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Saturday, 9 October 2010

A Towering Disappointment

Let’s get this straight, I know that I’m lucky to eat out as often as I do and as well as I do; even luckier when we remember that I’m often a guest of a very generous father-in-law. Has this led to my developing a jaded palate or unreasonable expectations? I don’t think so – a cheap lobster & frites lunch at Chez Jules has been one of my best meals of the year, but I do get angry when restaurants take the piss; a case in point – The Tower, Edinburgh.


In case you don’t know, the Tower sits atop the National Museum of Scotland, it was opened as a sister restaurant to James Thomson’s Witchery (don’t get me started on the Witchery) and has always been styled as the more modern, cosmopolitan of the 2. It’s also been pretty reliable, expensive yes but quality food and service in exchange.

Something’s happened, and not for the better.

Recently, I was steered towards a starter of hand dived scallops with crispy pork belly and a yellow pea sauce. If I was the diver who’s gone down to harvest the scallops I’d have been furious at how they were treated, poorly cooked, served with a slick of dhal which was inferior to that of a bad Indian take-away and accompanied by something which may or may not have been pork scratching. Urgh. This cost £15.00. For a starter. The other starters were equally unimpressive.

Mains? I had guinea fowl which was catastrophically under-seasoned and served with bullet-hard pearl barley; father-in-law takes his steak medium well so no test of skill there but the accompanying bĂ©arnaise was poor with little flavour and the “thick cut chips” looked more like some roast potatoes I spotted in a kebab shop late one night.

The worst crime against customers however was the “rack of lamb” which my wife and mother-in-law both chose; if you buy a rack of lamb in, say, Tesco, you’ll get a piece of meat with 7 or 8 ribs for the princely sum of about £7, if you buy the Tower’s rack of lamb, you pay £24 for two very meagre chops, some braised shoulder the size of a £2 coin and some indifferent veg. I reckon the food cost was about £3.50 on that plate so they’re making some lovely margins.

The cheese was fridge-cold (and unidentified, the waitress didn’t even know what they were), the wine list holds little for those looking to spend less than £50 a bottle and our table was tucked in a corner which would have been better housing the hoover.

What really galls is the prices they have the audacity to charge, if you’re going to price your dishes along with those of Restaurant Martin Wishart or The Kitchin then they damn well better deliver on quality. The Tower didn’t.