Rhubarb the Restaurant at Prestonfield

Restaurant in Edinburgh

Fine Dining Restaurant

David Harfield threatens to unleash his inner Scarlet Pimpernel as he enjoys contemporary cuisine in an antique setting at Rhubarb.

Visiting a restaurant with a name that has such synonyms as ‘poppycock’,  ‘balderdash’ and ‘tripe’, I was begging for an 18th Century quarrel to break out between the staff so that I could swoop in and separate the squabble, over-enunciating the words with a showy swish of my tailcoat.  Unfortunately, the waiters at Rhubarb, Prestonfield’s exquisite restaurant just outside the heart of Edinburgh’s centre, were consummate professionals and instead of allowing me the opportunity to fulfill some weird Victorian fantasy of mine, they simply provided an outstanding dining experience from start to finish (damn them!).

Checking my top hat and cane at the door, I take my seat in the plush dining room and attach my monocle in order to get a better view of my plush surroundings.  With a golden chandelier dripping glinting light over thick white tablecloths, candles emanating a warm glow that illuminates the aged, ornate paintings hanging on the wall, this could be the top deck of the Titanic, pre-iceberg, of course.  Jumping at any excuse to make a reference to Leonardo DiCaprio, I try and affect my best American accent, but my own Kate Winslet is still ensconced by the gloriously decadent atmosphere, happily polishing off the pre-dinner martini that was served to us in the drawing room, moments earlier.

Busying myself with the menu, I order based on the recommendation of the charming waiter then sit back and wait to be impressed…and impressed, I am.  The pheasant starter is served with a celeriac, chestnut and shallot tatin, the succulent meat complemented by a fresh pear and foliage salad that added a little bite to the dish.  On the other side of the table lies a brave array of Mull scallops served ceviche-style, the lime-cured mollusks matched with a crab, coriander and coconut salad.  Full points have to go to the sheer audacity of the kitchen team who’ve chucked away the rulebook and have the balls to do things their own way.

This innovative and bold approach continues throughout the main courses, with a flame-grilled venison loin delivering a somewhat bitter, smoke-infused flavour that somehow works perfectly with the piquant sauce poivrade.  The accompanying vegetables are notable too, not least for the salt clay-rolled heritage carrots and treacly turnips that taste like a Sunday roast would do at Heston Blumenthal’s gaffe.  The roast fillet of rose veal is laid out in a deconstructed fashion, cubes of tender meat dispersed amongst Technicolor rainbow chard and cep gnocchi, the nutty mushroom texture of the dumplings acting as a rich bed on for the succulent veal to lie upon.

The restaurant is actually named after Sir Alexander Dick’s achievement of introducing the vegetable to Scotland all the way from China in the 1700s, which earned him a medal from the Royal Society.  Feeling it an injustice not to sample the hard-won plant, I order the rhubarb pudding, which arrives with the restaurant’s eponymous vegetable poached and drizzled in a caramelised white chocolate foam; the tartness of the rhubarb is balanced out by a delicate strawberry sorbet, yet the pièce de résistance is, wait for it, a Parmesan and pistachio croquant.  Once again, the resident chef in this beautiful, atavistic homage to centuries past has crafted a daring, postmodern fusion of flavours that simply dazzles the palate.  The ‘Apples’ dessert is a suitably confusing take on a Bonfire Night toffee apple: a tart, Granny Smith-infused gelatinous disc lies atop a dome of light rosemary and caramel mousse, itself encircled by miniature globes of Bramley apple that have been coated in black sesame paste, lending a sharp tang to their firm crunch.  Guy Fawkes, I salute you…

And so, waistcoat buttons a-popping, we head back to our suite at Prestonfield, with me half-heartedly seeking out the potential for a bout of fisticuffs with the maitre d', or the challenge of pistols at dawn from one of the waitresses.  However, true to form, the staff are still ingratiatingly polite and the silk dueling glove that I had been itching to throw down in defiance all evening remains safely in my pocket.  But what of the idea that this slight personal disappointment would prevent me from returning to this glamorous time portal again and again?  Sheer rhubarb, dear fellow, sheer rhubarb.

David Harfield is a freelance food and travel writer and the director of the social media solutions company PepperStorm Media

Rhubarb on Urbanspoon

Reviewer's Rating
Cuisine British
Need to book Yes
Restaurant good for Couples, Romance, Special occasions
Cost per head Expensive
Dress Code Smart Casual
Dining Options Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Additional Ambience Information

Breathtaking décor.

Additional Price Comments

For those on a budget, the table d'hôte menu is a very reasonable £33 for three courses and they have a two-course lunch menu for £20. À la carte Starters from £8.85; Mains from £27; Puddings from £8.95.

Last updated on 18-04-2014

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