Great Places to Eat in Scotland
- Oloroso, Edinburgh

Oloroso It was back in December 2001 when the new chic, sleek cocktail bar and restaurant Oloroso opened its doors for the first time. It was the dream project of partners Tony Singh, (head chef) and restaurateur, (the late) James Sankey. Bold and contemporary in design (Richard Murphy architects) and in food, it soon earned ecstatic reviews and numerous top chef and restaurant awards.

"High fashion restaurant that would not seem out of place in New York"
      Conde Nast Traveller 2002

"The most exciting new dining venue in years."
      Sunday Times

"An oasis of elegant calm."
      The Scotsman

The Location
Although bang in the centre of town at 33 Castle Street, you could walk pass and miss the door. Discreet and exclusive, you enter the downstairs lobby of an office block at number 33 and take the lift to the 3rd floor, then a short flight of steps to the roof top level. (There is a lift for disabled or wheelchair users).

The Restaurant
The restaurant takes up a huge space on the corner of George Street and the top of Castle Street, with an outdoor patio terrace wrapping all the way round. With a colour scheme in cream, beige, and coffee it is all very airy and bright. On arrival there is a reception welcome desk dividing the swanky cocktail bar featuring long suede sofas, and the main restaurant with two long walls of high windows offering fine views of the Castle. During the summer of 2004, a new Champagne and oyster bar is opening on the terrace.

Oloroso This is definitely a cool and classy place, snow-white linen table cloths, huge wine glasses, with a smart casual dress code for business or decadent lunches and romantic dinners. An apocryphal story goes that an American gentleman was sitting having lunch at Oloroso, delighted that he could enjoy a view of the north coast of 'France' in one direction and of the Castle on the other side. It was soon pointed out that France was in fact Fife on the other side of the Forth, not the English Channel!

The Food
The name Oloroso is Spanish for aromatic and it's also a style of sherry - but don't expect Spanish paella and tapas. Tony Singh creates a menu described as contemporary Scottish cuisine. Arriving with two friends for a business lunch, we decided to go straight through to the restaurant although we could have had an aperitif in the attractive lounge bar. By 12.40pm it was already rather busy on a Wednesday lunchtime. All the window tables were taken - but you get a view from anywhere. We were presented with the la carte menu (this changes twice daily) as well as the bar snack menu for lighter dishes - you can choose something from each.

If that was not enough choice the waitress then proceeded to give the day's specials including ostrich, marlin, plaice and a whole range of dishes with various accompaniments. We listened carefully but there was too much information to take in. Perhaps just stick to the printed menu. Or menus. On the separate Grill menu, there's a particular emphasis on fine Scottish beef, veal and daily specialities, cooked as you like with a choice of sauces and butters.

Oloroso So let's begin with the starters. At first glance these seemed unusually rich with no salad or vegetarian option. So check the Bar snack menu to find a choice of salad and also grilled Aubergine stuffed with Mozzarella. Perfect. My guests plumped for the Black turtle bean soup with gruyere and Cajun wonton, and the Confit duck terrin, - all accompanied by soft home made bread. Three satisfied customers. We ordered sparkling water and decided to share a bottle of dry white wine. Selecting either the South African Chenin Blanc or the Chilean Sauvignon Fume blanc, the waitress dismissed my choice and suggested we have the Spanish Verdejo Veracruz at £7.00 more. I did not wish to argue in front of my guests and so accepted her choice - gracefully.

Oloroso For lunchtime the selection of main courses together with the grilled steak, veal and ostrich, all seemed extremely heavy and more attuned to leisurely dinner over a few hours. One guest enjoyed Halibut with Smoked Haddock Risotto, with feves and Asparagus. It looked very tasty. Another choice was the Pan Fried Pigeon Breast atop a Wild Mushroom Broth with pearl barley and Savoy cabbage. A hearty peasant meal in itself but served with a bowl of French Fries. My own choice was Grilled Marlin (rather like tuna), served with Slow Roast tomatoes, at least six boiled potatoes and a (huge) side salad. Make sure you are extremely hungry when you come here to dine. Portion sizes are very generous in contrast to the faddish Cuisine Minceur of a few years back. We had no space for pudding, but we took a peek at the Pastry menu in case we would be tempted by Coconut Tart with Pineapple and Chilli Salsa, or Warm Spiced Plum Mille Feuille with praline mascarpone. Coffee is served with tiny chocolatey Petit Fours, just in case you have not had enough to eat.

The Cocktail Bar
The Oloroso has won awards for its glamorous cocktail bar on its accord. This is a popular meeting place day and night with a superb wine and champagne list, (from £42- £900) as well as, of course, classic cocktails. The good value bar snack menu is terrific for a light lunch or pre theatre supper - nibble on bread and olives, Chicken wings, salads, curry, fish cakes, a real Beef Burger and house chips.

The Bill
Starters - £6.50. Main course £17.50. The Grill menu - Sirloin/Fillet Steak £23.00-£26.00. Dessert - £6.50. House wine £14.00 bottle, £3.75 glass.

Three years on and Oloroso continues to garner exemplary reviews - The List Eating and Drinking Guide 2004 Hit List " always impressive " - but the word on the street occasionally reveals concerns over service. We were all rather taken aback by brusque rather supercilious manners from two members of staff. However, people and personal service can change daily like the menu. This is without doubt one of the classiest and stylish places to eat in the capital. The food is fresh, inventive and innovative and for something special, there's a price to pay. Perfect for a special occasion, a romantic dinner, for business or pleasure, Oloroso continues to be Edinburgh's dining hot spot and the place to be seen in the heart of the city.

Vivien Devlin

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