Great Places to Eat in Scotland
- Tempus at The George Hotel, Edinburgh

Tempus, Edinburgh

The Location
The transformation of George Street in Edinburgh in recent months has created an attractive up market thoroughfare for designer shopping, coffee houses, fine dining, cocktails and nightlife. New hotels, bars and restaurants have brought a great choice, whatever your taste. One of the newest on the block is Tempus, the flagship bar and restaurant which is located next door to and part of the refurbished George Hotel (pictured here). A major £12 million renovation of the entire property has just been completed. The former Adam Rooms function suite and Le Chambertin restaurant have been completely gutted to form the new style bar, bistro and restaurant. Out with the old and in with the new.

The Bar and Restaurant
Tempus may be part of the George Hotel but is operated and managed as a separate stand alone bar and restaurant. With an entrance direct from the street, this is a place for everyone (as well as hotel guests) to eat and drink. It's open all day from breakfast to lunch, coffees, snacks and dinner, with full bar service. The interior decor has been very carefully designed to pay tribute to the classic Georgian architecture of the building yet add a snazzy contemporary ambience. The effect is dazzling. Walk into Tempus and the first view will probably be the perfect line of bar stools - but these are a modern take on Louis IV chairs with gilt high backs. All around are antique chandeliers, rococo mirrors and bold, colourful pre-Raphaelite style paintings. The downstairs bar area has ample seating, large tables for groups and intimate small booths for couples. The mezzanine level, up a couple of steps, has separate diner-style seats, banquettes and window tables. This is the ideal place for lunch, bar supper, bar snacks or a pre-dinner drink. Tempus bar offers table waiter service during the day, but not in the evening after 6 or 7pm (which is a shame - waiter service is so much nicer than standing at the bar like any pub!).

The main Tempus restaurant is beyond the bar stretching back like a fabulous long ballroom. Again the glamorous neo-classic design is most impressive, with vast vases of flowers, mirrors, soft lighting and a marble centre piece table, all present an elegant, classy atmosphere for dinner. But it is not formal in terms of dress code and the menu, like the mood, is modern and casual.

The Food
Under Head Chef Marc Robertson, the dinner menu emphasizes fresh Scottish produce. The provenance and quality of the food is made clear with fish suppliers and beef farms listed on the menu. As General Manager David Welch explains. "Tempus buys locally where possible, to ensure not only the quality of produce but also to support local businesses. I firmly believe that Scotland's larder supplies some of the finest food; we are delighted to offer such terrific products as Buccleuch Estate cuts of Beef and Loch Fyne oysters and smoked salmon. We have also looked at local retailers and are proud to have liaisons with names such as Luca for our ice cream, and Crombie for sausages to name but a few."

The menu is Tempus branded - Tempus Begins, Tempus Continues and Tempus Finale, instead of starters, main course and pudding. Tempus Begins includes several international classics: Loch Fyne oysters, Caesar Salad and Melon with Parma ham. I selected one of the house specialties, Loch Fyne smoked salmon with capers. This was a simple but tasty dish - really fresh, thin slivers of salmon. My dining partner selected a plate of delicious Fresh Asparagus with a tiny dish of mayonnaise, perfectly cooked al dente. Bread, unusually, is not offered as a complimentary accompaniment. Bread and olives can be ordered at £ 2.95.

For Tempus Continues, there's a wide choice for the carnivore: Rib eye steak, Ground fillet Beef burger, Braised lamb, Breast of duck and Grilled calves liver. My partner selected Beef Wellington, served with garlic creamed potatoes and truffle sauce. This was voted excellent, cooked medium rare pink in the middle. I fancied fish for my main course. The organic Scottish salmon filled is served "Cordon bleu" style, which includes cheese and ham - so for a non-meat eater, this is out. The Seafood platter is for 2 people (so I could not have that), and the final fish dish is Cod with real chips and tartar sauce. The menu does not describe it accurately. The cod is deep fried in thick batter, with deep fried chips and mushy peas. Not what I had expected. I ate the fish and left the batter. And I am sorry but the "real chips" were not quite the fat chunky, hand cut potato chips I had expected. We tried two side orders which come in large bowls and so generous they are suitable for sharing between four people, let alone two. French beans and shallots were good, the tomato ratatouille, rather tasteless.

Each day there are special plat du jour dishes, including Roast beef and Yorkshire pudding on Sunday.

For the Tempus finale, Gary chose an indulgent Chocolate muffin trifle served with shortbread, while I had a Knickerbocker glass filled with summer berries soaked in rose champagne with a scoop of vanilla pod ice-cream. Very refreshing. Other desserts include Rice pudding, lemon tart and Cheese platter.

Bar Menu
For lunch or supper, the bar menu is very appetizing. A selection of Salads, Sausage and chips, Fishcakes with salad and a Pot of mussels (I wish both these fish dishes had been on the Restaurant menu next door). Also quality smoked salmon and fillet steak sandwiches and specialty bar snacks - mini burgers and hot dogs. For a taste of the high life, why not call in for a glass of champagne and a couple of oysters?

The Bill
Contact the Tempus Restauarant for current menu and prices.

Further Information
The George Hotel and its Tempus restaurant are at 19-21 George Street, Edinburgh. For reservations e-mail or telephone 0131 240-7197. There is also a new Web site for the Tempus Restauarant where an on-line booking system becomes available from September 2007. Look out also for special offers on the site!

While Tempus restaurant looks and feels like a grand ballroom for fine dining in black tie and tails, the menu is basically gourmet pub grub but dressed up and artistically presented in sophisticated hotel restaurant flair and manner. It's a limited menu if you don't eat meat - a couple of vegetarian dishes but the fish selection should be improved beyond fried cod and chips. Suggestion: serve this in the bar and put Mussels on the restaurant menu. But the food is certainly very fresh and very Scottish, the design is cool and classy, the ambience is romantic. All in all, the Tempus bar and restaurant offers a new and distinctly different setting to eat and drink, day and night, along George Street.

Vivien Devlin
September 2006

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