One of the great benefits of our training for long charity walks has been that we’ve had a good opportunity to survey all the restaurant comings and goings across Edinburgh, and come across many spots that we hadn’t particularly heard about. One such place we spotted on our travels was the Nira Caledonia, a boutique hotel on Gloucester Place.
Buried deep in the heart of the New Town, this wasn’t somewhere we’d heard about. A glance at the menu, which showcased some excellent locally sourced produce, had us making a mental note to visit, as soon as the opportunity arose.
Opened in its current incarnation since earlier in 2012, although there have been hotels on the premises for a good while prior to that, their restaurant primarily caters to hotel patrons. They’ve just signed themselves up to the online booking service Top Table, so this gives some indication that they’re raising their sights and looking to attract more non-resident diners.
The menu has an excellent array of starters, showcasing a number of seafood options. They have a vegetable soup of the day, which today was leek and potato, and a seafood soup of the day, too, which was prawn bisque. That sounded too good for me to refuse. Kathryn was also hooked in by seafood, opting for crispy king prawns with a wasabi mayonnaise.
Before this, however, we were tempted by their cocktail selection, both opting to start with an elderflower, mint and prosecco concoction. It was a dangerously drinkable mix, with the mint ably restraining things from drifting towards over-sweetness. It proved a perfect palette pleaser.
Starters promptly arrived, preceded by a nice fresh bread basket. My soup was packed with flavour and beautifully seasoned. Kathryn’s prawns were of a similar high quality, although they could have used to be a touch crisper.
Main courses featured a selection of items prepared on their Josper charcoal grill. This is a serious piece of kit, with not too many Edinburgh restaurants having one. Unsurprisingly, steak is one of the specialities, with Kathryn opting to try their fillet, accompanied by classic bearnaise. I chose to sample their locally shot wild pheasant, with a chasseur sauce. Kathryn chose chips, while I picked a pancetta-topped baked potato.
We’ve been on a bit of a quest for good steak in Edinburgh, and my brief taste of Kathryn’s fillet makes me think that this place might finally represent what we’ve been seeking. Their beef, sourced from Perthshire supplier Highland Drovers, is absolutely first class. It was easily the most flavourful piece of fillet I’ve tasted. I suspect the beef had been very well aged, but also it came from a more mature animal, of the hairy Highland cow variety.
My pheasant was moist and flavour-packed, not words I have been able to associate with many of the pheasants I’ve eaten in the past. The chasseur sauce was full of good fresh herbage. The baked potato wasn’t so great, as in common with Kathryn’s chips it wasn’t very warm, but it was also on the dry side. This was a shame, as a couple of mistakes in execution, like this, let things down from being really exceptional.
We were both stuffed, but the dessert menu was too good not to sample. I chose the selection of local cheeses, while Kathryn opted for the lemon delice. The kitchen sent us out two slices of the lemon tart, which was rather lovely, and the cheese selection, from Tanny Gill, was augmented with an additional wedge of ewe’s milk brie, to go with the herb cheddar, goat’s cheese, blue cheese and caboc. It was all excellent.
So overall, the Nira Caledonia was an absolute gem. They have a few execution errors to brush up on, but they have the potential to be one of the finest hotel restaurants of their type in the city. Certainly their steak is excellent, and alone merits a visit. The service is friendly and accurate, their wine list comprehensive and very reasonable, and the stylish dining room is packed with elegant New Town charm. I’d heartily recommend a visit to the Nira Caledonia at your earliest convenience.
Blythe scores the Nira Caledonia
4/5 for food
4/5 for presentation
4/5 for setting
4/5 for service
giving an overall 16/20
Today’s questers were: Kathryn, Blythe
We ate: crispy king prawns with wasabi mayonnaise; prawn bisque; fillet steak with bearnaise sauce; pheasant with chasseur sauce; lemon delice; selection of Scottish cheeses
We drank: elderflower cordial, mint and prosecco cocktail (2); malbec; water
We wore: dress, suit
Total bill: £113