For clarification purposes, prior to Mark Greenaway launching earlier this year, there was a restaurant at Hawke and Hunter that was even reviewed by John Lanchester in The Guardian in October 2010, but that preceded Mark Greenaway's eatery and is now no more.
On entering the new restaurant, it is both elegant and modern, interesting even given the pairing of rough stone walls on one side of the dining room and contemporary art elsewhere. Nevertheless, it provides for an overall pleasing and indeed coherent effect. High ceilings typical of a Georgian town house also provide for a sense of space, reinforced by adequately separated tables allowing us to relax in to our lunch.
Turning to the menu, the first thing that strikes us is how appealing everything looks. It so rarely happens, but it did here: we want everything on the menu, it all looks and sounds so good. With a plane to catch at the end of the meal, we felt it best we stick to the a la carte though we are intrigued by the tasting menu that invites you to 'put yourself in Mark's hands' or something like that; clearly, next time.
One also gets the sense early on that while traditional (and local) prime ingredients are used, crab, langoustine, scallops etc, a modern twist awaits. That said, even we were unprepared for just how much of a departure from old school Scottish this would offer but the meal would be nothing short of spectacular so these departures fill you with delight rather than frustration. Mark Greenaway is clearly an immensely talented chef and we would expect his name to join the pantheon of Edinburgh's leading chefs as word spreads. We also have no doubt that Restaurant Mark Greenaway at Hawke and Hunter will in short order win a Michelin star. In fact, we'd even go a little further: while we had a good meal at 2 starred Andrew Fairlie at Glenagles, we had a truly great meal at Mark Greenaway's and given the choice between the two, we'd rather return to Mark's and try out the rest of his menu.
First up, we have an amuse of potato and nutmeg espuma, potato lattice and curried oil. Presented originally in a glass on a tree section, it tasted as good as it looked and so begins to hint at the talent in the kitchen.
When they arrive at the table, almost each dish draws a gasp of breath in admiration of truly beautiful food. Divided between the langoustine dish and the crab, I had opted for the latter thinking that the Langoustine and Avacado sounded a little too 1970s perhaps but when when our dining companion Joel was delivered the Langoustine plate, it was thoroughly contemporary and evoked strong desires in me to steal it. Positively avant garde was the Cullen Skink, normally a traditional soup dish of haddock, potatoes and onions. Anne, our gourmand companion from the US had been wanting to try Cullen Skink for the duration of her visit and seeing it on the menu here leapt at the chance. When it arrived, we could only comment that this was not always how it looked, indeed, we have never seen it look better; traditionalist however might be a little upset.
The Crab Cannelloni meanwhile sits atop the jar of smoked cauliflower custard, a working lid to trap the smoke essence which is released on opening. The dish overall seems original, entertaining and delicious as all the starters are. The spelt risotto is not exempted from this offering an explosion of nutty earthy textures soothed by an oozing vibrant yoke.
Every choice seemed like a good choice. My own plate of lamb offered: lamb rack, lamb rump, lamb belly and braised lamb neck. Everything was good but the belly and the neck were truly exceptional making this a truly great lamb dish overall. The beef fillet was brilliantly cooked, super tasting while the braised beef pithivier was so good it could have easily had top billing in its own right.
Across the table, an off the bone skate wing and beetroot was nicely done and its charm grew on Anne as she progressed through the dish. Finally, the Halibut looked massively appealing, a wonderful brown sear and despite Joel's lighter appetite, none remained left on the plate for us to pick over (sadly).
Like everything else today, the presentation is brilliant and inviting: the rice pudding really does come in a jam jar and the Eton Mess is a work of art. But two factors were playing on us, first, we were increasingly full and we were mostly having desserts for the sake of it, you certainly get value for money here on food. Second, the desserts were very sweet and we missed a little contrast to that sweet to drive us back to the plate to keep us eating despite having had enough.
It is also remarkable value, starters at the £7 mark, mains averaging just under £20 and desserts mostly at £7.50: all this food for £35 a head, surely one of the best food bargains in the country right now. We have no doubt that in time, this will grow to become one of Edinburgh's best known and most loved restaurants, and the Michelin star is only a matter of time. But why wait till then, especially at these prices?
Restaurant Mark Greenaway was the last of the restaurants we visited on our Edinburgh trip. Everywhere we went in Scotland we found accomplished food, passionate people and outstanding service. Restaurant Mark Greenaway was no exception and delivered a meal the equal to any of its better known peers. We are utterly delighted that we found time to eat there and if you're in Edinburgh and love food, Restaurant Mark Greenaway should be a must on your itinerary. Verdict: highly recommended.
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