Monteiths is a terrific bar - just what Edinburgh’s Royal Mile needed. The interior design and general ambiance of Monteiths is excellent, it achieves what many George St bars attempt, but fail miserably at. Monteiths is the sister bar to Sygn in Edinburgh’s West End. My first visit to Monteiths was a few months ago when a whole evening passed us by, as we sat on the comfy armchairs and sofa at the back of the bar, drinking copious amounts of waitress delivered alcohol. Monteiths is entered via a narrow close with overhanging vines and fairy lights. At the bottom of this is a small outdoor seating area. As the courtyard is sheltered from the wind and heated, it was still packed to capacity at 10pm last Saturday. Monteiths, as a bar, cannot be faulted.
Some friends of mine have sampled Monteiths’ lunch menu, which is available daily until 5pm. The lunch menu is inventive and I’ve received good reports on their haggis spring rolls (¬£5.65), Crombies sausage and mash (¬£6.95) and steak with black pudding mash (¬£11.95). However we’d booked dinner, when the menu changes and so do the prices. The style conscious consumer will pay what is required to be seen eating at the trendiest, perhaps most enjoyable venue in town. And this is a fact Monteiths’ dinner menu appears to play on. Long gone are the sausages and mash and in comes the fillet of beef wellington (¬£19.85) and roast halibut (¬£16.75).
Ignoring the price for a while, I really enjoyed our meal at Monteiths. Three courses were washed down with copious pints of Baltika lager (¬£3.30) and a fair few Bellinis (¬£4.95). For starter I tried the scallop ravioli with chilli gazpacho (¬£6.95). Perhaps the scallops were too large, as they barely made it past the cooked well enough mark. The chilli gazpacho was an interesting accompaniment, but not one I’d choose again.
My main of pan fried duck breast with sweet potato and coriander puree (¬£14.95) was speedily devoured and prepared well. The puree begged the question: why don’t more dishes make use of sweet potato? The duck was quite fatty, but was certainly wholesome. Overall a good main course. My dining partner’s monkfish tail with mustard beurre blanc (¬£14.95) was the standout dish: great quality fish cooked to absolute perfection. I despaired somewhat when I saw side dishes on the menu. Surely not needed with these prices?! Our waitress recommended the olive greens (¬£2.50) which enhanced our meal. Though in fairness the majority wouldn’t be disappointed with the portion size of the mains themselves. I still found something strange about chips (¬£2.95) on offer with mains of this price though!
Desserts were a mixed bag with my banana tart tatin and outstandingly good ice cream (¬£4.50) proving a great choice. The apple and bramble crumble, also ¬£4.50, unfortunately suffered from sugar overload. Still at ¬£4.50 the desserts offered decent value.
The staff at Monteiths are very friendly and very accommodating in their service. However it’s clear they’re not trained or experienced to the level expected of staff serving in restaurants charging comparable dinner prices to Monteiths. I also don’t think I’ve ever paid over ¬£15 for a main course and not received complementary bread; bread was available but would set you back ¬£2.95. The food was good, but not good enough to justify the prices. Finally Monteiths were clearly trying to accommodate too many people - it was no surprise when one group refused to sit on padded cubes around a table very close to the door!
So to wrap up. Monteiths is an excellent bar and a venue I love. I’ll be back for drinks and, based on friends’ testimonies, I’d have no hesitation in eating lunch at Monteiths. Dinner I’ll leave to the style conscious, who are more willing than I to absorb the over inflated prices. Based on the overflowing tables last Saturday at Monteiths there will be no shortage of takers.
Monteiths is located at 61 High Street, The Royal Mile, Edinburgh, EH1 1SR.
Telephone: 0131 557 0330.