Situated at the eastern end of Princes Street, the grand old Balmoral has been an Edinburgh icon for more than a century. It has various options for food and drink, but Number One – the hotel’s modern Scottish dining room – remains its Michelin-starred flagship. The restaurant has its own entrance down some steps from street level and feels wonderfully timeless in spite of its on-trend dove grey banquettes and original exhibits from the Royal College of Art that adorn the red lacquered walls.
Number One is the kind of place where smart – yet genuinely warm – staff spring into action the moment you arrive, without ever crossing the line from attentive to overbearing. It’s a tricky balance to maintain, particularly at a fine-dining establishment such as this where the sommelier and waiters take turns to materialise with something delicious that needs explaining, but on our visit we couldn’t fault them.
Whether you choose to dine à la carte or from the excellent tasting menu, you can expect bright, inventive ideas and intense flavours from the head chef at the helm, Mark Donald (Hibiscus, Restaurant Andrew Fairlie) and his 13-strong team.
Seasonal ingredients play an important part in every dish, from the canapés to the handmade petit fours, which for us meant rich, autumnal flavours woven through each course. The best example of this was the ‘truffle bomb’ amuse bouche, which really was like an explosion of warm, syrupy, earthy goodness as it burst – a sign of good things to come.
The beautiful arrangement of tomato, lovage and fennel that followed was so vibrant it could have been harvested that morning, while the smoked potato with egg yolk, pickled leek and onion broth, paired with a glass of Clos du Papillon from the Loire Valley, was infinitely moreish.
Our mains took the form of a meaty piece of North Sea cod (perfectly cooked, naturally) paired with sweetcorn and pied de mouton, and a delicately spiced roasted cauliflower served with golden raisin and almond, though other dishes you might encounter include Argyll lamb served alongside pickled watermelon, feta and smoked aubergine, and Highland wagyu beef with beetroot, smoked bone marrow and bitter leaf.
To finish, a pairing of bramble sherbet soufflé and apple pie ice cream, and an array of artisanal cheeses from an impressive domed trolley were in tune with the prevailing theme. Number One also shows its pedigree with a mighty wine list spanning 26 pages and featuring some very nice vintage Champagnes. Our advice – go all out with a wine pairing.