A trip up The Tower for lunch

The allure of The Tower restaurant was a two course light lunch, in a great venue, for £12.95. Edinburgh’s National Museum of Scotland, on Chambers Street, is The Tower Restaurant’s home. The museum’s lift delivers you to an airy and well lit top floor dining room, which has a good mix of traditional tables and semi-circular booths. Despite the restaurant’s name you won’t dine in The Tower itself, which is only available for private functions. There is a large roof terrace outside which, like the interior, has splendid views over Edinburgh Castle. Unfortunately this outside space is only open to patrons of the restaurant for pre-dinner drinks. I’d become a regular if drinks and light snacks were available on the terrace.

Chocolate Terrine at Edinburgh's The Tower Restaurant Pork Rillettes with Pancetta and Piccalilli at The Tower Restaurant, Edinburgh

After speaking to our Maître d’ it became apparent lunchtime trade was often brisk; often two full sittings are accommodated between 12 and 5pm. With this in mind I can understand why The Tower don’t open the sizable roof terrace to non-restaurant goers. The day we visited was busy, but far from crowded.

I enjoyed my starter of pork rillettes with pancetta and piccalilli, although its fieriness wouldn’t have been suitable for all patrons. The strong tastes overstepped the mark with the fish compote in red pepper gazpacho. This dish looked poor and tasted little better: the intense and dominant taste of the pepper was still present a few hours and a few packets of chewing gum later.

At £12.95 for two courses it’s hard to be critical of the choice, but the limited appeal of the brief menu won’t appeal to everyone. The a la carte menu might be needed. And so might the credit card.

My main of crispy chili beef and noodles wouldn’t have looked out of place on a Chinese takeaway menu. It was ok, with the thin strips of beef slightly better than you’re likely to find in your Friday night carrier bag. The small size of this dish emphasised the ‘lightness’ of The Tower’s lunch. The sea trout was the highlight; a simple fish dish executed very well. A bowl of thick cut chips on the side (£3) was a useful addition.

For dessert we ventured into a la carte and, more importantly, disappointment territory. My chocolate terrine (£6) was bland and a little too firm. The summer berry (£6) pudding looked the part but was too sour.

Bottles of the very good Edinburgh brewer’s Innis & Gunns oak aged beer was the liquid highlight, albeit at £4.75 a bottle. Stella is available on draught at £3.75 a pint, while a glass of Chardonnay was £6.50. The service at The Tower restaurant was good, especially the Maître d’ who offered an appealing conversation.

A few years ago I visited The Tower restaurant for dinner. My wallet was considerably emptier at night than it was at lunch. The constants between both visits was my disappointment with the quality of The Tower’s food and the delight at dining in such a great venue.

Personally I wouldn’t recommend ever going to The Tower for dinner, it’s just not worth the expense when Edinburgh has so many fantastic choices. However, I would recommend The Tower for their £12.95 lunch. The superior setting and panoramic views from The Tower Restaurant are enough reason for a one-off visit. Just don’t have too high expectations of the food.

The Tower restaurant is located at National Museum of Scotland, Chambers St, Edinburgh, EH1 1JF. Telephone 0131 225 3003.

One Response to “A trip up The Tower for lunch”

  1. i was violently ill after mackerel from the tower. i wrote to the manager to let him know. his helpful reply suggested that i see a doctor if i still felt unwell - and he of course assured me that the fish had been fresh…

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