It was with considerable enthusiasm that I left the workaday world, took the few steps from my office to the consumer paradise of Harvey Nichols’ fine and lovely establishment, and joined a selection of Edinburgh finest Food Geeks, for an evening of fine dining on the Forth Floor.
With a very favourable ‘blogger rate’ negotiated, we were to sample their tasting menu, meet with the executive chef, and be given a touch of the five-star treatment in their newly refurbished premises.
We were welcomed to their bar area with a glass of bubbly, to ease our way in to the evening. We were soon joined by our supervisor-in-chief for the evening, who tended to our needs in knowledgeably expert style, throughout. Executive chef, Stuart Muir, soon appeared and offered us some engaging insights into his food philosophy and commitment to sourcing the finest ingredients. He spoke with authority and enthusiasm, and the kind of youthful exuberance and wonder at the world that plays well with a group of geeks.
From their new seafood bar, we were offered a sampler oyster, which we were delighted to wolf down.
Concluding with a quick zip through some of the dishes and techniques that would be showcased on the menu, Stuart excused himself as he had to pop off and cook us our dinner.
We were whisked away to their private dining room, which offered lovely views, but as a pure dining space could use a bit of work. It’s a flexible, multi-functional space, at the moment, and has that feel about it.
To say our appetite had been whetted by this build-up would be a colossal understatement. Sadly, the dishes we were served couldn’t live up to this enthusiastic overture.
Almost without fail, the dishes had way too much going on, far too many competing flavours, and a lack of trust placed in the strength of the ingredients that had been so lovingly sourced.
The opener of North Sea mackerel was a case in point. The dizzying melange had some strong elements, but the combination was an over-complex dissonance.
The same goes for the squab pigeon that followed. Vanilla was an interesting flavour combo with the tender meat of the pigeon, but it was too swiftly brushed aside in favour of another in a parade of crashing disharmony.
The halibut dish didn’t work at all. It was two dishes chaotically smashed together, as the pancetta wrapped mousse just didn’t go with the halibut and langoustine elements. The pearl barley porridge couldn’t unite the dish, no matter how hard it tried. Neither could the nasturtium leaves, which were dressing the plate for the third course in a row.
There was general approbation around the table for the pork belly dish that followed, but for me it was overly greasy, and as confused as the others. The toasted cumin seeds, when they set off their little flavour bombs in your mouth, were particularly incongruous.
The dessert, described as “rock”, was as pretty as the other dishes, with as many disparate elements, including aerated chocolate and an almond sponge that looked like it had been sourced from a rockpool. It just about worked, as two flavours, chocolate and passion fruit, were allowed to take hold, and the range of textures could operate without the intrusion of a bajillion competing flavours. It was served on a piece of slate, which filled the room with an alarming stone scraping sound, reminiscent of an executioner sharpening his blade prior to delivering a head-severing blow to the neck. The rationale for this adding an additional dimension to the “rock” theme was undermined somewhat by the use of slate in the presentation of a previous course.
The cheese selection was excellent. And it was abundantly clear why it was excellent: it allowed the restaurant’s impeccably sourced ingredients to operate in a simple and unfettered fashion. Every other dish was over-engineered, ensuring that the beautiful ingredients were delivered with diminished potency.
So overall, the tasting menu at the Forth Floor is a confused creature. While the dishes are relentlessly interesting and very pleasing on the eye, their tapestry of flavours isn’t woven with anything like the required accuracy and balance. Dishes are riotous, but not in a good way. I will definitely return, though, because I imagine their fruit de mere, which keeps things simple and showcases their superbly sourced ingredients, will be an absolute joy. For truly balanced and elegant fine dining dishes, look elsewhere.
Blythe scores Forth Floor:
2.5/5 for food
4/5 for presentation
4/5 for setting
4/5 for service
giving a total of 14.5/20
Today’s questers were: Blythe, Total Food Geeks
We ate: six course tasting menu, featuring: North Sea mackerel; pigeon sous vide; North Atlantic halibut; South Ayrshire pork belly; ‘rock’ dessert; cheese selection.
We wore: geeky weeds
We drank: sparkly wine, sparkly water, wine
Total cost: c.£500 (10 geeky diners)