I’d popped in for a drink with a society member at the Leith branch, many years ago, but it was the first time for me in the Queen Street branch. I’d heard from them recently as they have an upcoming programme of events across the month of May when doors will be open to non-members. Their dining room is routinely open to all, serving a very stylish sounding selection. It’s also the regular host venue for a number of events and banquets.
Although service was very friendly throughout, there were a couple of silly mistakes. First of these was marching me up three flights of stairs to a meeting room rather than taking me to the ground floor dining room, due to some sort of breakdown in understanding. There was an incorrect main course dish delivered and while this was soon rectified, it was a rather strange error.
Their lunchtime set menu offers three courses plus a glass of wine for £18.95. The options all sounded good so I was happy to let Kim make selections then pick alternatives to make sure we were getting a look at a range of dishes. We started with a wild boar terrine and tartare of sea bass with roasted squid, followed by olive gnocchi with a poached duck egg and haunch of venison.
Starters soon arrived looking very stylish. I had a little taste of the boar and it was good. My tartare was impressive and a strong tomato flavour pervaded. It was a well-executed opener.
The main course venison was similarly accomplished. Elements came together well and the venison was very smartly prepared.
We broke with convention and both opted for sweet desserts choosing a spiced gateau served with blood oranges and a salted caramel ice cream and chocolate mousse. Again, these were elegant dishes.
While I was very happy with the quality on offer, everything was in the realms of being admirable and well-executed rather than being lovable or exciting. The very stilted atmosphere in the quiet dining room did nothing to help.
So overall, the SMWS is undoubtedly a fine establishment and although we had some issues with service I’m fairly confident that you’re unlikely to encounter this when you visit. I’d be interested to dine in one of their other rooms, perhaps at an event, where a warmer atmosphere might help to elevate things beyond well-mannered politeness to dining of a more pulse-racing nature.
Blythe scores SMWS
4/5 for food
4/5 for presentation
4/5 for setting
2/5 for service
giving an overall 14/20
Today’s questers were: Kim, Blythe
We ate: seabass tartare, wild boar terrine, gnocchi and poached duck egg, venison haunch, spiced gateau, chocolate mousse
We drank: water, espresso
We wore: salmon pink cardigan; brown pinstripes
Total bill: £37.80