Review: MacDonald Holyrood Hotel, Surf and Turf Concept (Nov 2019)

“Scottish fish and seafood is by far the best in the world…Aberdeen Angus…it’s the most sought after beef on the world.” Such is bold claim on the menu of Surf and Turf, the new dining concept at the Macdonald Holyrood Hotel.

For those
of a mature age, the term “Surf and Turf” may evoke memories of blackened, well
done steaks of dubious origin, and seafood the texture of cotton wool, the
mainstay of a well-known Steakhouse chain in the 1960s and 70s.

This could be no further from the truth with the Surf and Turf concept where great care has been taken in sourcing the finest quality Scottish ingredients and constructing an appealing, adventurous menu. Originally trialled at Macdonald Rusacks Hotel in St Andrews, the Surf and Turf menu is the creation of Glenn Roach, regional executive chef for the hotel group.

[Concept Creator Executive Head Chef Glenn Roach]

A runaway success, the concept was also transferred to the Macdonald Holyrood Hotel in August 2019.

Head Chef
Dan Mellor who heads the kitchens has 17 years’ experience cooking in Edinburgh
hotels, most recently at The Raeburn in Stockbridge where he spent two years.
He has overseen the transition from the previous fine dining restaurant to Surf
and Turf which started in August 2019. Popular with American guests during the
Edinburgh Festival, custom has picked up since then, confirming the concept’s
winning formula with guests.

At the
heart of the menu are the signature dishes, 21 day aged rump, rib eye, sirloin
and fillet steaks sold by weight, 200 grams to a kilo! Adding seafood –
lobster, king prawns or scallops – creates a dish where the succulence of beef
and freshness of seafood create a harmonious combination of tastes and textures..

But the
menu is far more than this, incorporating an exciting range of dishes from
simple to luxurious. Mini tacos of chilli beef, avocado, sour cream and chills
and lobster arancini appear in the “Bites and Starters” section; a charcuterie
platter is an option on the “From the Farm” section; Venison Wellington appears
the “Classics” section; and sweet potato gnocchi and wild mushroom risotto are
choices on the “Vegetarian” section.

Given the
quality of the ingredients and the skill required in cooking, prices are
realistic: starters range from £4 to £7; Classics £15 to £50 (Venison Wellington
for two); and fish dishes £15 to £17. Sides are £3.50 to £6 and sauces for
steaks £3 to £3.50. From the Surf and Turf signatures, a 200 gram rib eye costs
£27; paired with king prawns an extra £9.

Many fish
and meat dishes require precise timing and adequate resting to maximise flavour
and texture. This applies even more to expensive cuts of beef and fresh seafood
which command premium prices. In this respect Surf and Turf scores highly,
fully respecting the inherent qualities of first class produce. A degree of
invention and creativity is also evident in some of the other options, where
ingredients complement each other. Presentation is clean, with no overcrowding
of the plate.

the restaurant has been rebranded, the actual décor and furnishings remain the
same. Not that the room needed changing. The spacious wooden floored dining room
has an inevitable corporate feel but is no less attractive for that. With a bar
at one end, it is dressed in warming tones of brown, grey and cream, with well positioned
wall and spotlighting. Comfortable leather banquettes and smart curved backed
dining chairs are arranged around well-spaced, marble or wooden topped tables,
providing a maximum of 80 covers.

midweek dinner in November proved an enjoyable experience

A starter
of beetroot cured halibut saw delicate slices of flaky white flesh, tinged with
the colour of the marinade which did not mask the deliciously creamy flavour of
the fish.  Pickled shallots added a gentle
acidity which balanced the sweetness of the beetroot puree dots. Celeriac
remoulade gave a contrasting texture and charred lime a slight bitterness.
Served on a white plate, this was a vibrantly coloured dish of ingredients
which complemented each other well.

starter of seared scallops was accurately timed to produce a caramelised crust
and soft, translucent flesh. The saltiness of samphire worked as a seasoning,
balancing the sweetness of the scallops, and giving a crisp texture. Dressed
with caviar, salmon roe and curried cauliflower puree, which contrasted in temperature
and colour, and finished with a chive oil, this was another well executed,
visually attractive dish.

Next came
a carnivore’s delight: a main course of a 350 gram of 21 day aged rib eye. With
a beautifully seared crust, it was cooked medium rare to retain succulence and
optimise flavour. Judicious seasoning and precise grilling and resting to reach
the correct temperature did full justice to this popular, well marbled cut of
meat.  Served with cherry vine tomatoes,
caramelised shallot, skin on French fries, the dish was finished with a deeply
rich, piquant peppercorn sauce.

The other
main course was a surf and turf combination of three elements. It was pleasing
to see the much neglected hake employed here to good effect. A fillet of this
soft textured, mild flavoured fillet was correctly cooked and served with a
croquette of beef shin and seared king scallop. The croquette had a crisp
coating and hot creamed potato filling but needed a little more of the
delicious shin. The scallop itself was well executed and rested on a caper and
pomegranate dressing which gave salty and sweet flavours. Perhaps dish needed
some acidity to balance these and lift the seafood elements. Swirls and dots of
spinach puree added visual impact.

Two  competent desserts finished the meal

date pudding was well flavoured, light and not too rich. The indulgent element was
given by the butterscotch sauce which, thankfully, was not oversweet. The
accompanying vanilla ice cream was smooth and velvety and the apple crisp gave

soufflé with calvados, cooked in a shallow dish instead of a ramekin, had an
airy lightness and perfect texture with no hint of egginess. Added sweetness
and contrasting texture was given by finely diced apple and an apple crisp.  A little more calvados would have taken this
dessert to an even higher level.

In its 20th anniversary year, the
Macdonald Holyrood Hotel has adapted its restaurant offering away from fine
dining to the more popular alternative of Surf and Turf, with a more informal,
relaxed service. Now only it its fourth month, the rebranding has already shown
signs of success with a growing clientele. Fine Dining Guide wishes the new
concept continued success and will follow its progress with interest.

from Fine Dining Guide