Good company is without a doubt part of the dining out experience. An ordinary meal can feel like a banquet if the right person shares your table; a gourmet feast can be wasted if your companion has left his taste buds in the cloakroom with his coat. You get the picture – guess we’ve all been there.
This is not my first visit to Hadrian’s Brasserie. On each occasion I’ve had particularly good company but on this visit I was especially glad of it. After being made welcome by the reception staff, I took my place in the chic restaurant with its walnut floors and chairs upholstered in a pleasing green, its design influenced by Edinburgh’s landscapes. In contrast, the walls are decorated by life-sized red photographs of swirling dancers, taken by the late Lord Lichfield.
Our party of three wanted to sample the lunch deal of 2 courses for £15.50 as on my last visit it had been superb and decided to mix and match 6 courses between us. Water was brought to the table right away, as were 2 mini French sliced loaves called Panibois that are served in biodegradable baskets with a dish of butter. One of our party was a little late, but the two loaves were all we got for this party of three. A pity, as the portions at Hadrian’s are not massive and another few slices of the scrummy pain le Tom Pouce would have been helpful.
But onwards! We chose from the special lunch menu and included a bottle of 2014 Venetian Pinot Grigio that arrived quickly. It was followed by our choice of two starters. The game terrine came nicely served on a rectangular plate with a triangle of quince jelly, with beetroot and lentil dressing and a small slice of toasted brioche. The pressed layers had a strong meaty taste and crumbly texture that pleased the palate. The colourful, seasonal Provençale tart took the form of layered chargrilled courgettes, aubergine and peppers that were perfectly cooked - soft but with distant hint of crunch - and came with a little crumbled goat’s cheese and basil oil. We were off to a good start!
Plates were cleared promptly and after being asked how the starters were, we lapsed in to easy conversation. There was lots of staff - sometimes serving; sometimes gathering in a group at the till. In all the buzzing about, none managed to cast a glance our way to see our empty covers and an incredible 1 ¼ hour passed before our mains arrived. How much longer it would have been had V. not politely asked where they were is anyone’s guess. With a brief apology, we were assured our meals were on their way.
And indeed they were. Again we had chosen different dishes to taste and share. The 1 ½ grilled fillets of sea bream were both crisp and delicate and came served with roast salsify, braised baby gem and creamy salt haddock brandade. The two cutlets of Perthshire lamb were beautifully tender and tasty, and came with a deliciously savoury champ mash with mint and parsley dressing, some Savoy cabbage and a thyme jus. The dish was suitably savoury and succulent if a little small.
The vegetarian option was a seasonal roast chestnut and cranberry gnocchi. It was a more generous portion but rather short on the Brussels sprouts and parsnip crisps that were supposed to be part of the dish. The sage beurre noissette that was served separately made the dish too gloopy and heavy for our tastes though the tangy cranberries went some way to balance things.
Our sixth dish was the prune and armangac tart served with cinnamon ice cream. It looked good but was too sweet for any of our palates and we found the base just a bit too hard.
It was only at this stage when we were about to settle the bill that coffees with chocolates and shortbread were offered to make up for the long wait and that gesture went some way to make up for a lunch that ate into our afternoon rather than our just eating late.
A word to the wise - Hadrian’s will be providing a Christmas menu in December at a higher price than the one we had; toilets a bit of a trail down a long flight of stairs though a disabled loo is available on the same level as Hadrian’s. Oh, and make sure you choose a good dining companion.