Restaurant Mark Greenaway
Emma Leask embarks on a culinary magical mystery tour where chef Mark Greenaway turns the freshest local ingredients into edible art.
Dining at Mark Greenaway is rather like an interactive performance where you are part of the show. His magical creations arrive in a puff of smoke or science-lab beakers filled with brightly coloured bubbling sauces accompanied by delighted gasps of surprise from diners. The artistry and showmanship of the Glasgow chef has upped the stakes of Edinburgh’s fine dining scene into edible entertainment.
The setting is suitably impressive too. Standing amidst grand Georgian architecture on the corner of North Castle Street, Restaurant Mark Greenaway is in good gastronomic company, with Martin Wishart’s The Honours opposite. Split into two open plan rooms, our window seat overlooked the leafy canopy of Queen Street gardens. The staff are relaxed and chatty, the décor is understated and cosy. Black ceilings and dark blue walls contrast with crisp white tablecloths allowing the colourful culinary creations to take centre stage.
After a five-year stint working in Australia, the lure of Scotland’s world class natural produce drew Mark Greenaway back to home soil, gaining valuable experience at One Devonshire Gardens, Kilcamb Lodge and The Dryburgh Abbey Hotel. A gutsy move to open his own restaurant in 2011 earned him nationwide acclaim, moving premises to North Castle Street in 2013. When he’s not doing charity work and television appearances, he’s in the kitchen dreaming up his signature delectable desserts that are artful, indulgent and fun.
The curtains opened on the eight-course Tasting Menu with an intensely flavoured amuse bouche – chilled gazpacho with roasted cucumber and basil oil. First in the spotlight was hand-dived Isle of Mull scallops, carried out on a wooden crate and eaten off a shell lying in seaweed. Top marks for fresh-from-the-sea authenticity. In keeping with Mark’s experimental style, we were invited to pour a laboratory vial filled with hot watercress puree over the raw scallops which ‘cooked’ as we enjoyed a roasted version topped with tasty crunchy pork crackling. Both disappeared faster than Houdini. This was followed by a vibrant Vegetable Spring Garden, with rainbow carrots, broad beans and edible flowers sticking up out of a layer of bright green chilled pea custard, so visually pleasing it would persuade the fussiest of five-year-olds to eat their greens. Refreshingly light, my vegetarian dining partner declared it a vegetarian victory.
The roasted cauliflower velouté with curry oil proved to be all light frothy loveliness then it was on to the pan roasted hake, which had the right contrast of crispy skin and sweet firm flesh. The presentation was painstakingly precise – the smoothest purple mash potato, tiny cubes of butternut squash and wafer thin streaks of fennel and dill puree across the plate (which I could have happily eaten more of).
Passionate about using fresh local produce, Mark sources herbs and mushrooms from a local forager. The duck, from Gartmorn Farm in the Borders, was superb, succulent and teamed with orange and parsnip puree, sweet tarragon jus and a dusting of bright orange powdered carrot on top.
Our expectations were high for dessert. A glass arrived filled with a kaleidoscope of sweet colours and flavours that was so mind-bendingly good it was an almost psychedelic experience. A tube of strawberry sorbet wrapped in white chocolate stood in a layered sea of strawberry and basil salsa, lemon and vanilla custard and sprinkling of honeycomb topping which had us scraping the bottom of the glass for more. On a sugar high we were ready for the grand finale – the technically elaborate Rock and Moss. A play on the natural landscape of Scotland, we ooh-ed and aah-ed, poked and prodded at this delectable deconstructed dessert that looked like a pile of stones and forest flora. The green pistachio sponge ‘moss’ provided a textured contrast to the smooth coffee macaroon ‘rocks’. Just as we thought the performance was over, coffee arrived with a flourish of lime and raspberry pastilles, salted caramel and passionfruit bars and coconut lollipops. Dinner at Mark Greenaway could never be dull. We’re ready for an encore.
What it costs
Tasting Menu, £65.50. Optional paired wines, £34.50.
Restaurant Mark Greenaway, 69 North Castle Street, 0131 226 1155, www.markgreenaway.com.