THERE WAS a tremendous buzz surrounding my visit to Restaurant Mark Greenaway. Not only had Mark featured on the Great British Menu this week, but it was my first visit to his new site on North Castle Street.
It seemed an age since Mark announced his plans to move from his eponymous restaurant on Picardy Place, in what seemed a very exciting prospect for a chef whose stock is ever rising on the Edinburgh dining circuit.
One of the reasons behind the move was to pick up a more substantial trade over lunch, and as I walked into a full dining room, it was evident Mark and his team had certainly chosen a capable location.
We took in the dining room as sommelier Loic warmly greeted us. Instantly, I was struck by the presence of the sash windows. I had admired them in picture form, but in person they looked even more impressive. The fireplace with 'Mark Greenaway' etched into it was also a beautiful feature to this cozy space.
Sarah and I opted for the market menu with a lovely glass of Prosecco. I chose pea veloute with hot pea jelly, raviolo and sitka spruce oil, while Sarah went for pan fried duck egg with duck croquette, brioche, duck ham and celery leaves; a favourite of hers from a previous visit to Picardy Place.
The fragrance of fresh peas hit me instantly and the veloute itself was decent, if unspectacular and extremely under seasoned. The hot pea jelly, not as odd a texture as I thought and the raviolo perfectly thin. For something as simple as what was really a pea soup, this fell below expectations.
On another note, Sarah all but ran out of superlatives for her quirky starter. The croquette was crisp, well-seasoned and packed with flavoursome meat. The duck ham melted in the mouth so much that it reminded me of Jamon Serrano, while the egg yolk acted as a sauce that bound it all together. This very accomplished dish has featured on Mark’s menu for a while and you can understand its popularity.
I ordered pan seared cod fillet with clam chowder, fennel and dill puree and vanilla foam, while Sarah opted for Mark’s signature dish of 11 hour slow roasted pork belly with pomme puree, savoy cabbage and toffee apple jus. Which I kind of wanted myself!
The cod was expertly cooked: moist, almost translucent flakes of flesh and perfectly seasoned, although I would have liked the skin a little crisper. The chowder was pleasant and not over powering, the crunchy brunoise of veg added needed texture alongside the tender clams and the foam, which I’m normally not a fan of, but complimented this dish well in this instance.
Mark’s pork belly is a dish I just adore. The responsibly sourced meat was juicy and full of taste, the crackling perfectly crunchy without being too hard, and the mash was smooth as silk. The toffee apple jus was not too sweet and overall a great modern twist on the classic pork and apple pairing.
That’s the third time I’ve had this dish and I love it, but I always feel a little more cabbage would just complete it.
The restaurant was in full swing at this point, which slowed the service down a tad and I had to ask a couple of times for my water to be replenished, but the waiting staff remained friendly and were knowledgeable, much to their credit.
Now for the dessert course, which thankfully offered Mark’s high-scoring broken chocolate tart with crème fraiche parfait, frozen cookies, salted caramel and kumquat puree you may have seen on Great British Menu.
Sarah concurred with the judges with this one; stunningly presented, the taste certainly did not let down the appearance of this pudding. The parfait was well balanced and not too sweet, the chocolate discs adding crunch and although the frozen cookies were slightly spongy, the flavour was definitely there. I had wondered about the texture of the chocolate knot, but it was superb and the dish was rounded off with the thrill of popping candy exploding in the mouth.
I had the cheeseboard, as the other option was a peanut cheesecake, which ruled me outon allergy grounds. Featuring Isle of Mull cheddar, Brie and a lovely creamy blue cheese, this was a perfectly fine and I especially loved the frozen grapes and fresh crunchy celery.
As we settled our tab, we asked Loic to kindly show us around the restaurant’s USP if you like – a wine cellar constructed from the bank vault from when RBS occupied the building. The idea behind it is the customer can visit the vault to sample the wines before purchasing, which is a rather novel touch to the dining experience.
I hadn’t mentioned much about the wine list as we were celebrating with prosecco (£5 per glass) but not only was it excellent value (you could get a bottle of red or white for £20-£21) it offered a wide selection and had a graphic showing you where the wine was produced.
At £20 for the market menu (a la carte was available) and such a generous wine list, I reckon you would be pushed to find better value than this anywhere around Edinburgh city centre, certainly for three courses. Mark Greenaway’s talent for dressing a plate is up there with the best for me, but that’s nothing if taste doesn't match; thankfully it just about did and I certainly look forward to my next visit.
Open: Tues-Sat for lunch (12-2.30) and dinner (5.30-10)
0131 226 1155