ITCHYCOO PARK BY The Small Faces happens to be one of my favourite songs. Legend has it that it came on the radio while this project was being conceived, inspiring designer Jim Hamilton to christen the restaurant “Itchycoo”. After recently launching a new summer menu, I wondered if the food could give me as much pleasure as the '60s classic.
This brasserie-style eatery is part of the four-star Radisson Blu hotel on Edinburgh’s historic Royal Mile, and first impressions suggest it has a sleek, contemporary vibe to it. Sarah and I plonked ourselves down in the far corner and were immediately impressed by the space afforded; another table or two could easily have been squeezed in somewhere.
The welcoming pamphlet states that the menu's ‘roots stem from local Scottish produce’, which got me thinking that there are few restaurants around this touristy location really offering Scottish food worth waxing lyrical about.
The menu itself … hmm, I understand where the concept is coming from, but I’m not entirely sure it really knows what it’s supposed to be. On the one hand, we have Scottish produce being trumpeted, so I’d come to expect modern Scottish fayre – of which there is some – but you’ve got dishes like fajitas, gnocchi and curry in the mix too. I wondered how many of those dishes were actually ordered by the punters, and reckon you could take four or five of them off the menu and not miss them. Focusing solely on Scottish produce and making the menu more consistent with dishes like Inverurie pork belly or Arbroath smokie fishcakes, would give it a more rounded identity that I feel it craves.
Anyway, our waitress for the evening, Miryana, enthusiastically delivered a few recommendations, poured the wine and duly jotted down our order. My starter was the Arbroath smokie fish cakes with baby gem salad and a lemon crème fraiche dressing (£5.95), while Sarah ordered chicken, mango and avocado salad at an ambitious £7.95.
My fish cake was fine; pleasant smokiness, seasoned well and crispy on the outside. The two strands of baby gem were a little lonely amongst the pile of leaves in my salad, which was a shame, but the crème fraiche dressing brought a light and citrusy note that completed this decent starter.
Sarah’s portion looked huge, which you’d kind of hope for if you’re shelling out just shy of eight quid. The chicken was moist and the plate was well presented. However, the dish really needed seasoning to bring it alive and, while there was a tiny hint of warmth from the light chilli dressing, a big kick of heat wouldn’t have gone amiss.
I had decided on the pork belly beforehand, but changed my mind after Miryana had recommended the 8oz Aberdeen Angus rib eye steak (£24.95). The steak was caramelised on the outside and fairly rare, as requested, on the inside. The chips were excellent – crisp exterior and a fluffy interior – and the garlic mushrooms were cooked well and didn’t overwhelm with garlic. A tasty enough dish, completed by a rich peppercorn sauce.
I’d toyed with ordering the Rump of lamb (£17.95) but was put off because its accompaniments were the same as the steak, which I found a little unimaginative, and lead to Sarah request mash potato instead of chips. The lamb was perfectly cooked and the creamy mash was superb. The mushrooms and peppercorn sauce were consistent with the steak. A pleasant enough dish, if not a little uninspired.
Miranya had provided excellent service all night and had talked us into a cocktail afterwards. She brought us our desserts to round off the meal, having again giving her suggestions with real passion and confidence. I went for the cone, lolly and shake (£7.95), which comprised of strawberry ice cream in a chocolate cone, white blancmange with Maltesers and a chocolate milkshake. The ice cream cone was, well, an ice cream cone – you can’t really go wrong with that. The blancmange with its refreshing lemony taste was excellent and cut through the creaminess of the ice cream, but that chocolate milkshake wasn’t good. It just tasted like hot chocolate mixed into cold milk that had been frothed up with a blender; it didn’t really serve any purpose on the plate and could easily have been substituted for a fruit coulis or something along those lines.
Sarah went for raspberry and white chocolate Callebaut cheesecake (£7.95). A generous portion saw the traditional biscuit base replaced with a light sponge, with amaretti biscuits served on the side. The flavours of the cheesecake were pleasant, with the raspberries balancing out the creaminess of the middle section. The macerated berries were fresh and juicy, but the dish lacked a little texture because the amaretti biscuits came soft, as described in the menu.
So hits and misses with this meal. For me, you’re paying slightly more for being in the heart of Edinburgh’s tourist area and this meant the meal lacked value for money at points. Nevertheless, there was some solid cooking in a chilled atmosphere, and it was certainly worth noting that the service was exemplary all night. A couple of menu tweaks couldn’t hurt but overall, we left satisfied.
0131 473 6517
Open: Mon-Fri 0900 - 0100
Sat-Sun 1000- 0100