Bread Street Brasserie
Resident restaurant of Edinburgh's Point Hotel, now re-launched as the Bread Street Brasserie.
Strange Things Afoot Within Point Hotel
Reviewed by Euan Andrews
Thursday, March 17, 2011 - 4:58pm
From a corner table of the Bread Street Brasserie, it can feel as though time has stopped. Behind me is a glass partition through which one can see the comings and goings of the Point Hotel reception area, business visitors and tourists alike checking in and out. Before me, the brasserie yawns into an elegant void.
The tables and chairs are perfectly laid out, crisp white tablecloths juxtaposing neatly with dark wooden furnishings, and dim lights shine from modernist chandeliers giving a sense of warmth from the blustery lunchtime weather outside. But this huge dining space is near deserted. It feels a bit like the hotel bar Jack Nicholson finds in The Shining, populated with ghosts and haunted by the echo of distant ragtime jazz. I can picture Jack in the distance, propping up the bar and being told his responsibilities as Caretaker.
M and I are here today to sample the Bread Street Brasserie’s newly revamped a la carte menu. Other than ourselves, there are only two other groups of diners. Like us, they also have been placed near the glass partition, as though put on display so as to entice inside any passing hotel residents.
Our waiter is perfectly attentive, yet seems slightly nervous and ill at ease, seemingly forced to hide some terrible secret. He seems constantly on the verge of blurting out some hideous truth to us. As he places bread rolls on our plates, I expect him to lean over and whisper conspiratorially, “Leave. You must leave here at once”.
The menu reads as fairly standard upmarket hotel bar/brasserie fare. A good choice of courses, with smaller sections given over to comfort food (sausage and mash, essentially) and a variety of different steaks. However, we decide to stick with the core selection of starters and mains.
To begin with, M has a salad of hot smoked salmon with roasted baby beets and horseradish crème fraiche. Noting that it’s a plateful she could easily have knocked up herself for a week night supper, the salad is an overload of lettuce sprinkled with small beetroot chunks which could have come straight from a jar while the dousing of crème fraiche contains only the faintest taste of horseradish. Pleasant enough, but nothing to go wild about.
I start with the Panko crumbed braised pork belly with mustard fruits, and am somewhat surprised when what appear to be two large bread-coated fish fingers appear before me. Cutting into them, they do indeed contain succulent pork belly meat. Porky fingers, why has no-one thought of it before? Sadly, they don’t blend well with the accompanying sickly sweet sauce and mustard fruit. These chunky goujons of juicy bellies’ true calling are surely to be served in a large white bap with plenty of tomato ketchup as the perfect post-pub snack. Believe you me that is not a criticism.
Main courses here are not cheap, varying from £10-£15. Now, there are plenty excellent restaurants in Edinburgh where one can eat a full three-course lunch at that price. So, one would expect good things from any self-aware chef. Unfortunately, these are not delivered.
M’s roast Barbary duck breast is, while tasty enough, tough as an old shoe. It’s also supposed to be served with a thyme fondant. The nice waiter sheepishly informs us that, having checked with the kitchen, the pallid tubes of mashed potato on the plate are indeed the thyme fondant. We thank him, as though we were long-suffering guests of Basil Fawlty, after which M quietly confirms with me that there is not a hint of thyme present.
My grilled sea bream is also troubling. I find a couple of bones in the fillet, which at a dish price of £13.95 really should not be happening. The fish is supposed to be served with a chorizo, olive and cherry tomato cassoulet. Chunks of mild chorizo are indeed present, but seem to be served in a watery tomato sauce, strewn with slices of red and yellow peppers, with a slight metallic taste and no olives in sight. Whatever this is (a Sainsbury’s Basics ratatouille, perhaps), it most certainly is not the hearty French bean stew of cassoulet.
Dessert choices are fairly uninspiring, so we decide to share the cheese platter. It’s a perfectly nice, if unexciting, assortment of brie, cheddar and smoked cheese served with oatcakes, grapes and pickle. It nicely rounds off a meal which has been at best unbalanced, and at worst just plain wrong.
It’s a real shame. With a good kick up its culinary posterior, the Bread Street Brasserie could be a destination point to seek out. This would fill its vast opulence with the buzzing crowds it so desperately needs, other than the faded echoes of good times and empty possibilities of half-hearted dishes. There is someone, or some presence, involved with the food presentation here who quite simply just doesn’t seem to care. Perhaps that was what our waiter was trying to tell us all along.