Great Places to Eat in Scotland
- EH2 Tempus George Street, Edinburgh

The Location
EH2 Tempus is located within the George Hotel which is near St Andrew Square (seen in the illustration), at the eastern end of George Street. This is one of the original streets in the plan of Edinburgh's 18th century "New Town". George Street was intended to be the main thoroughfare in this development and is 20 feet wider than even Princes Street (which has been developed over the years with more recent architecture to become the location of the most popular shops). Unlike Princes Street (where too many modern buildings have been allowed to intrude) George Street has managed to retain most of its attractive Georgian facades (even if the buildings behind are sometimes modernised). The George Hotel is at #21, created from three original houses, dating from 1780. These have been joined together with extra Corinthian columns tying them all together architecturally to form an up-market hotel (extremely popular with American tourists).

The Restaurant

During the fifteen years that I worked in Edinburgh, I was often lucky enough to enjoy lunch at the George Hotel, so I was interested to see what the latest incarnation would be like. The name EH2 Tempus focuses on two important aspects - namely that it is located in the central Edinburgh postal district of EH2 and that these days, people no longer have the time or inclination for a lengthy business lunch. On the other hand, there is still a demand for good, fresh, well-prepared food, sourced locally at reasonable prices. And that is what EH2 Tempus aims to provide.

There is a large bar and lounge area just inside the door and the elegant surroundings of the restaurant are in keeping with the traditions of the George Hotel, with subdued lighting, comfortable seating and lots of rich wood fittings. EH2 Tempus is available for food from 11am to 7pm (sometimes later) so in addition to lunchtime, it is the sort of place for a snack after work or before going off for an evening on the town. There is even a Tempus Cream Tea on the menu, with freshly baked scones, real strawberry jam and Devon clotted cream for tired shoppers to sit down and relax after a busy afternoon at the shops in Princes Street.

The Food
An efficient, bustling waitress showed my lunch companion and me to our seats, leaving us with the menu - a lengthy affair that took us some time to read through. Indeed, she had to return twice, before we had decided what to order. I was tempted to start with the Loch Fyne smoked salmon with capers, shallots and watercress but as it was a cold, January day, a plate of hot soup looked like the right option to begin with - this was a rich, thick and tasty tomato and thyme soup full of cannelloni beans. It was accompanied by an interesting side dish of croutons and shavings of pecorino (a hard Italian cheese made from sheep milk). That made an interesting change from the ubiquitous Parmesan cheese that accompanies so many Italian dishes.

If it had been difficult to decide on a starter, choosing a main course from that long menu was not any easier! There was a traditional "ploughman's lunch" of cheeses, rustic bread, chutney and apple and a number of "quick dishes" such as ham, fried egg and chips. Those looking for something more substantial were not forgotten either, with an 8 ounce Crombie cheeseburger with local cheese, pickle and real chips (more on those later). There is also a good selection of salads, ranging from the classic Caesar salad but with a poached egg to a "breakfast" salad of smoked bacon, black pudding, Crombie sausage and poached egg. For those with more time for a longer business lunch

In the end, I decided to try the Beer battered cod, real chips and tartar sauce. "Real chips" weren't just made from fresh potatoes, they came neatly stacked (see illustration) on the plate as well! The dish was accompanied by a substantial portion of traditional "mushy peas" (a lot tastier than it sounds!) The cod was, as you might expect, flaky and fresh and the batter was nicely crisp. That efficient bustling waitress (who never seemed to stop for a moment) also made sure that the food arrived at the table fresh and piping hot. That's as it should be, of course, but sometimes it isn't, in some other restaurants!

My lunch companion opted for the salad of grilled chicken, with tarragon, green bean and watercress salad. EH2 Tempus sets out to use the freshest of ingredients (sourced locally whenever possible) and this was particularly evident from this crispy, tasty dish.

Purely on the grounds of being able to write about them, I usually have a dessert to finish, but on this occasion that filling soup and substantial cod and chips were more than sufficient. So I'm unable to report from personal experience of the plum crumble with preserved ginger ice-cream or baked rice pudding with orange & amaretti - but these (and the others on the menu), certainly sounded attractive!

The Bill
Tempus starters: £3.95 (for soup) to £5.95 (pot of mussels with white wine sauce). Main items: £10.95 (tagliatelli) to £18.95 (Buccleuch rib-eye steak and real chips and Béarnaise sauce). Salads: £5.95 to £7.95.Desserts: £4.95. Tempus sandwiches £5.95 to £9.50.

Further Information
For more on EH2 Tempus, including see their Web Site which includes a copy of that extensive menu so you can decide what to have before you get there!

Well, the new EH2 Tempus is decidedly different from the restaurants I used to frequent at the George in the 1990s. But that's as it should be - to remain competitive, hostelries have to keep changing and adapting to the customer demands. But it's good to see that EH2 Tempus is continuing the traditions of good, well-prepared, fresh food, served by friendly, efficient staff in surroundings that match the reputation of the George Hotel - one of the gems of Edinburgh. Outside the restaurant was a bill-board on the pavement illustrating the freshly picked vegetables being picked straight from the fields, accompanied by the words "local, fresh and tempting". That sounds like as good summary.

February 2009

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