Fine dining for less
The joy of fine dining has never looked so sweet when you find out you can enjoy some of the best restaurants for a snip of the price. Here's where...
Nicky Howden discovers the beauty of an express menu
When I first experienced the Tower more than a decade ago I was blown away. From the rooftop location with views of the castle to the exquisite food and unobtrusive service, it was outstanding. I’ve been back since for indulgent meals and special occasions but I’ve never really thought of it as a place for a ‘normal’ lunch, partly, if I’m honest, because of the price. But That was before I discovered the ‘Light Lunch/Theatre Supper’ - an express two course menu available daily from 12-6.30pm and 9.30pm-10.30pm for £19.95. You can also add a glass of Billecart-Salmon Champagne for just £7 (normally £12).
The idea of the express menu is that tables are back within two hours, but staff certainly don’t clock watch and if you do want to linger, you can always move to the terrace for drinks. The seasonal menu offers a choice of three light starters, such as the superb home-cured salmon or pork rillette with pickled walnut celeriac and apple salad, and three mains with options including gourmet cottage pie, wild mushroom and truffle oil tagliatelle and our favourite, the Tower fish cake– one of the restaurant’s signature dishes. Packed with hake, coley, salmon and cod, the fish cakes were served with the most divine leek and béchamel sauce. Desserts aren’t included in the deal but if the homemade passionfruit sorbet is anything to go by, it’s worth leaving room for pudding. I love The Tower for its relaxed fine dining; the express menu just gives me another reason togo back.
5th Floor, National Museum of Scotland, Chambers St, EH1 1JF, Tel: 0131 225 3003, tower-restaurant.com
Photos by Jess Shurte Photography
Jo Morris improves her social life over lunch
As with most parents my life splits neatly into before and after chapters. Before was filled with seemingly endless spontaneous episodes of fun, interrupted by some quality ‘me time’ all supported by a rude amount of uninterrupted sleep. After is filled with cheesy pasta, endless questions, accompanied trips to the loo, and planning life to the minute. It’s the last bit I have a problem with. I miss going out on a whim, being at the mercy of a busy babysitter and booking dinner three months in advance. So, I’m delighted to announce my major discovery of the year: Lunch. Child free and unencumbered, I can dine with friends and check out new places to my heart’s content. Even better are the special lunch menus that are becoming a feature of most good restaurants. Which is why we positively skipped along to The Honours for their express lunch: Basically a variety of highlights from their a la carte menu curated into a quick, delicious and very good value lunch. (Two courses £19.50, Three courses £22.50).
Vinaigrette of leeks with eggs mimosa, feta cheese and artichoke is ridiculously good as is the creamy risotto and the succulent guinea fowl. A delicious tasting and instagrammable white chocolate mousse finished it off perfectly. Lunch is the new dinner and I’m back to my days of before. Almost.
58A N Castle St, Edinburgh EH2 3LU, Tel: 0131 220 2513, thehonours.co.uk
TWO FAT LADIES AT THE BUTTERY
Tracey McCallum finds the best way to spend £22
We’re spoilt for choice for good food in Glasgow but for something special that’ll knock your socks off without costing the earth, the pre-theatre menu at The Buttery is the place to go.
Situated in a bit of a no man’s land between Finnieston and Anderston, the restaurant has been holding its own since the late 1800s. Once famed for heavy French food and Victorian style service, the Buttery under its current owners, the Two Fat Ladies, retains its old charm but is a much more relaxed affair. Our fish starters of smoked salmon served with pickled fennel and pea shoot salad, and the fillet of mackerel with potato and horseradish salad were generous in size and fresh and light to taste.
For mains, the catch of the day (included in the pre-theatre menu) was sea bream and that was enough to sell it to my dining companion. I swithered over the plaice, chorizo and clam stew but chose the roast duck and wild pigeon with celeriac puree, Puy lentils and a cherry and a wine vinegar jus.
With a three-course menu as an option we ordered the stem ginger pannacotta and the brandy basket with a duo of ice creams; lemon and cherry if you please. Rounding up our dinner with coffees and the prettiest plate of petit fours, without a doubt this is the best £22 I’ve spent in a long time. The Buttery is simply outstanding. Two courses for £19. Three courses for £22.
652 Argyll St, G3 8UF, Tel: 0141 221 8188, twofatladiesrestaurant.com
THREE MORE PLACES TO TRY
The three-course pre-theatre menu is available Tuesday-Thursday, from 5pm-6pm and includes dishes such as salt cod brandade with a crisp tapenade crouton and roasted fillet of Ayrshire pork with smoked aubergine, fennel and basil gnocchi. £33 per head. Tel: 0131 229 1222, castleterracerestaurant.com
Brian Maule at Chardon d'Or
The sophisticated fine dining restaurant on West Regent Street, Glasgow, offers an early evening menu Tuesday-Friday, 5pm-7pm, and Saturdays, 5pm-6.30pm, where you can expect dishes like grilled mackerel with asparagus puree, tagliatelle pasta and confit duck legs. Two courses £21.50. Tel: 0141 248 380, brianmaule.com
‘Dine with Wine’ is a three-course meal including a bottle of house wine for £42.50 per couple on Saturdays, 12-3pm, and Sundays, 12-6pm. Or a pre-theatre menu, served Monday-Saturday from 5pm, is £14.50 per person for two courses (last sitting 6.30pm). Tel: 0131 218 1818, dineedinburgh.co.uk