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Issue 37 - A suitable distraction

Scotland Magazine Issue 37
March 2008

 

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A suitable distraction

Rob Allanson discovers a haven of French flair in the capital.

It may have been Burns night, yes one of the biggest nights of celebration throughout Scotland with piles of haggis, neeps and tatties, but instead of following the drunken hordes of revellers into the city I made my way along the Grassmarket under the shadow of Edinburgh’s imposing castle.

As I stood waiting for my dinner guest to turn up I took the opportunity to scan the menu outside.

Abstract, at first, rose to fame riding confidently on the success of its Inverness sibling who appeared on Channel 4’s Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares. Now it is reaching the dizzying height of food stardom wowing diners by serving a slice of French glitz and pizzazz on Edinburgh’s Castle Terrace.

You walk in to the strains of piano, classical when we first arrived but later on in the evening the talented ivory tickler was wooing some guests with more modern fare.

From this striking piano bar you walk into what can only be described as a shrine to food. The décor, rich and sumptuous, is nicely understated so that it does not distract from the real reason why this restaurant is fast becoming the place to eat.

Head chef Sean Kelly puts out a seasonally changing menu that exhibits some genuinely exciting French food often with a Scottish twist. While salivating over the menu, a little beetroot gazpacho was delivered to the table, followed by a potato soup with a leek emulsion. Simple and enough to get the juices flowing for the rest of the night.

The menu is split into two parts. If you are in the mood for something a little different that will take you through the skills of the kitchen then the eight-course tasting menu, paired with wine, is the way to go.

However we opted for the á la carte menu, which encompasses some truly mouth-watering dishes.

We chose the same starter, a tuna sashimi with radish accompanied with wasabi icecream, purple basil and ginger. Again perfect. The tuna was fresh as it should be and contrasted the crunchy, slightly bitter radish. My only comment would be that as a fan of wasabi I would have liked a bit more kick in the ice-cream but it certainly did not stop me enjoying this classic dish. My dinner partner was also content.

The wine sommelier had already visited us and recommended a Vouvray Sec 2005 which worked perfectly throughout the meal.

Mains brought more fish. For me Shetland organic salmon with a little fois gras and puy lentils. Delivered across the table was sea bass with pak choi, crab meat couscous and a little veg.

The salmon was simply impressive.

Exactly what you would want from wellcooked fish; light delicate flavours, a hint of the sea and it mingled well with the heavy fois gras and lentils. Stunning.

Dessert came from the cheese trolley, from which you can pick and mix a seriously impressive selection of cheese drawn from the best areas in Europe and Scotland. It is great fun mixing and matching.

Just when I figured the fun was ending I heardthe rumbling of another trolley and the whisky appeared – a fantastic selection including Auchentoshan 73 and Glenrothes 79 amongst others.

The service in Abstract is discretely slick and delivered from the glamorous, predominantly French staff.

Sure, Abstract is a little pricey to dine every evening but for those treats and special occasions it is simply worth every penny.