Eat Here Now: Hadrian’s Brasserie

by Keith Savage · 5 comments

Hadrian's Brasserie at the Balmoral Hotel

Edinburgh has no shortage of amazing places to eat. From traditional Scottish dishes to every type of ethnic cuisine you can imagine, Edinburgh provides one of the best foodie scenes (along with Glasgow) in the whole country. Now, I love a fine dining experience, but I tend to gravitate toward more affordable options just to stretch my dollars further. Every once in awhile, however, an opportunity to break from my self-imposed foodie exile presents itself. When I contacted The Balmoral Hotel, perhaps Edinburgh’s most famous hotel, I found just that opportunity.

Hotels, however, are not the places you generally look for memorable meals — to wit, most hotel meals I’ve had have been both over-priced and unremarkable. The Balmoral, a stunning Victorian building at the east end of Princes Street in Edinburgh’s New Town, is home to two restaurants: Hadrian’s Brasserie and the Michelin-starred Number One Restaurant. Both restaurants offer traditional Scottish cuisine with the inventive twists only master chefs can devise. Or so goes the predominant message.

Would I have another unremarkable hotel dinner, or would Hadrian’s Brasserie buck the trend?

A chill wind whistled across North Bridge as I walked to The Balmoral Hotel from Old Town. It was the night before the great Beltane Fire Festival on Calton Hill, and I desperately needed some fire in my belly after a long day out exploring Edinburgh’s nooks and crannies. I was greeted and promptly taken to my table in the eclectic modern styling of the brasserie’s main dining room. A moment later I had a bottle of white wine chilling in an ice bath. I was feeling warmer already.

Keeping in theme with fighting the chill, I ordered the langoustine bisque. I could only imagine that Hadrian’s would do such a decadent soup justice, and, indeed, the resultant shell-shaped bowl contained a mélange so divine I had to restrain myself from tilting the bowl toward my soup hole. The bisque was rich and creamy, delivering langoustine essence with the wallop of a velvet hammer. Fresh tomato and basil oil provided counter flavors while the croutons added texture. Beneath the first salvo of flavors hid garlic and what tasted like a saffron rouille. Salty, umami, and with just a hint of heat. Incredible.

Having chosen white wine, I decided to go for a seafood-themed meal. The main course? Scallops with smoked duck. The presentation on the wide, white plate showcased juicy scallops interspersed with curls of smoked duck beneath a fennel-frond canopy. Supporting the proteins was a smokey risotto layered with razor-thin slices of fennel bulb and a delicate yet robust sauce. The combination of the slightly sweet scallops and the earthy duck slices seemed like a metaphor for the Scottish landscape. This was a textural and flavor marvel I wished not to end. Only more wine could console me over the empty plate.

I’m not a dessert guy. My preferred flavor profile goes something like this (in order): Salty, sour, bitter, sweet. I’m known to leap on unique desserts, though, so when I noticed the pistachio olive oil cake with bramble sorbet on the menu, I leaped. And I was not disappointed. The bar of dense cake was mildly sweet, a bit like zucchini bread, with herb notes lain across a pair of vanilla bean and dark chocolate sauces. Nearby, a small scoop of bramble berry sorbet provided a tangy, light counterpoint to the pistachio cake. This was my kind of dessert: Not too sweet but sweet enough to cleanse the palate and put a bow on a face-melter of a meal.

After dessert, I wandered into The Balmoral Hotel’s Scotch bar where I enjoyed a dram of Fettercairn Fior with delicious bites of wild boar salami and house-made fudge. Mood-lighting and a host of excellent whiskies make Scotch a relaxing place to have a drink. You can’t help but feel a little bit like James Bond in here.

I stepped out into the chill April night after some alone time with the remainder of my wine in another of the Balmoral Hotel’s bars. It’s hard to beat the Balmoral’s facade at night where the orange spot lighting gives it a Gothic appearance. I was buzzing, and not just from the wine and whisky.

Hadrian’s Brasserie is not just another hotel meal. The three courses I enjoyed proved to be one of my favorite dining experiences. The flavors were strong and complex, the textures were given careful consideration, and the presentation was crisp. Hadrian’s is not cheap, but it’s also not astronomically expensive. It is an excellent value. In my opinion, the quality of the food and the experience far outstrip the cost, and you’d be wise to consider a dinner at Hadrian’s next time you’re in Edinburgh.

Lord knows I won’t think twice about eating at this hotel again.

Disclosure: Hadrian’s Brasserie provided me with a complimentary meal. All thoughts and opinions expressed here, as always, are my own.

NoahNo Gravatar August 26, 2015 at 12:07 AM

What a heavenly meal … will definitely have to save up for a dinner here!

Kim FrazierNo Gravatar August 23, 2015 at 1:20 PM

Hi Keith! I am so loving this blog, and am very grateful that I found it. I am planning a few trips to Scotland (September 2016 and August 2017). I also plan to use your planning service, seems like a great deal to me. I will definitely check out this place when I arrive in Edinburgh. Thanks!

Keith SavageNo Gravatar August 24, 2015 at 8:35 AM

Looking forward to helping you, Kim!

Tammy WannemacherNo Gravatar August 6, 2015 at 10:57 AM

Sounds fantastic! We took high tea at the Palm Court at the Balmoral Hotel on our recent trip… that food was to die for, so I can only imagine what this was like! (Probably not for you if you’re not really a dessert guy… their tea service had multiple dessert courses, if that’s imaginable!)

Keith SavageNo Gravatar August 6, 2015 at 6:32 PM

Yes, the food here was superb. That Langoustine bisque is still in my mind.

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