The Dining Room, Edinburgh

In a competitive industry, pretentiousness quite often rears its not particularly attractive head, detracting from a core offering and bizarrely misleading the end consumer.

Not so at The Dining Room, where, strangely enough, food is on the menu, and, although modestly restrained in their success; fine, fine food!

The Dining Room, located on Edinburgh’s Queen Street, far exceeds what it says on the tin, but I like that; much better a restaurant leads with quality than an “out there” label, in the vain hope of “getting people talking”.

And that they do; vastly downplayed and quite easily by-passed, within an architecturally grand but understated New Town home; to the knowing and appreciative masses who have been crossing the threshold for the last ten years; The Dining Room very obviously performs. The Dining Room is THE Saturday night mecca – the name has been built and in fact is synonymous in the knowing city circles, with a quirky yet quality dining experience.

Scottish Food and Drink Fortnight drew me in via the powers of Social Media and tempted me to the doors of 28 Queen Street – home of this destination restaurant, where The Scotch Malt Whisky Society also resides; and so I went, “two birds, one stone”, still on my lips…

From zero to thirty in around 5 minutes, the restaurant’s downstairs dining room filled with the chatter and expectations of a gathering of guests, whose timely arrival marked the start of evening service. Guests rather than customers, as the atmosphere is that of a rather special Georgian townhouse home, with tables of expectant guests awaiting the arrival of the host for the evening. The host; of course; the whisky, which lines the walls and decks the tables in varying guises, a respected and personified anchorman and focal point of the evening’s dining. Unsurprisingly and to my great joy, whisky pairing is a strong focus at The Dining Room with initial introductions on this late Summer’s evening to a stunning single malt, which formed the basis of a revelatory partnering with a delicious lamb broth amuse bouche.

The un-frilly, no-fuss service of the waiting staff, lends an ease to the evening; their knowledgeable, unpretentious banter rids The Dining Room of any hint of conventional undertones and formalities, carrying their uniquely supreme service off, to their credit, in fabulously relaxed style!

Of course, not the only stars requiring plaudits, the food is presented by centre stage experts but emerges from the kitchen of resident chef and main man behind the scenes, James Freeman. I had heard great things of his ever-meticulous attention to ensuring that the reputation of the food served at The Dining Room matched the quality of the Society’s world-famous single cask whisky. Now there’s a challenge – obviously not one for setting the bar low, James has taken carefully sourced produce and crafted his ideas into creative matches and untypical pairings, creating unique tastes and making the ordinary, much less ordinary.

A slight emphasis on game encourages a diversification from the norm, served with ever-adventurous variations on side dishes and fusions of standard fayre with the harder to source specialities, making his dishes ever more special.

Whisky Flights offer a revelatory experience in dining but pairing isn’t restricted solely within the vast delights of limited edition and old venerable whiskys – the range of fine wines, expertly matched to food creations, provides another joy and a heady combination of all…..well, we may have to stay on longer than dessert to enjoy our coffees upstairs, in the members’ lounge.

Dessert, being not usually my “thing”, I was intrigued however by the short, but oh so tempting listing on the last page of the visually impressive menus. Indecision prevailed but the macaroons eventually won out, quite comfortably offering the best dessert I have tasted….ever.

And now its over, the scenes have played out and the experience at The Dining Room is etched on my memory forever, as the likes have not been seen anywhere before. It is unique in its offering, presentation and easy atmosphere – an utter joy of a dining experience and a learning curve for those of us not necessarily in the know, regarding the nuances of whisky!

The restaurant’s quietly unassuming presence, ever growing in popularity, shall no doubt in time, develop a moniker of its own but the easy style shall never fade and The Dining Room shall hopefully be around for a long time to come.