In the heart of Edinburgh and in the depths of winter, Paul Tamburrini’s restaurant offers much more than refuge from the elements. Lisa Jenkins checks it out
Restaurant Paul Tamburrini in the Macdonald Holyrood Hotel in Edinburgh is the perfect refuge from a cold winter day. Situated close enough to see the snow on the nearby hills of Holyrood Park, diners can take comfort in the experienced chef’s seasonal dishes, akin to returning to an open fire when you’ve been out throwing a few snowballs. Considering its location, the likelihood of this simile becoming a reality is great.
The restaurant was designed and refurbished by Matt Hulme of Dynargh Design and pulls off rugged sophistication in muted concrete grey tones, with black and white prints and silver serving trays mounted on the walls.
Tamburrini has always been a passionate cook, but admits it’s great to now have his name above the door. Through his three decades as a chef, he has followed the same rules: “My ethos is pretty simple: I have a good work ethic; I use good produce, which ensures quality food; I have an excellent team; and I’m always learning.”
Using the incredible ingredients from the Scottish larder all around him has also been important throughout his career: “I believe you should buy the very best produce. Price does come into it, of course – but where possible, we buy the best and work with our local suppliers,” he adds.
He only works with suppliers who are able to provide him with full knowledge of product traceability. This includes Wellocks; Scotbeef “for its wonderful beef and lamb”; and Fish Brothers as a seafood supplier.
Menus adapt to the seasons “but are not changed too often,” says the chef. “This gives better consistency for the guests and the team.” When The Caterer visited, starters included a well-balanced light cream garlic soup with Jerusalem artichoke crisps and Orkney sea scallop with caramelised cauliflower and curry oil. The sweetness of the scallop, big enough to serve in three generous pieces, played perfectly against the earthiness of the torched cauliflower florets and purée.
Tamburrini offers three main dishes on the à la carte and three on the prix fixe. They are accompanied by a range of dishes for two to share, such as a loin of lamb with French bean salad, aubergine miso purée and confit garlic, as well as steaks to be cooked on the josper grill. His favourite dish is slow-braised ox cheeks – a preference that is mirrored by his customers, who have insisted that it remains on the menu all year round. The cheeks are braised in red wine for several hours and served alongside smoky mash, mushrooms and bacon, with an umami-rich jus.
The restaurant kitchen, staffed with 10-12 chefs, also provides a full room service menu and caters for hotel guests at breakfast. The restaurant has an average spend of £35 per head (excluding VAT), serving an average of 35 covers a night during the week and 45-50 at weekends.
Tamburrini has risen to the top of Scotland’s culinary scene alongside the late Andrew Fairlie, Tom Kitchin, Roy Brett and Martin Wishart. He has worked his way through the ranks, starting his career at 14, completing food and nutrition at school before working at a fish restaurant in Glasgow that dated back to the 1930s. He was executive chef at Glasgow’s One Devonshire Gardens (Hotel du Vin); head chef at Cameron House in Loch Lomond; and chef-director at the Honours, also in Edinburgh, alongside Martin Wishart.
With all this experience, Tamburrini is delighted that he can still say that he “loves it: the service, and the craziness of it. I like the camaraderie with the whole team. It’s mental, but a good mental.”
From the menu
From the à la carte
• Potato and foie gras terrine, Sauternes jelly and mushroom caramel £12.50
• Winter truffle risotto, slow-cooked egg £19
• Poached turbot, mussel sauce, fennel and potato mousse £24
• Côte de boeuf 600g, sautéed potatoes, onion rings and green salad (£65 to share)
• Tokaji parfait, Agen prunes with pear mousse £9.50
From the Simply Done set menu
• Smoked salmon, buckwheat, confit lemon and quail’s egg
• Crispy fried cod loin, braised fennel, brown butter and potato mousse
• Braised duck, fried potato, celeriac purée and red cabbage
• Poached pear, honey and milk ice-cream with brown sugar
Two courses, £21; three courses, £25
Macdonald Holyrood Hotel, 81 Holyrood Rd, Edinburgh EH8 8AU www.macdonaldhotels.co.uk