Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Review - The Vinter's Rooms

The Vintner’s Rooms have been an Edinburgh institution since 1985, sitting in a stunning building underneath the Malt Whisky Society and pre-dating the Leith culinary renaissance and Restaurant Martin Wishart.

Recently Silvio Praino has bought into the business, bringing a wealth of wine expertise and arguably the best host in Edinburgh to the party. The website describes the food as “Mediterranean Cuisine” and I wonder if Silvio has brought any Italian influence to bear in the kitchen as well..

And so, to the food – Silvio suggested we place ourselves in his hands (I’m not sure if this was standard practice, our companions know Silvio). Hmm, just counted the owner’s name 4 times in 3 sentences, perhaps time to stop using it.

We kicked off with a Parsnip Velouté topped with a brunoise of veg; I do like veloutés but parsnip was a poor choice – it gave a grainy texture and not much to tantalise the palate. It was a bit under seasoned too.

Then came our starter of Sea Trout, served just seared so mostly rare and sauced with a reduced soy dressing, the tout was ordinary and the dressing needed to be reduced more and then spiked with caster sugar and lime juice (or ponzu if you really want to be authentic).

What followed was tortellini of braised green lentils with sautéed wild mushrooms on the side, an entirely misconceived dish – both lentils and pasta need some moisture to accompany them and this sauce-less offering was bland to the extreme. The mushrooms were lovely however, if only the tortellini had been stuffed with them and served with a generous slick of wine/butter sauce (stick some lentils in that if you really want).

Then the ladies were served Monkfish (not too well received) and the gents Veal; the veal was well sourced and cooked (though would have benefitted from a sprinkling of salt) and was sauced well but was accompanied by a bizarre concoction of pommes savoyarde (I think) served in a pie casing. Far too dry and ruined the tatties.

By now the ladies passed on desert and the gents enjoyed the cheese; this was by far the best course – well chosen manchego, pecorino (with chilli) and a great blue whose name I forget. Lovely, and the wines Silvio chose were perfect compliments.

Talking of the wine, Silvio chose a cracking Chilean Tarrango and an amazing Montepulciano (far better a MonteP’ than we’re used to); great choices from an amazing list.

So, conclusions? A crashing disappointment. Remember we were there on “friend” prices, we were charged only £10 per head for the first two courses, but we were also charged £28 each for the main – that’s more than Martin Wishart charges for some of his dishes and this certainly isn’t anywhere near his Michelin starred standard. This review feels a bit wrong, we were there as guests of friends of the owner yet we still felt overcharged for what we had.

I want to say nice things about the Vintners Rooms, Silvio is a lovely chap and great host and the building is stunning (the wine and whisky lists are beyond amazing with some real treasures for those who ask – and can pay – for them); but the food is just pants. Really, I can do better for a dinner party and as there was only 1 other table in the restaurant, I know I’ve cooked better and for more.

Sad really; we so wanted to like this and I’d love to help Silvio. Perhaps I could recommend a good Chef... Here’s a thought, isn’t Sean Kelly looking for a new role? Employ him and I’ll be there every other week.

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