Review: Melville Castle Brasserie, Edinburgh

I WOULDN’T IMAGINE you could ever get tired of the stunning scenery as you trickle down the windy road to Melville Castle. While we admire the grounds of the James Playfair-designed, three-storey building, I remind myself that it’s the food that we’re actually here to scrutinise.

With three courses setting you back £28.50, I began with a smoked salmon platter, accompanied by pickled cucumber and a new potato salad with a sweet dill and mustard dressing.  Neatly assembled, this offering was a light and fresh way to commence the meal. The flavour of the salmon suggested it was delectable quality, and the pickling of the salad wasn’t too sharp or overpowering; a pinch of seasoning wouldn’t have gone amiss.  The tasty dressing happened to be the standout component, adding a pleasant hint of heat.

Sarah started with haggis croquet with clapshot and whisky sauce, which was a gigantic looking portion on first inspection.  It was obvious to my chef’s eye that the oil wasn’t hot enough to produce the desired crunchy coating, although the haggis (from Henderson’s) inside was flavoursome enough. The taste of the clapshot suggested there was only turnip in the mix – I might be wrong – but there wasn’t any evidence to suggest there was potato in there, but anyway, the neeps were smooth and creamy with the warmth from the whisky sauce rounding off a decent take at our national dish.

Moving on, my main consisted of slow-cooked daube of beef with creamed potato, roasted root veg and a rosemary jus, which appealed on this oddly cold (can I say that in Scotland?) late April evening.  This dish reminded me of eating at Balbirnie House when Sarah and I first started dating (she’s four years into that sentence now) and this comparison was a pretty decorous effort.  Although I felt the flavour of the beef could have been enhanced – it might have been a quality issue - It was impeccably cooked, and the roasted nuggets of carrot and parsnip were thankfully in keeping with that.  The mash was smooth, although lacking seasoning, but my main issue was with the sauce.  It was wishy-washy and let the dish down.

Pan-fried roe deer haunch with braised red cabbage, fondant potato and game sauce was Sarah’s main event.  I love a fondant potato and this was a top effort: well-caramelised on top with soft inners and a buttery taste.  The roe deer, which is Lowland deer and slightly sweeter than venison, stacked up more evidence this chef can cook meat.  Pink and tender, the cabbage cut through that sweetness, with texture added from the parsnip crisps on top.  The sauce tasted fine, but was again a bit too thin. 

I opted for sticky toffee pudding with salted caramel sauce and clotted cream for dessert. I rather enjoyed this, although it wasn’t without fault.  I can’t fathom why one would put clotted cream into a piping hot chocolate sauce.  It would have been far more relevant on top of the cake, as it wouldn’t melt and make the already rich sauce even more umptious; I’m used to eating rich food so It’s fine for me, but  I'd suggest it could be too much for your everyday punter.

For her finale, Sarah was served spiced plum crumble and “Real” custard.  She wasn’t exactly bowled over with this pudding.  The custard was lumpy and far too eggy, and despite evidence of vanilla seeds scattered through it, the dessert lacked the desired flavour.  The crumble topping was a tad too sweet and the plums could have given more yield. 

On reflection, the food didn’t quite match the impressions created by the surrounding gardens, but despite being underwhelming in places, there were positive points to take away from this meal.  Certainly room for improvement.

Reservations: 0131 654 0088
Opening times: Mon-Sun Lunch: 12:00-14:00
                                        Dinner: 18:00-21:00

Address: Melville Castle,
               Gilmerton Road,
               EH18 1AP



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