33 Castle Street, Edinburgh EH2 3DN
Update: Chef Tony Singh closed down Oloroso in 2012. Last time I looked, the address was occupied by Chaophraya, a chain of Thai restaurants.
Several storeys above the traffic and pedestrian hubbub of George Street in Edinburgh’s city centre is Oloroso, home to Tony Singh and his multicultural, multinational staff. On my recent visit I saw that they were busy attending to the needs of their many clients, who were scattered throughout both the bar and dining areas, and the function room opposite us was also occupied. It is testament to this restaurant’s popularity that it should be so busy on such a cold and miserable winter’s evening.
Seated near the windows above Castle Street we could have ventured out onto the terrace to take in what are reputedly excellent views over the city, but something about the inky blackness of the night, the freezing temperatures and the driving sleet and snow kept us indoors. We instead turned our attention to the food laid before us, starting with a tomato soup amuse bouche. Although clearly made with some care, my description of it would not extend beyond tasty, whereas I would look to be amused or surprised at this point. As I soon realised, I was not to be disappointed; on the side, a single basil leaf, fried in a tempura batter. This was a fun and refreshing twist on the old tomato and basil combination.
The starters kicked off with a rocket and Stichelton Stilton risotto. I assume the Stichelton is described as a Stilton on the menu in order to provide some idea as to the style, but in truth this cheese, which is the brainchild of Joe Schneider and Randolph Hodgson of Neal’s Yard Dairy, is not legally a Stilton. Since around 1990 all Stilton has been made using pasteurised milk, and the Schneider-Hodgson duo have joined forces to make this cheese from unpasteurised milk, and named it Stichelton, so you might say this is how Stilton used to be. Anyway, in combination with the bright and fresh rocket it was a clear winner, and the risotto rice had a near-perfect texture, so this was a good choice. A foie gras terrine, served with toast and pineapple chutney was also good, although it wasn’t the most flavoursome slab of foie gras I have ever encountered, and the pineapple chunks in the chutney had a rather fibrous feel to them, but at least it was a little different.
To follow, chicken with red cabbage and red wine jus was nicely done, the braised red cabbage savoury rather than too sweet. A braised shin of beef with bone marrow was certainly enjoyable, although I would have preferred my braised beef a little more melting in texture. The bone marrow had great flavour, but blink and I might have missed it. Served inside a section of bone (naturally!) with a tiny spoon to scoop it out, it covered…almost half of the spoon. What happened to the rest of it? I searched everywhere, but to no avail. I could only savour the tiny portion I had been afforded.
As the next course was served, thoughts of my errant bone marrow remained, but I suppose it was never going to turn up in my pudding. This was a white chocolate truffle which went down very nicely, and although I discovered some high quality dark chocolate sitting atop my truffle, a dark biscuit hidden within, and flavoursome brandied cherries scattered around the plate, there was no sign of my marrow. And in the crème brûlée we could find only Armagnac, a flavour which I decided did nothing to make the crème any more appealing, but I suspect it was more appealing than marrow flavour would have been, delicious as it can be. As coffees arrived, I resigned myself to a sad fact. I was never going to be reunited with my bone marrow. I concluded that one of the sous chefs had been a little peckish as he plated up the food, and that as his need was perhaps greater than mine I should just forget about it. Or at least try to.
With all this we opted for the following:
Château Teyssier 2003, a St Emilion from Jonathon Maltus of Le Dôme that I have found very useful in other restaurants before now. This had a good colour and a surprisingly appealing dusty, cedary aroma rather than the tannic fruit powerhouse I was expecting. It is still showing a little oak too, I felt. On the palate, good weight and unlike many 2003s it isn’t loaded with overbearing tannins; these only really showed their faces towards the end of the bottle, but with the food it all worked very well. Good flavour, decent acidity, still on the way up, and overall decent value. 16+/20 (December 2008)
After our coffee we were whisked home in our chauffer driven car, but that is another story. Our night at Oloroso was largely a success, although clearly it was marked by a haematogenous disappointment, and there were points here and there where the food could be criticised. Nevertheless there was much here to enjoy, and we felt our evening had been a good one. I would be happy to come here again.
Prices: There is an attractively priced grill menu, featuring popular cuts of beef and more, but we ate à la carte. The dinner above, three courses including coffee and water, was £40 per head. The 2003 Teyssier was £40 and as I am sure you can imagine there are much pricier options available for those who wish to spend more. (19/12/08)