you detected, it has an inflated sense of its own importance with prices to match. (£150 for a bottle of Tignanello--japers!!!)

I should also note in passing that I went to the "hot" new Italian place, Centotre, on George St. Impressions: hectic, packed, barn-like space (ex-bank) where you can't hear what your partner/friend/elsewho is saying even though they're sitting only a few feet away from you; terribly erratic service (for example, left waiting for our table while couples who came in after us were guided to theirs, brought the wrong orders, some very nice staff, some very unresponsive staff etc etc); strange lapses in detail (food-stained menus, for God's sake!) BUT very good food (my partner claimed that the mozzarrella was the best she'd ever tasted and I had a very toothsome veal milanese--I think (it's been a month or more now) and very interesting wine list. All the wines are from Italy and all are available by the glass. However, I would imagine that it's hell on earth to eat there at the moment.

Tarka, sorry to hear you couldn't make it. If it's any consolation, the weather's unconscionably pish up here.

Cheers all

Spanks

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Let me make a quick but heartfelt plug for the original Marque Restaurant in Causewayside. Intimate (where Marque Central is a bit barn-like for my liking), with great food, excellent service and--I believe--a BYOB policy on Sundays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

I just remembered I made this recommendation. Please ignore it--the place has since shut up shop, which is a shame.

Is Marque Central still open? I've just writen a review of them for a magazine so I hope they are! (Just tried ringing them and no answer, I'll try again nearer dinner time if no one responds before then).

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food-stained menus, for God's sake!

I got one of these at Oloroso. I think I might have nicked it too, so I'll scan it in and publish the URL if my scanner still works with ketchup installed.

I forgot to mention V&C. The Edinburgh office I set up seven years ago is just up the road from Valvona & Crolla. It's been three years since I've needed to spend any serious time up there, but luckily my wine drinking taste buds are now much more adventurous and appreciative of bracnhing out away from France.

Don't go to V&C for French wine, or you will be seriously disappointed. Live life and check out their awesome Italian collection. A great spread from Sicily to Tuscany. For example, for Sicily just check out their Planeta selection.

V&C also have substantially improved their lunch sarny collection from what it was. Perhaps I don't know where to go, but there just are not the same kind of independent sandwich takeaways there are like we have darn sarf.

Cheers, Howard

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given my meal there was 12 months ago i now feel i can come out and admit that i left oloroso without paying. it wasn't for want of trying, but after asking for the bill three times only to have them not come and take the card after 25 minutes i got the feeling they weren't actually bothered about us paying. so we left.

Re-reading my post, it appears that I was being charitable about the service in Oloroso. It was possibly the worse place I'd been to since the Pizza Hut in Greenside Place when I was staying at the Glasshouse there a few weeks ago. No, I lied, it was worse. I'm sure at Pizza Hut they weren't that far up themselves.

Hmmm. The Glasshouse. Another place to avoid. Nice enough place, with an enormous wonderful grassed area on the top floor that your room opens out onto, but they try too hard to be trendy. Nowhere to eat other than for breakfast and room service. There's an 'honesty bar' where you write down what you nick from the minimally stocked bar.

I am not a convert to 'boutique' hotels. Like the Glasshouse, the Malmaison in Leith similarly had this snooty "We're cool, what the hell are you doing here?" feel to it. And the bathroom was so minimal it felt like being in a B&B. Still, at least it's close to Martin Wishart and they do have a brasserie that I wouldn't have minded trying.

The Scotsman also is trying too hard. It's trying to place itself both as a traditional hotel and as a boutique hotel. But it doesn't make it IMHO. The gym is way too busy for a physical exercise retard like me. Their "publisher suites" are nothing more than a room with two comfy chairs and think they can charge twice as much. Oh, but apparently they do have the largest shower heads in Edinburgh. Shame, I'm a bath man myself. Their Molton Brown products are unceremoniously bolted to the wall, so no freebies. Their fine dining restaurant doesn't open Mondays or Tuesdays, so I've not managed to try it yet.

Since the Balmoral has been refurbed this year, I'm a proud born again Balmoralite. The gym is nice and empty plus they have a Michelin starred restaurant in crawling distance. And even the cheapy rooms have a nice big bath. With some nice freebie products to nick. Nice bathrobes too.

But this is a foodie channel, right?

Cheers, Howard

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i use the bonham,

http://www.thebonham.com/

a very nice boutique place, friendly staff and good rooms.

i've only held big lunch/dinner functions there and they've coped admirably but the ALC menu reads well.

lacking in pretention which is nice too, and as you say often quite rare in the boutiques. They own a few other places in edinburgh but they're a bit more traditional chintzy, the howard & the channings are theirs.

gary


you don't win friends with salad

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But this is a foodie channel, right?

Restaurants, Cuisine and Travel - so you're bang on topic. The more UK related travel stuff the better in fact.

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the howard

Tried there, reasonably priced, definitely not the 5* they advertise, nicely quirky, OK food, rooms are past their best. A bit of a trek to my office - in the no-man's land of being too close for justifying a taxi, but too far for a comfy walk.

I remember the panecotta being very nice. You're absolutely right about it being part of a small chain - the wine menu is held centrally, so the waiter had to walk round to a sister hotel to get it.

This is not meant to be derogatory at all, rather to indicate its quaintness, but dare I say it - it was like Fawlty towers without Basil.

Cheers, Howard

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Yes the Haar has been a right bastard of late (nice weekend weather though, so mustn't grumble).

Oloroso - what everybody else has said, but when the weather is not utter shit, it is a good place to go up to the balcony area and have a drink and talk about the Castle etc.

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