I recently experienced Edinburgh for the first time and had the pleasure of residing at the incredible centre-point to the city; The Balmoral. We began our food trail in the hotel’s Palm Court. The glass-domed ceiling dominates the central court and is studded with palm trees in all corners. White linen and endless silverware compliment the delicate pastries, scones and teapots arriving at every table. This serene spot is the ideal welcome after a lengthy four and half hour commute.
The Balmoral’s flagship, and Michelin starred, restaurant ‘Number One’ is what ultimately brings us to Edinburgh. A restaurant that has impressively retained its star for the past fifteen years, nonetheless. The dish that we come to sample took a full eighteen months in the making, marking and setting president for everything the hotel and restaurant represents: authentic, Scottish and artisan. ‘Balmoral Whisky Smoked Salmon’ is sourced from the unspoilt waters of the surrounding Shetland coast. The smoking process is a long-term collaboration with the Belhaven smokehouse in Dunbar, which means the head chef, Brian Grigor, has a very hands on approach and close relationship when it comes to concocting the celebrated dish. They’ve also partnered with the team and whisky ambassadors at The Balmoral’s ‘Scotch’ bar, home to over five hundred whisky varieties (meaning that they know a thing or two about Scottish whiskies). The whisky barrel chips, made from single malt whisky casks (previously used to age whisky) work in complimenting the salmon and giving it its distinctive edge.
The Smoked Salmon, quails egg, lemon butter, and caviar relies on this age old process of smoking to set this salmon apart. This delicate dish arrives in a glass cloche of its very own whisky infused smoke.
The family-run smokehouse, which we take a tour of, demonstrates the level of attention to detail needed in order to produce this uniquely ‘Balmoral’ smoked salmon. And how special it is too; delicate and smooth on the palette, with a hint of smoked whisky, we devour every bite. The entire meal, all four courses plus the addition of a cheese board, (the selection looked too good not to) had us chomping at the bit for more. Scallop Cock-a-leekie was followed by fillet of Scotch beef. All complete perfection in appearance and flavour. These refined dishes are testament to the attention to detail and quality produce used. In terms of craftsmanship the pinnacle (after the salmon) has to be the Balmoral Bees’ Pear and Honey. An iridescent perfectly formed pear arrives at the table. Cast from sugar and filled with the most incredible honey, cream and pear, which makes for quite the spectacle. We’re impressed! Post cheese, which is entirely heavenly, we’re offered free rein of the sweets’ trolley; handmade confectionary, pulled sugar sweets galore is presented but, full beyond comfort, we have to turn it away. In hindsight we should have packed our pockets full if the rest of the meal was anything to go by. Service here is exemplary: the sommelier a pleasure to have return to the table between courses, generously imparting all wine knowledge in pairing each course.
For a more informal experience of this incredible salmon, and in its most simplistic form, we venture to Hadrian’s brasserie, on the ground floor of the hotel. The salmon trolley with an assortment of fresh accompaniments lets this dish speak for itself. Freshly baked bread, shallots, capers and lemon juice fill our plates alongside generous portions of this specialist smoked salmon. We also can’t leave without sampling the haggis: which I already knew would be delicious!
The hospitality of everyone at the hotel and restaurants was truly friendly and welcoming until the moment we departed. What a treat of a weekend!