So, I’d been looking forward to visiting the new restaurant at Greywalls Hotel in Gullane, East Lothian, since it was announced a few months ago that it was going to be run by Albert Roux under his “Chez Roux” operation; I’d never been fully sold on Greywalls as a dining venue, it’s a truly stunning building but I’d always found both the food and service were just too dated to be enjoyable.
So the arrival of Albert could only help improve things, yes? Well, yes and no.
To start with the food was pretty good for the price - £245 or so for 4 of us, and that included £120 of wine and an automatic 10% service charge (I don’t like these but at least it’s not the more usual 12.5%) so we’re coming out at roughly £25 per head – that’s less than a main course elsewhere.
We kicked off with Crab Tian, Pike Quenelle and Pea Velouté with a Poached Egg; the Crab was pronounced “sublime” and from the little I got to try, it certainly was pretty nice, the Pike was nice but the recipient looked jealously at the Crab and the Velouté had good, clean flavours which could only have benefited from more confident seasoning.
Next along was Seabass for the ladies and Guinea Fowl for the gents, both cracking and certainly no seasoning issues.
And then we finished with the Omelette Rothschild and Crème Brulée; I have to admit that I wasn’t taken with the famed omelette, nothing wrong with the execution but the sweet, soft, egg-white texture just isn’t to my palate. The Crème Brulée was quickly demolished so must have been good.
So if the food was good, why isn’t this an improvement? It’s taken me a while to puzzle this one out, but I’ve concluded it was a mismatch between the styles of food and service; the food is really well executed bistro grub (and priced accordingly) but the service is stiltedly formal – the Velouté arrived in a copper pan and was poured over the egg and broad beans in the soup plate by a waiter (nice touch in a high-end joint but the effect’s lost slightly when the waiter splashes it over the rim). The staff are dressed in a throwback to the ‘80’s and the other diners are dolled up to the nines, suitable for Le Gavroche perhaps but a bistro? All in it made for a slightly uncomfortable atmosphere.
So I guess Dr Ross prescribes a more relaxed attitude, and perhaps a few more lower priced wines on the list; but will I go back? Certainly – it’s on my doorstep, cheaper than Ducks at Kilspindie and far better.