A friend and I decided to start blowing our budgets occasionally and going out for some really fancy food once a month or so. We started with The Atrium, in the West End, opposite the Usher Hall.
First impressions were favourable. They're very proud of their award-winning status, and it comes across in the simple, graceful decor. The waiters are quiet-spoken and polite, while the atmosphere is genteel and civilised. This is not the place to come for a laugh, or a celebration - unless you're celebrating Great Aunt Gertrude's 90th birthday. In fact, in a word, you could call it "smug."
Granted, I was there before it's refurbishment and things may have changed, but my biggest disappointment was the food. The prices were, as predicted, astronomical, with main courses coming in at a cool £20 and starters at around £11. For that sort of price, I want my mind to be blown - and, unfortunately, it was very far from blown. More 'deflated.'
I'm afraid I don't recall my starter, but it was excellent and I remember conversation with my friend remarking on their quality. Things were starting very well.
Then came the main courses, presented gracefully by our waiter. I'd ordered sea bass, my friend had venison, and I was astonished to find that, far from the melt-in-the-mouth flesh of well cooked sea bass, my dish was overcooked, dry and extremely poorly flavoured. It was wrapped in parma ham which gave it a musty taste. Perhaps the parma ham was a little elderly, or over-smoked? Regardless, sea bass and parma ham is hardly an original dish and to do it so badly is absolutely outrageous.
On the other hand, my friend was delighted with her venison, which was rich and robust in flavour without suffering any dryness - the curse of venison.
To say I was disappointed with The Atrium is an understatement. It boasts, on its website, that many people consider it the best restaurant in Edinburgh, and lists its awards with justified pride. How, then, was the chef who cooked my sea bass unable to realise how awful it was?
I'm sure my meal was an aberration. My friend was very happy, after all, and The Atrium's reputation continues to be excellent. However, I won't be returning. Not unless someone else is paying the bill. [more ]
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