Another short and sweet, easy to digest post aimed at clearing the backlog of places I have eaten at and am yet to write about – I need to get out less!
Formerly The Portland on Princess Street, The 101 Brasserie at the Macdonald Townhouse Hotel, is one of those places I have been meaning to eat since for quite some time, not least since reading about the £3.5 million renovation of this Grade II listed former Victorian cotton warehouse (built 1870).
What the website says: ‘After its recent makeover, our 101 Brasserie offers modern British cuisine in a truly stylish setting. You can enjoy regionally-inspired dishes, created with the finest seasonal ingredients available, always focused on flavour. Using only the finest Scottish beef, Scottish lamb and wild white fish, our menus also offer an ever-growing range of organic food and drink.’
What we ate:
Starters: Slow Cooked Crispy Duck: new season asparagus emulsion, celery & pistachio – the little ‘tart’ of duck topped with the crispy skin was absolutely delicious; packed full of rich flavours. The asparagus was well cooked, retaining the perfect amount of bite.
Grilled Mackerel: roasted fennel, radish, green apple dressing and fennel pollen – the mackerel itself was well cooked but on the whole this was the weakest dish of the evening. I found: the roasted fennel was over caramelised and chewy; the radishes failed to lift in the way that I usually find and the apple dressing and fennel pollen just didn’t work for me.
Mains: Duo of Spring Lamb: roast loin and slow cooked shoulder, peas, bacon & minted dressing – the loin was spot on but the shoulder was a little dry. The rest of the classic flavour combinations came together well.
Free Range Pork & Apple: loin and belly, pickled cabbage & apple butterscotch – the pork was cooked well and I particularly enjoyed the pickled cabbage. I was glad that the apple butterscotch was not too sweet.
Desserts: Peanut Butter Parfait: poached cherries, peanut praline, rye toast & cherry purée - beautifully presented; good range of textures and the peanut butter was not overpowering as I often find in some desserts.
Chocolate Essencia: chocolate brownie, crispy chocolate, orange jelly & barley sorbet – again beautifully presented/arranged (not 100% convinced by the green plate); good strong chocolaty flavours well balanced with the orange and barley; I enjoyed the different textures especially the toasted barley kernels.
Food high points: loved the duck starter and the desserts were very strong. Well cooked meat and fish throughout.
Food low points: for a restaurant serving a 4* boutique hotel, I think a few things need to be taken up a notch i.e: reduce the amount of olives in a serving but source better ones; the same with the olive oil for the breads and I never like the use of those sticky sweet balsamic glazes in place of vinegar (the bread itself was good).
We found the vegetable sides too were no better than average: slightly overdone Coriander glazed carrots and Sautéed broccoli with toasted almonds – small things that they could easily put right.
Décor / ambience: as previously stated on my blog, hotel dining rooms are not generally my favourite restaurant environments as they can lack a little character – whilst this could be said of the rather typical ‘modern and stylish’ furniture and artwork, the fact that the hotel reception and lobby is on the other side of the hotel manages to give the bar and restaurant area its own identity. I particularly liked the bar area and comfy seats – perfect for a pre meal cocktail or post meal coffee.
Service: I found the service to be good – for us, it struck the correct balance between formal and informal.
Verdict (Would I return?): the whole menu read well and there are a number of dishes I’d still like to try. I’ll be looking out for the autumn menu, due in the few weeks.