8th December 2018 7pm
A group of us always go somewhere fancy for a Christmas get together. This year we booked Number One back in February on the basis that we’d have saved our pennies by Christmas (ha!). A little steeper than tasting menus at some other Michelin starred restaurants, we hoped for something special.
We were warmly greeted by staff who promptly took our coats and offered us the choice of a drink first or going straight to our table for dinner. We chose the latter. The dining room had a nice Christmassy feel and the lighting was low. We were led to a table in the middle of the room. To my surprise, the place wasn’t full and remained under capacity all evening. This really shouldn’t be the case for a Saturday in December at a starred restaurant. We had already decided to go for the winter tasting menu but my friends talked each other into matching it with wines.
We started off with some amuse bouche, presented on a lovely stand. This included three bites of food; one lobster, one beef and one cheese. Opinion was split on which one was best as we all had a different favourite. Mine was the lobster. They were all delicious though. Afterwards, the sommelier came to talk about the first wine, and introduced each wine with the relevant course as it came out. He spoke confidently and humorously throughout.
We then started on the first course of the menu, West Coast crab with mango and avocado. This was a light and delicate dish and almost palate cleansed in preparation for the next course.
Next followed the Balmoral’s signature dish, smoked salmon with lemon purée and quails egg. Our plates arrived under smoked closhes, which were lifted at the same time to allow the smoky aroma to waft across the dining room. The salmon was of high class and a generous portion. The small dots of lemon purée were a lovely addition along with slices of radish and apple. The quails egg oozed appropriately. A delightful course and the favourite for one of the group.
Fois gras followed. I always feel slightly uneasy with this as a dish and would never order it from an a la carte menu. My fellow diners felt the same. However, we weren’t going to waste a course put in front of us. There is no denying that it was delicious. The accompanying quince and pistachio were beautiful. This course also came with gingerbread. We found this a little too crumbly and sweet for this course (although we obviously ate it all anyway). They didn’t clear up the crumbs it left, as it was served in a napkin on the tablecloth, which I found surprising for a Michelin starred restaurant.
The fish course was halibut. The fish was possibly slightly over cooked but only a smidgen or so. It sat on a bed of cucumber. I am not a fan of this vegetable but it did seem that is made the cucumber a bit mulchy, which made it even less appealing. The seaweed was nice but the oyster felt a bit overkill, almost as if it was there to be opulent rather than for the benefit of the dish. There was a surprise addition of what we think was puffed rice on top of the fish. It certainly added another texture to the plate.
Then for the meat course, which was Tweed Valley beef fillet. This meat was of excellent quality and melted in the mouth. The accompanying beef short rib was packed full of flavour. The salsify was great and the little risotto underneath was tasty. One of my friends felt the dish could have taken a little more of the horseradish, but that was the only criticism. This was definitely my favourite course.
We then entered the dessert zone. First came the brown butter financier. Balanced on top was a muscovado chantilly cream and small cubes of apple were scattered around the plate. This was a pleasing dessert. The apple balanced out the sweetness well with its sharpness. It felt naughty without being over-rich.
Second dessert was the impressive vanilla soufflé and ice cream sandwich. As hoped, the soufflé had risen nicely. Sadly, I think it was a touch under done as it still tasted a bit eggy. The ice cream sandwich was a delight though. The ice cream itself was beautifully smooth and the biscuits tasted like Oreos, so what’s not to love?
We were lastly offered a petit four from a trolly full of them. There were four to choose from but one seemed a bit stingy compared to other places. Nevertheless, they were of a great quality and rounded off the meal well.
Sadly we had to wait ages to get the bill. I don’t mind restaurants not hurrying you out but as we were all sat there with no drinks, not being offered even a drink felt a bit foolish on their part. I might have considered a cocktail but by this time we decided that it was time to call an end to the evening.
Number One at the Balmoral definitely had elements of deliciousness but it didn’t offer anything wow. We felt a little underwhelmed by our experience but still enjoyed the meal overall.
Food – 8/10
Service – 8/10
Atmosphere – 7/10
Value – 6/10
Overall – 29/40
Would I eat here again? Unlikely as there are better offerings in the capital.
£423 for three tasting menus, two with matched wines.