VICTORIA PARK HOTEL is a small, independently owned establishment on Ferry Road that I often pass on the way home. Naturally, I am intrigued by their food and drink offerings, especially with it being in such close proximity to my abode. I’ve had a gander at their website a few times but have always been put off by the rather boring menu – it’s old hat. I came across a Facebook post announcing that they had appointed a new head chef and, figuring they would want to put their own stamp on the menu, duly went to investigate.
Ryan Cattigan, 21, is the new cook at the helm of the Otterstone Bar & Grill and arrives after spending a number of years with the G1 group where he progressed through the ranks at Edinburgh’s Ghillie Dhu. While that may seem young, he comes across as a driven, ambitious chef that has a clear vision for his new kitchen. He spoke about the potential the restaurant has and identified areas where he feels his food could appeal to new and old punters alike.
The glaring problem with this space (and the hotel in general), is that it needs major sprucing up. It’s cold and uninspiring. I’m not saying spend hundreds of thousands of pounds on the latest in uber-trendoid hipster bar kit, but a lick of paint and a bit of imagination can go a long way. The Gosford Bar looks decent and there is a cracking beer garden that could attract people in from the heavily populated area that surrounds it. Ferry Road is one of the busiest in the city – ideal for drawing in passing trade.
For starters, I had beetroot cured salmon with a radish, fennel and apple salad (£6.25). This dish worked well when eaten together, both flavour and texture wise. The curing of the salmon really gave it a commendable beetroot flavour that married well with the aniseed notes and crunch from the fennel. The pea shoots added a bit of complexity with a slight bitter taste coming through at the end.
Sarah opened with pulled pork croquettes with tangy barbeque sauce and salad (£5.95). I could happily sit with a pint or two watching the football whilst munching on these. A hefty portion (three would have sufficed but who’s complaining), the crisp coating gave way to unveil a really tasty, moist meaty filling. The barbeque sauce provided a smoky dipping element ideal for these piggy treats, while a fresh salad almost alleviated the guilt that comes with gorging.
I would revisit braised pork with my main in the form of braised pork belly served with confit potatoes asparagus and red wine jus (£11.95). The presentation was very neat and modern, again a far cry from what you’d expect if you read the website menu. The pork was very good quality and melted in the mouth. The skin was crispy around the edges, which were tasty, but I would have liked the whole lot to have been crisp. The asparagus was impressively cooked, although I don’t like seeing it on the menu out of season. The potatoes were buttery and also expertly executed with a red wine jus that deserved a thumbs up for both flavour and consistency. Little dots of what I think was a lemon sauce that cut through that fatty meat and enhanced the presentation.
Supreme of chicken stuffed with black crowdie, herby potatoes, veg and a red pepper puree would be Sarah’s main this evening and would set you back £12.25. The meat was moist with tender spuds flavoured by the promised herbs. The root veg added sweetness and earthiness. The puree was smooth and sweet with Cattigan attempting some Massimo Bottura-esque presentation that seem to be a feature in some of his creations. The dish needed more of that puree or a separate jus just to add a bit more cohesion to it, but you’d happily pay for it.
Unlike the dining room, service was very warm and enthusiastic. Flitting between the bar and restaurant, the waiting staff were efficient and clearly knew what they were doing. Certainly a positive going forward and a sign that there are some building blocks already in place here.
I would end with a good old sticky toffee pudding with salted caramel ice cream (£5.50). This always reminds me of my old chef/lecturer, Davie Edwards, who claims to make the best sticky toffee pudding ever and sells the recipe for £50 a pop. This was a decent attempt, as it was light and not too sweet. The toffee sauce was also pleasingly thick and not ‘just out of the microwave’ hot.
The other half ordered cranachan with handmade shortbread (£4.50). This was disappointing and not to the standard of the rest of the food. I mean it was OK in the sense that you’d eat it and not remember it, but it doesn’t live up to the potential of what a cranachan could be. There was a sharp raspberry kick running through the cream and the shortbread added texture, but it just lacked that real punch of whisky and sweetness from honey that’s crucial to a memorable cranachan.
To conclude, this place has definite potential and the brasserie-style food is going in the right direction. It’s well priced and commendably executed. Edinburgh is saturated with quality eateries so in order to thrive, a few quid needs to be spent to bring this restaurant to life. Hopefully Cattigan’s ambition can be matched by the owners.
Phone: (0131) 454 2060
Address: 221 Ferry Road, Edinburgh, EH6 4NN