Absolutely Spot On

The Herald Published on Thursday 12 April 2007

Ferrymuir Retail Park, Edinburgh 0870 423 4293 Style: High-end Food: Scottish seafood Price: Around £60 for two Wheelchair access: Yes It sits alongside a Tesco and a Frankie & Benny's fastfood chain outlet, so speculation about what would be inside the elegant big black glass box at the top of the hill in South Queensferry was so fevered among the local population that when the Dakota Forthbridge hotel and grill opened its doors last month many a curious resident was ready and willing to venture inside its rather scary futuristic exterior. Proximity to the historic town gives this £15m Dakota a huge advantage over its Eurocentral counterpart, as it allows for casual footfall in addition to motorway drivers. Wisely, then, the Grill at Dakota Forthbridge - the second of Ken McCulloch's UK chain of mid-priced, beautifully appointed hotels to be built in Scotland - has been designed from the outset as a stand-alone destination, with two private dining rooms to boot.

We dined there on a Friday evening and the 120-cover restaurant was packed. Designed by Amanda Rosa (aka Mrs McCulloch) it is all dark woods, pale creams and elegant screening, with low overhead lighting at every table to create a series of intimate spaces, and it looks rich and ravishing, in stark contrast to the blank exterior. The menu's main focus is seafood, which should come as no surprise, given that chef proprietor Roy Brett - who developed the food operation for McCulloch's former hotel chain Malmaison when it launched in 1994 - has been poached from Rick Stein's flagship restaurant in Padstow, Cornwall, to head this new venture.

From a choice of 12 starters, there are eight fishy ones. My Francophile companion chose the fish and shellfish soup with rouille and Parmesan (£4.95), which he declared absolutely spot-on, with its tasty smoothness and plenty of toasted French bread slices on which to spread his properly garlicky mayonnaise. Just to be contrary I went for the old-fashioned pork terrine with piccalilli (£5.95), which was made with meat from four different parts of the animal and the thick, tender deliciousness of which was helped along by a nicely acidic homemade relish of fresh raw vegetables.

My companion's main course of roasted John Dory with boulangere potatoes (£14.95) was lightly cooked and may have looked a little sparse on its big white plate, but it was surprisingly filling. The piece de resistance, however, was my Fruits of the Sea for One (£18), of half a lobster, two brown crabs, two oysters, two langoustines, six winkles, six clams and six cockles, all presented in a high ice-filled dish and as fresh-tasting as could be.

The only problem was that it took me so long to demolish that I kept my partner waiting for almost half an hour. Ice-cream profiteroles with hot chocolate sauce (£5.95) was a delicious mistake on my part, as it removed from my tastebuds all memory of the main experience. I should have opted for the three cheese plate (£6) my partner had. Our New Zealand pinot noir (£23 a bottle) may have been an unusual option but we found it complimented our seafood perfectly.

McCulloch's aim at Dakota is to "build a loyal fanbase, not a database" of clients. Judging by our experience, he has thrown South Queensferry enough of a catch to make it worth the detour.

We dined there on a Friday evening and the 120-cover restaurant was packed. Designed by Amanda Rosa (aka Mrs McCulloch) it is all dark woods, pale creams and elegant screening, with low overhead lighting at every table to create a series of intimate spaces, and it looks rich and ravishing, in stark contrast to the blank exterior. The menu's main focus is seafood, which should come as no surprise, given that chef proprietor Roy Brett - who developed the food operation for McCulloch's former hotel chain Malmaison when it launched in 1994 - has been poached from Rick Stein's flagship restaurant in Padstow, Cornwall, to head this new venture.

From a choice of 12 starters, there are eight fishy ones. My Francophile companion chose the fish and shellfish soup with rouille and Parmesan (£4.95), which he declared absolutely spot-on, with its tasty smoothness and plenty of toasted French bread slices on which to spread his properly garlicky mayonnaise. Just to be contrary I went for the old-fashioned pork terrine with piccalilli (£5.95), which was made with meat from four different parts of the animal and the thick, tender deliciousness of which was helped along by a nicely acidic homemade relish of fresh raw vegetables.

My companion's main course of roasted John Dory with boulangere potatoes (£14.95) was lightly cooked and may have looked a little sparse on its big white plate, but it was surprisingly filling. The piece de resistance, however, was my Fruits of the Sea for One (£18), of half a lobster, two brown crabs, two oysters, two langoustines, six winkles, six clams and six cockles, all presented in a high ice-filled dish and as fresh-tasting as could be.

The only problem was that it took me so long to demolish that I kept my partner waiting for almost half an hour. Ice-cream profiteroles with hot chocolate sauce (£5.95) was a delicious mistake on my part, as it removed from my tastebuds all memory of the main experience. I should have opted for the three cheese plate (£6) my partner had. Our New Zealand pinot noir (£23 a bottle) may have been an unusual option but we found it complimented our seafood perfectly.

McCulloch's aim at Dakota is to "build a loyal fanbase, not a database" of clients. Judging by our experience, he has thrown South Queensferry enough of a catch to make it worth the detour.


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