You never expect Hogmanay evening dining to be a true reflection of a restaurant’s ability. However there is acceptably lower than expected standards and there is completely taking the mickey. Cruz took the mickey and then some with appalling service and debatably unsafe food. Luckily we were able to see enough of the funny side (the alcohol helped) to have an enjoyable evening. However we’ll never eat again at Cruz and I’m unsure if I’ll even drink there again; certainly not for a long time.
For those of you who don’t know, Cruz is a converted boat permanently moored on The Shore area of Leith. It’s had a good makeover with the main bar at entry level, a room which was hosting a disco on the lower level and the restaurant on the upper level. Also, you can go upstairs and have a drink on the roof of Cruz: that’s where we saw midnight arrive - you could see the tips of the fireworks from Edinburgh castle. There’s certainly nothing wrong with the venue.
Cruz’s Hogmanay menu was Â£40 a head, which included a glass of sparkling wine and three courses from their very appetising sounding menu. At that price it should be decent value. We’d booked in later at night (9.30) but Cruz were happy to take our booking; indeed they pointed us towards that time. So we arrived a little before 9.30 and headed to the restaurant deck, which had a few tables spare but not many. Reservations only.
One table, in the thick of the action, was set and the waitress pointed us towards this. Regrettably we spotted appealing table space by the window and asked if we could be seated there. The response was friendly - “of course just grab a drink in the bar downstairs and I’ll fetch you in a minute”.
Downstairs in the bar we were served by a barman who I presume was on training. For a bar that supposedly prides itself on cocktails and good drinks, our barman didn’t know what a Kir Royal was. I tried to explain, only for his colleague to take charge. The Creme de Cassis was poured in the bottom of a glass and a bottle of Moet left unopened beside it. A full 10 minutes later drinks were finally served, thankfully with an apology from another barman. Our original server had moved on.
Despite this delay, there was no sign of our waitress. So after 15 minutes I headed upstairs to Cruz’s restaurant. To my amazement the table we’d asked for had literally disappeared. I grabbed a waiter who blamed it on a mix-up. “No worries mistakes happen” (although I couldn’t see how this could) , “we’ll have one of the other tables” I replied. Again I went to the bar and again we waited. And waited. And waited.
If this had been any night other than Hogmanay I would have walked out. But getting food elsewhere would have been impossible, so I bit the bullet and once more walked upstairs. This time there was no apology from the staff, I think they were hoping we’d just forget about food - they obviously didn’t care in the slightest about us. Anyhow we got seated and the glass of sparkling wine got served in quick time, which is more than I can say for our starters, which arrived some 30 minutes after ordering.
The ’smoked salmon with asparagus in a tartlet’ was decent; I’d go so far as good. Cruz’s kitchen had obviously pre-prepared this and plated it up ok. However the ‘wood pigeon breast with porcini mushrooms’ was a disgrace. The pigeon breast had been incinerated beyond recognition and taste. Everything on the plate (mushrooms and pigeon breast) looked the same - like it had been cooked on some dirty hot plate. Perhaps the least visually appealing starter I have ever seen. However it was Hogmanay and it was edible (albeit barely). So I just laughed it off and said “thanks” to our waiter, when he took away our plates.
Despite plates being on our table for bread none arrived. We asked a waiter who said he’d bring some bread over, but he never did. No drinks list was forthcoming, but we eventually attracted someone’s attention to order champagne. However, it was a long, hungry and for some part thirsty 35 minutes before our mains arrived.
My roasted rack of lamb, with more of those mushrooms, and a bed of mashed potato was poor. The lamb had been overcooked, some chopped tomatoes lay randomly on the plate and the bed of mashed potato was slimy. The bed of linguini the halibut was served on was also overcooked. But again, it is Hogmanay, let’s just laugh it off… Well the laughing stopped when trying to eat the second piece of halibut. I have little idea why Cruz served two pieces of halibut, everyone else in the dining room only received one. Maybe they had a piece left and dumped it on the plate, rather than the bin where it belonged. Despite one piece of halibut being cooked well the second was undercooked (just look at the photo above). It’s sometimes difficult to spot raw fish like that before it’s in your mouth as the restaurant is dimly lit. But I’m glad we did.
This really was the final straw and the point where we asked for the restaurant manager. In the interim a waiter, the one we’d asked to fetch the manager, tried to take the plate away. I prevented him doing this. When the manager turned up he made some attempt to say halibut occasionally displays this pink/red colour, which bore an uncanny resemblance to uncooked fish. I mentioned it was worth bearing in mind that one piece of the halibut we’d been served had been nice white fish and that this clearly wasn’t. It was raw in places. So, after inspecting the fish he apologised and took the plate away himself. In fairness Â£15 was deducted from the bill and we were given a free round of drinks.
Midnight was fast approaching. We quickly ordered chocolate fondants for dessert, but were soon told these had ran out. No bad thing considering their solid state, which I’d observed from other tables. Only “fresh fruit pavlova” remained. We really should have said no dessert and had that taken that off the bill as well. However the pavlovas arrived and they were a complete shambles. Basically it was a meringue dumped on a plate with bits of chopped fruit strewn around it. I’m not sure which description of a pavlova the chef was reading when concocting this catastophe, but it certainly wasn’t what I had in my mind! Some cream might have helped matters, but ultimately I’d have got better down the supermarket.
We quickly got the bill and paid. Given the overall level of service and quality there’s no surprise that we didn’t leave a tip. Let me re-iterate: I didn’t expect great things of Cruz’s dining on New Years Eve, but for it to have been this bad was too much to tolerate.
Also, this was the second time I’d eaten at Cruz. Previously I went for lunch, which was incredibly poor as well - I still have memories of soggy chips and a steak sandwich, which was only dry bread and poor quality steak. I’m beginning to think they have a real problem with their kitchen.
Cruz is one place The Edinburgh Blog will definitely never eat at again. Blacklisted.
And to end on a happy note: Happy New Year readers - thanks for all your support over 2007!