Great Places to Eat in Scotland
- Bisque Bar & Brasserie, Best Western Bruntsfield Hotel , Edinburgh
The Best Western Bruntsfield hotel is a privately owned terrace of Victorian townhouses in a quiet residential district, which first opened for business in the 1920s. Boasting open views over the green grassy Meadows, it's an ideal place to stay away from the noise and bustle of the city centre. But you don't have to check in to enjoy a meal at Bisque, already a destination restaurant for hotel guests, local residents and city visitors staying in guest houses nearby.
The Bar and Brasserie
This is no ordinary "hotel" restaurant. It's a very clever and innovative decision by the owner and Architect Brian Robb (of Oliver and Robb) working with Dunn Interiors, to complement and contrast the classic 1860s façade and original features of the property with a smart, cool interior design. The old and the new really work. Robb's design brief by the hotel was to create a new all singing, all dancing bar, coffee house and eatery. This was a major re-branding project, at a cost of around £ 500,000, completely refurbishing the cosy old King's Bar pub to develop it into a bright, light contemporary, flexible environment for all day drinking and dining from breakfast, lunch and dinner, from morning coffees to late night cocktails. The bar was repositioned, to create an open plan space, walls were knocked down to take over former office space.
As an extension to the back of the hotel, a new glass fronted conservatory was built within an existing courtyard. This is now an attractive landscaped patio surrounded by trees, shrubs and planters for alfresco drinks and meals - and ideal for smokers. For those who know the hotel, the former Cardoon restaurant is now a function suite for wedding receptions, conferences and private events.
With direct access from the hotel car park or lift from the lobby, enter the L-shaped, split level, interconnecting layout of the bar and restaurant. There are far more seats and tables tucked away around hidden corners than you probably first realise. Relax on the comfortable banquette seating along one wall, or in an intimate booth for two. The bar has been designed for couples, small groups and private dining. To cater for today's working on the move, the bar has free wi-fi connection. For sports fans there are two extra large TV screens and good music which changes with the mood and time of day. Contemporary materials combine leather, stainless steel, stone, timber veneer, tile and glass with bold bright artwork around the walls.
The name bisque has several meanings, all totally in keeping with a restaurant: a creamy vegetable or seafood soup, a type of pottery, or the almond colour of traditional kitchen utensils. Welcome to Bisque bar & Brasserie.
We sat in the Bisque bar first of all for an aperitif as we studied the menu. We ordered gin and tonic, but unfortunately didn't specify a brand and the house gin is weak and tasteless. Make sure you ask for Bombay Sapphire or Tanqueray. Cool cocktail menu too for a mojito, strawberry daiquiri or margarita to make you feel you are in the Caribbean.
Talking of sunshine spots, there's a warm Mediterranean style about the place, in terms of both design and cuisine. The combined lunch and dinner menu offers something for every taste and it all looks very tempting, healthy and freshly prepared. To start, 8 Tiger prawns in warm garlic oil, Beef Carpaccio with sweet tomato and onion relish or Mozzarella tart and rocket salad. There's also a selection of light dishes, perhaps ideal at lunchtime. Highly recommended is the Spanish Tapas, either for one person or a large platter to share - a generous portion of chorizo, tortilla, manchego cheese, grilled peppers, squid and olives. And if you don't eat meat/fish the chef will substitute a slither of artichoke or aubergine for the chorizo/squid. We had attentive helpful service by our waiter, Gaurav.
Main courses include Scottish salmon with mash, Duck breast with stir fried vegetables and noodles, fish and chips (classic breaded fillet, with thin cut fries and peas), or from the Grill, a selection of Aberdeen Angus steaks. Vegetarians are well catered for with various pasta dishes, risotto and wide range of salads and side orders of vegetables. The health-conscious menu continues with desserts where you don't have to have sweet puddings. Try instead the fruit skewer with a champagne sorbet is delicious without the calories and great for your 5 a day. Alternatively, Pecan pie or dark chocolate torte. The atmosphere throughout the evening was lively and buzzing with a laid back soundtrack of jazz, blues and Leonard Cohen.
Even if you are not staying here at the hotel, why not call in for breakfast or brunch. Bisque certainly has an open door policy day and night. Brunch is served from 10-12 noon with orange juice, Bloody Mary, porridge or fresh fruit and yoghurt, scrambled egg and smoked salmon, three egg omelettes, Eggs Benedict, or simply coffee with croissants and jam. The highlight is the hearty Bisque Grill fry up with egg, McSween haggis, sausage, bacon, (the works), or the tasty Vegetarian Grill (minus the meat). At Sunday Brunch time the music is soft chill out sounds, and a touch of romance with My Funny Valentine.
Starters: £3.15 - £7.95. Light dishes (tapas and pasta) £5.25 - £7.95.
Mains: £7.50 - £12.50. Sides: £2.25. Desserts: £ 4.35. Cappuccino: £1.95.
House wine - £3.40/£4.75 per glass, £13.50/£18.95 bottle.
Brunch - Croissant & jam £1.50. Bloody Mary: £2.50. Bisque grill: £ 6.50 Omelette: £5.25. Scrambled eggs/smoked salmon £4.25.
Bisque Bar & Brasserie is in the Best Western Bruntsfield Hotel, 69 Bruntsfield Place, Edinburgh EH 10 4HH. For reservations, telephone (0131) 622 8163. See also the Bisque Bar Web site.
Bisque is a lively happening place to drink and eat, wine and dine, at any time of the day. Casual, contemporary and flexible, that's the name of the game here. Open for breakfast, brunch, lunch, coffee, bar drinks and dinner, you can choose to eat in the Bisque café bar or down a few steps round the corner at the back in the sunny Brasserie. This leads out to the patio where you can also eat and drink, weather permitting. Bisque also caters for private parties and festive occasions. Congratulations to Brian Robb, Dunn Interiors, the Hotel proprietor and management team for investing in this smart new venture which is already proving very popular and successful for hotel guests and non residents alike.
© Vivien Devlin, British Guild of Travel Writers
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