The Wordrobe’s Editor Sophie Ritchie takes a tastebud trip to France in the centre of the Scottish capital
When I step onto the tram from Edinburgh airport for a weekend of adventuring, I know immediately that I’m in for a dose of very cold weather. There’s one major giveaway, one big clue – every Scottish body before me is clad in a coat. And when a Scot has their coat on, you know it’s chilly.
Luckily for me, my dining destination for the night is a mere suitcase roll away from the main Edinburgh Waverley train station. Gleaming in icy sunlight when I arrive, The Balmoral hotel sits proudly on Princes Street with its prestigious facade. Location wise, it’s perfect.
Housed within is the recently opened Brasserie Prince restaurant, the work of Michel and Alain Roux. Combine two British restaurant legends with one of the UK’s best hotels and you know you’re in for a treat – the result, a gourmet French bistro beauty that offers a menu driven by Scottish ingredients.
Inside awaits a large, glitzy affair. There’s a bar to one side, a swanky dining parlour to the other. The space, formerly Hadrian’s Brasserie, underwent a complete redesign for the opening – a project led by Martin Brudnizki Design Studio and legendary Olga Polizzi to conjure a palette of soft blues, blush pink tones and light green tones.
There’s nothing garish about the traditional banquettes and leather upholstered dining chairs – it’s a slick, stylish space.
We arrive just after 7pm, the venue not quite yet in Friday night swing. Still fairly quiet, there’s only a few chatting diners around as we’re shown to our table adjacent to the pass. It’s not long after we arrive however, that a procession of well-dressed couples and families start to file in.
Three separate staff members introduce themselves before we’ve even ordered our starters. Yet, somehow it doesn’t feel overbearing – the smiling faces greet us like old friends as they chat away – and I learn that Alain Roux himself is in the building tonight to oversee the new winter menus.
After a welcoming glass of bubbles, a bottle of the Roux’s very own Michel Roux Brut, we move onto manoeuvring the menu. It’s a mix of hearty Scottish and French dishes – think Isle of Skye langoustines, smoked duck breast salad and tempting grilled lobster thermidor. No French restaurant could open its doors without a little sautéed frog leg, either.
I start with something light, wanting to save room for my main course (and the puddings I’ve already been ogling). The Beetroot & goat’s cheese salad with red pepper vinaigrette (£13.50) arrives as a beautifully presented plate of delicate leaves, pale chunks of goat’s cheese and wisps of beetroot.
The vinaigrette has a sharp tang that pairs well with the cheese’s creaminess, whilst the beetroot’s pink hues look beautiful against the salad’s ivy shades. There’s also enough on the plate to sink your teeth into, rather a carefully-arranged bite of leafy air.
Next, it’s onto the mains. By this point, the venue is in full swing – the tables around us now full of stylish diners sipping though Brasserie Prince’s extensive wine list. There’s a lovely buzz about the place, with plates of food gliding across the restaurant as people relax for the weekend.
With its coveted postcode and high prices, you might expect it to be haughty… but it’s anything but. Instead, there’s a friendly charm that leaves you feeling like you could linger for hours.
I’ve opted for the Armoricaine monkfish with Camargue wild rice (£21) which arrives as a bed of grainy rice topped with a hunk of monkfish, surrounded by a pool of golden, rich jus.
The rice by far is the most fascinating part of the dish, with a nutty crunchiness that soaks up the saffron-infused juices beautifully. It’s a shame there’s only a smattering of it, but the fish, served on the bone, is still tender and meaty.
Stomach’s bulging, glasses empty, it’s crunch time – quite literally, because I decide to share a slab of lemon tart with my dining companion for dessert. According to the waiter, it’s a Roux family favourite.
A gleaming plate of buttery, zesty goodness arrives and we find ourselves clashing forks over who gets to enjoy the last bite. The usual cries of “Oh no, you have it” are nowhere to be heard. A quintessential French dessert, it seems a fitting way to end the night before we emerge back onto Edinburgh’s glacial streets.
The Wordrobe verdict
Ooh la la. Hearty dishes, hefty prices and a thoroughly hunger-squashing experience. It may be pricey, but Brasserie Prince is perfect for a taste of France in the heart of Scotland’s capital.
Make it happen
Where: 1 Princes St, Edinburgh EH2 2EQ
Reservations: Please phone 0131 556 2414 or click here to make a booking.
Words by Sophie Ritchie