The Rhubarb Restaurant at Edinburgh’s Prestonfield Hotel made a truly decadent setting for a Christmas lunch this Saturday. While the fact Rhubarb is a great venue cannot be argued, a quite awful starter and some less than impressive service meant Christmas lunch at Rhubarb wasn’t as good as it should have been.
No venue in Edinburgh can match Rhubarb. Peacocks wander freely around the carpark, the golf course surrounds the impressive building and Arthur’s seat towers in the background. The interior of the Prestonfield hotel is truly breathtaking - I wondered if it would be over the top or gaudy, but this is certainly not the case. Every room I saw was decorated and furnished to perfection. Pre dinner drinks were served in the Yellow room, whose black leather sofas blended in perfectly with the yellow velvet walls. A log fire added natural warmth to the room. The main dining room is outstanding: perhaps the comfiest chairs you will experience in a restaurant and the large windows provide stunning views across the estate. The Tapestry room upstairs was the pick of the bunch, here an outstandingly detailed ceiling is joined by leather seats and another log fire. Breathtaking is a word often over-used, but the Prestonfield Hotel genuinely is. The most surprising aspect of all was how it’s compact size and interior made the whole of the Prestonfield Hotel feel like a private country mansion, which belongs to some rich uncle you probably don’t have.
The staff also looked the part, especially the men dressed in black kilts. However we had come to eat lunch. Rhubarb’s festive lunch menu costs ¬£29 per head for three courses. I ordered crab tartlet with granny smith salad to start and roast goose breast for main. Added to this we had a ¬£30 bottle of Sancerre, though when we asked the gentleman taking our order it was surprising he lacked knowledge of our choice. Any restaurant charging these prices should surely have a sommelier taking the order.
However, the most unforgivable aspect of the whole meal came with the starter. The shredded crab meat sat on a hard biscuit, not quite the tartlet advertised. After forcing my knife through the titanium like biscuit and chewing through the food something crashed painfully into my teeth. It was shell from the crab: the real hard part of the crab’s shell. And it wasn’t just a few pieces of the crab’s hard shell, it was lots. Added to this was the bland, uninspiring taste. This was the worst starter I had ever eaten, regardless of restaurant calibre.
Of course we told our waitress and pointed out the plethora of solid shell which was strewn over our plate. The waitress apologised and said she would speak to the chef. However she never came back and told us what he said. Unacceptable. Basically a disgraceful starter, matched by poor handling of the situation by the waitress. The service was lacklustre throughout i.e. having to refill our own wine, not being offered any bread and unusually long waiting times between courses.
The main course made some amends and helped get rid of the poor taste left in my mouth from the shambolic crab - the goose was delicious as were the shredded brussel sprouts. My dining partner’s roast fillet of beef was cooked very well and the large horseradish ravioli worked well. The dessert of chocolate tangerine marquise was very good and the accompanying white chocolate sorbet was made to perfection. I was glad to receive some assurance that the kitchen could provide quality food.
We retired upstairs to the Tapestry room for after dinner coffee (¬£3.95 per person), which was served with exquisite chocolates, including two pieces of delicious tablet. Some people were enjoying afternoon tea here, which (based on our evidence) is probably a better way to experience the Prestonfield Hotel, as opposed to their lunch.
So it’s a shame the starter was so bad, as the rest of the meal was definitely worth the money and befitting of the surroundings. A clue why Rhubarb can be lacklustre with some of their dishes and some of their service was given mid-afternoon when a wedding party arrived. The Prestonfield Hotel will make their money out of wedding parties, private parties and hotel bookings regardless of their restaurant quality. So they can afford to not be the absolute best with their Rhubarb restaurant offering.
Certainly go the Prestonfield Hotel to experience the building and its incredible decoration and architecture, but don’t be surprised if the substance lets you down; based on the evidence presented Rhubarb restaurant is absolute leagues away from the incredible standards Edinburgh gems like Martin Wischart’s and The Kitchin have set and cotinue to set.
Rhubarb Restaurant is located at The Prestonfield Hotel, Priestfield Road, Edinburgh, EH16 5UT. Their contact number is 0131 225 1333.