and Drink

Eat out, drink up

Rhubarb and rumble

The List’s food editor stands his ground for Prestonfield. Words: Barry Shelby

n America, ‘rhubarb’ can mean a heated discussion. To judge from early reviews of Edinburgh‘s new restaurant bearing that name. a few critics may be bruising for a brouhaha with Rhubarb owner James Thomson (of Witchery and Tower fame). A ‘curiosity‘. writes one. ‘Right side of kitsch‘. opines another. A ‘velvety gloaming’, says a third. Some other comments about the cuisine are slightly less kind. which is the biggest surprise of all. Head chef Kenny Coltman (formerly of Farfelu in Glasgow) does most things right. Take. for example. a starter of Lindisfarne oysters and sweetbreads with leeks. Simple but effective cooking: pan-juices informing the flavour of the lightly battered main ingredients. leeks reduced to a succulent mass while a side salad is adorned with herby crisps. Black bream is an underrated fish and here a fillet is seared and served with crisped skin. atop a small dose of creamy mash with red onion confit a tasty tangle of thin translucent strands. The warm chicken liver salad features full pieces of meat with added lardons. pine nuts and half walnuts (though the raisin and Muscat dressing didn‘t sing of sweet wine). Lest these dishes sound light. a braised lamb shank (with a notable pieces of Toulouse


1 16 THE LIST 5—19 Feb 2004

sausage as well as al dente white and red beans) is hale and hearty.

After last year’s purchase of the hotel and restaurant at Prestonfield (‘housc' has been effectively dropped from the branding). Thomson instituted a complete renewal of the pile that dates to the 17th century. Most impressive is ceiling plasterwork that once hung low over a first floor bedroom but now looks down from on high above the main hall of the mansion. For Rhubarb. the old drawing room has been decked out in an opulent red plenty of velvet. brocades. tassels. and antiques too which some might find a tad ()TT. But theatre has its place in the restaurant world. And the atmosphere at least at lunch is far from stuffy. About that there should be little argument. Fans of Thomson's Witchery may find their allegiances turning to Rhubarb now.

A two-course set menu at lunch. pre and post—theatre is £12.95. A la carte prices range from £4.25 to £13.50 for starters and £13 to £24.50 for main courses.

Prestonfield House, Priestfield Road, Edinburgh, 0131 225 1333

George IV Bridge, Edinburgh

New style bar Villager did very well when it opened in December. lmpressively. they seem to have carried the buzz through into the traditionally quiet post-New Year period. There are queues outside on weekends. while even weeknights seem contentedly busy.

The site was previously home to half-hearted lrish theme bar O'Connell's. The new lease-holders have described their intended style as 'a Georgian townhouse taken over by funky kids. resulting in a fusion of classic decadence and graffiti art'. lnevltably, it's not quite as conceptual as it sounds. and one senses that any funky kids seeking to bed down for the night on one of the large sofas would be turfed out pretty sharpish.

The pub‘s basic structure remains unchanged. alth0ugh a lighter paint scheme has opened up the previously rather gloomy back room. Sketches and chunky mirrors adorn the walls and a ghetto blaster sits above the bar. which is stocked with a reasonable beer and spirits selection. including Grolsch on tap. The cocktail list is a little longer, while smoothies. coffee and bistro-style food are available.

It's all very civilised: you can go to the bar or wait for table service and. while the matt brown and off-white colouring is predictable. Villager manages to seem at once relaxed and cosmopolitan and with nothing of the Central Perk—style faux chumminess that its name might suggest. The funky kids have done themselves pr0ud. (James Smart)


News to nibble on . . .

I THE INAUGURAL JAMES Sankey Award for Excellence in Service has been won by 22-year-old James O’Donnell of Number One, the Michelin starred restaurant in the Balmoral, Edinburgh. O’Donnell beat other shortlisted candidates - Etienne Haro of Edinburgh’s Le Pompadour and Fiona Barbour of Gleneagles - at the finals held in Oloroso, the restaurant co-founded by Sankey and chef Tony Singh. ‘James Sankey, during his career as a restaurateur, created his own brand of excellence through his commitment, professionalism, hard work and quiet charrn,’ says Fiona Leishman, former proprietor of Braeval (when married to Nick Naim) and general manager of Amaryllis in Glasgow. ‘lt is a truly fitting tribute to all James achieved that an award is made to those seeking to emulate his success.’ The accolade, which was launched in 2003, attracted interest and entries from 18 to 28-year- olds in restaurants, hotels and catering companies from all over Scotland.


Boyd has said he plans to shut his flagship Mitchells bar and bistro in North Street (near its namesake. Europe's largest reference library). After nearly 15 years in Charing Cross. Boyd has decided to devote time exclusively to his other restaurant on the fringes of the city‘s Southside in Carmunock. Side Dishes also understands that Gordon Yuill and Company in the West End will soon become a second branch of Baby Grand, while the premises that once held Yes restaurant will become yet another (groan—enough already!) Chinese buffet restaurant, joining the other all-you-can-eat operations that recently opened: Dings Grande Buffet on Albion Street and Chukoku in the redevelopment of the old ABC cinema on Sauchiehall Street.