Hotel food worth seeking out
We were invited to an overnight stay at the Macdonald Holyrood Hotel in Edinburgh recently and whilst there we also dined at their restaurant: Acanthus (named after a genus of flowering plant). Located less than a mile from Edinburgh Waverley Railway Station, Acanthus, to the left of the main building, is accessed from the main entrance of the hotel, it took us a mere 15 minutes of walking from our train to get there.
Headed by Chef John Maltby who was previously sous chef at the Sheraton Grand Hotel on Lothian Rd and before that, sous chef at the George Hotel and he was also a "Master Chef: The Professionals" contestant on series 7, so we looked forward to some seriously good cooking!
The dining area and bar does look a bit too corporate hotel-like, but then again you are (a) in a corporate hotel and (b) right next to the Scottish Parliament Building which probably means they get their fair share of civil servants visiting! On arrival we were greeted and promptly shown to our table. The chairs were comfortable and spread out enough to hold a conversation without listening in on others.
We were there as part of the dinner, bed and breakfast package which gets you a 3-course set menu, or £25 towards the a la carte menu. We both opted for the latter but you can pick one of each if you want.
We shared some tap water and Mr Foodie also had a glass of El Colectivo Malbec (£5 for 125ml) which was mildly fruity and very light for a Malbec.
The ham hock terrine looked the part. Deliciously meaty and flavoured with heaps of fresh parsley and mustard so it was rather piquant. The cubed salad potatoes underneath were a little undercooked for our liking though.
The duck liver parfait looked interesting, it was beautifully presented with cherry purée in a spiral with wafer-thin brioche. It had a strong gamey taste and smooth texture and went down well with both the cherry purée and fruity red wine.
The asparagus risotto was a glorious green colour with strong asparagus aroma and taste. Topped with amaranth for decoration and a "crisp egg", like a Scotch egg without the meat but crisper and perfectly gooey inside. It was also a large portion and perhaps a bit stodgy, which Mrs Foodie struggled to finish, so Mr Foodie had to help!
The lamb loin was meaty, moist and tender with perfectly cooked vegetables. The sweetbreads were delicious and the highlight of the night - who knew pancreas tasted so good!?!
We were stuffed, but of course had to check out the dessert menu.
The deconstructed Eton Mess consisted of whipped cream, fresh berries, meringue and deliciously tart sorbet. Eton Mess is a particular favourite of Mrs Foodie so she happily devoured this.
Likewise, Chocolate Delice is one of Mr Foodie's favourites and this had a mix of smooth and crunchy textures, and importantly lots of chocolate. Topped off with some nasturtiums/edible flowers, he enjoyed every mouthful!
Hotel food is often best avoided when there's a selection of excellent restaurants nearby but the Acanthus restaurant is actually a restaurant worth seeking out if you're not staying there. Excusing a couple of very minor criticisms, the food was very accomplished and far surpassed our expectations. We expect some of our Edinburgh friends to be visiting soon! Mr Foodie also got the chance to have a chat with Head Chef John Maltby who happily posed for a photo - we hope to hear of him developing the menu further! Service on the night was also excellent. There are no toilets in the restaurant itself but they're only a short walk away in the main hotel corridor - they reminded us of the inside of the Chrysler building in New York - so quite classy with some of the most spacious cubicles we've come across! Music was a mix of Doris Day, easy jazz and lounge covers.
+ Food was exceptional
+ The sweetbreads were absolutely delicious!
+ Great service
+ Good-quality inexpensive wine for a hotel
+ Impressive toilets!
+ Spacious comfortable restaurant
+ Better than typical city-centre hotel restaurants
+ £25 allowance towards the a la carte when staying DBB
- Potatoes with the ham hock were too 'al dente' for us
- Risotto was a bit stodgy
Address: Macdonald Holyrood Hotel, 81 Holyrood Road, Edinburgh, EH8 8AU
Bar open Mon–Sun 10am–late
Food Served Mon - Sun Noon - 9pm
Website: Macdonald Hotels