Places to Eat: Number One at the Balmoral

number1Yesterday was husby’s birthday, and birthdays and other special occasions mean a night out at a good restaurant. On the recommendation of my chiropractor (man, how yuppie does that sound?) I secured a reservation at Number One at the Balmoral.

I’ll have to thank Stuart when I see him next.

The Michelin-starred restaurant did not let us down in any way. The moment we walked in we were cheerfully greeted and taken to our table, where bottled water was already chilling. Food-wise, you have two options: either do the Chef’s Tasting menu for 70 pounds or order a three-course meal a la carte for 64. We chose the a la carte option because there were dishes on that I was dying to try. I also ordered a lovely glass of Pinot from the wine list, which is extensive if you’re getting wine by the bottle but a bit limited when you’re just going by the glass. Oh well. We settled down, soothed by the cozy atmosphere and Billie Holiday music and waited for the meal to begin.

First up: a trio of, I suppose, pre-amuse bouches, all of which were light, delicate, and lovely. Then came the actual amuse bouche, which was a tiny fritter in a light veloute. Well done on the fritter, which could easily have been heavy and greasy but thankfully wasn’t. Nobody wants a grease bomb hitting their stomach before a three-course meal.

I opted for the foie gras starter, which was served with a gingerbread biscuit and peaches–an intriguing combination that worked beautifully. The acidity of the peaches helped cut the richness of the foie (which was cooked to crisp-outside, melting-inside perfection) and the warming gingerbread contributed spices that always pair nicely with foie gras. Husby had the fig tart (figs are FABULOUS right now) with pigeon. Their pigeon was much better than my first attempt with it. Definitely juicier, and playing nicely with the sweet, ripe figs on a paper-thin pastry square.

For mains, we both leaned hearty. Husby had sirloin, served with tongue, sweetbreads (the lucky bastard) and a truffle sauce. We’d never tried tongue and were a bit wary, thinking it would be inevitably tough, but it was perfectly tender and interesting, in a very good way. The truffle sauce was handled with a light and deft hand, so the truffles didn’t overpower the dish (a common problem with truffles, I find). My main course was grouse, which has just come into season, with chard and a velvety celeriac puree.Comforting, warming, and gamey without being too aggressive, it was an excellent meal for a chilly fall day.

And finally, the desserts. I went for the lemon souffle, which has to be ordered a little early, unless you want to wait 25 minutes between your main and final course. I took the sommalier’s suggestion on the pudding wine and it turned out to be a perfect one (as one would expect). The towering, fluffy souffle arrived alongside a tiny scoop of iced tea sorbet and a cloud-like, lemony cream-cheese mousse topped with granola.

Husby’s strawberry parfait was an absolute work of art–a Study in Pink, if you will. Someone’s clearly been studying their molecular gastronomy in the kitchens here, and applying it well. The parfait was rolled up in a thin strawberry-flavoured gelee, with strawberry mousse spheres scattered amongst the cardamom beignets. It was absolutely stunning, and delicious, too. Pure taste of summer.

Number One is touted as one of the best restaurants in Scotland, and it shows. No detail is left unattended to, and though the place is rather classic in its designed (think dark wood walls), it doesn’t feel stuffy. Service is cheerful, unintrusive, and helpful, and though the dishes are beautifully modern, there are charming old-fashioned flourishes as well, such as trolleys that are wheeled around the dining room with bread and cheese selections. Afterwards, a cab was called for us, and we headed home, fully satisfied, but not overly stuffed.

According to my husband, it was a wonderful birthday.

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