Wonderful setting but wobbly dining: Christmas lunch at The Rhubarb Restaurant

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.

Log fire in tapestry room of Edinburgh's Prestonfield Hotel

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.

Rhubarb restaurant dining room at Edinburghs Prestonfield Hotel Log fire in Yellow Room, Prestonfield Hotel, Edinburgh

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.

7 Responses to “Wonderful setting but wobbly dining: Christmas lunch at The Rhubarb Restaurant”

  1. The place looks very beautiful and posh! I think it will be a perfect place to be for Christmas. Nice photos.

  2. Having just read the experience of the Saturday afternoon diner and the unfortunate crab shell, I think this experience can only be described as a one off.

    Having recently hosted a table at Prestonfield my guest and myself had a fantastic experience.

    We also chose the Goose which was delicious!!

    The surrounding are also fantastic, however I think you will find Prestonfield House Hotel has nothing to do with Prestonfield Golf Club.

    Very good picture though, you must be a professional!!!!

  3. Just wanted to say that I have had a very simialr experience at Rhubarb. The service was terrible and the food was not up to scratch. When we wrote a letter of complaint afterwards our response back was rude and ambivalent.

    However, I will say the setting is truly amazing as we did go back but only to use the hotel and bar services and swiftly avoided Rhubard which is the best way to enjoy Prestonfield House.

  4. I was taken to the rhubarb by my parents for my graduation dinner was sorely disappointed with the service. On arrival we were left standing at the reception for 5minutes without acknowledgment. We were then seated at our table whose candles were unlit and given no menu’s. We then asked for the wine list, the waiter forgot and we had to ask another time. He then did not bring us the menu as he reported that there were none avaiable, I found this hard to beleive in a 5 star establishment, eventually my mother had to go to the reception and demand we got menus. So far my celebrations weren’t going well. Our candles were finally lit, usually we would let this slide but the dark deco and lack of lighting even meant someone like me with 20/20 vision found it a struggle to read the menu.

    For all the hype that surrounds this venue the menu was nothing to rave about, and honestly I would have preferred to go to a less stately establishment and receive good service and good food. I would never recommend the rhubard. My father wrote to a letter of complaint and to no surprise we did not get a reply. Over all a very poor Edinburgh eating venue.

  5. it’s a shame about Rhubarb: it’s the most beautiful bit of set design outside Drury Lane and camper than Black’s of Greenock, but as you found, the food is frequently very disappointing.

    I took my wife there for her birthday a couple of years ago and was surprised to find, when we arrived at dinner, that the table next to ours had a bottle of the same wine as I had specifically asked to be opened several hours before dinner.

    i eventually realised (when our main courses arrived) that they’d been given OUR wine by mistake. So the sommelier had to go and get another bottle for us, which came straight from the cellar. they promised to take the cost of the wine off the bill but in the event forgot to do so.

    then we ate dinner - and i found that someone in the kitchen had poured so much salt onto the vegetables arranged under my venison that the dish was virtually inedible.

    to cut a long story short, we had a very disappointing and very expensive night and i won’t be eating there on my money ever again.

  6. sharon campbell on October 20th, 2008 at 5:45 pm

    I just called prestonfield hotel to enquire about Christmas lunch booking. The Rhubarb Restaurant is reserve for the hotel guests only for the Christmas dinner. There is an evening dinner . So the person on the other line asked me how many people are coming, I told her. She came back after a few moment and told me that someone will give me a call and said good bye. I just manage to hold on and told her that she hasn’t got my contact number so how can they call me back????????? ( at which point I have just finished reading some of the comments in the website who had a disappointing experience from former guest there ) so I told her to FORGRT IT. you know what? first impression is very important. I think this place has a lot to learn from hotels like Gleneagles for example.
    I’m glad I had the chance to read customers comment before it’s too late.

  7. sharon campbell on October 20th, 2008 at 5:51 pm

    Correction……..For CHRISTMAS LUNCH the restaurant is reserved for hotel guest only. I said Christmas DINNER.

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