Plumed Horse - restaurant review

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The Plumed Horse will have to go all out if it is to avoid falling behind its Leith competitors.

Note: this review is from 2007, please also read The List's most recent review of The Plumed Horse.

January must have been a difficult month for chef Tony Borthwick. Not only were the workmen back in the restaurant sorting out a few snags after infuriating delays getting the place open before Christmas, but Borthwick also learned that the Plumed Horse, recently relocated from near Castle Douglas to Edinburgh, had not won a Michelin Star.

‘Time,’ Borthwick says, ‘to start all over again. We need to keep progressing.’

A challenge, indeed, given the praise he had garnered in his quiet corner of Dumfries and Galloway, particularly given the competitive fine-dining market in Edinburgh. A challenge in taking on an unlikely site, previously home to a couple of unmemorable Indian restaurants.

Still, with the Vintners Rooms, Restaurant Martin Wishart and The Kitchin all nearby, there was talk that he’d be setting the seal on Leith’s elevation to Scotland’s gourmet postcode. Great, therefore, was the expectation.

The Plumed Horse isn’t, to be fair, blowing its own trumpet, though it is charging high prices - £36 for a starter and main from the à la carte, £19.50 for two courses at lunch. The food offers that classic fine-dining marriage: good quality Scottish ingredients and French techniques. A twice-baked soufflé intensifying a tangy Mull cheddar, a daube of Aberdeen Angus beef that has been long braised into a rich intensity. There’s freshly baked bread, some satisfying desserts, a predominantly French wine list.

It’s fine, but not sensational. Not everything is particularly convincing: creamed leek tart rather dominating some chunks of roast monkfish, some dryish pork. What stands out, however, is the underwhelming atmosphere. Upmarket dining rooms can be stilted and demure at the best of times, but the lack of plumage on the Horse seems to drain the place. It’s crying out for a splash of real colour among the yellow-hooded chairs set against pale olive walls. A vase of flowers which has been stuffed rather than arranged and the Bee Gees on the stereo don’t help the insipidity. Is this a country style, which comes over as shy in the cosmopolitan city? Perhaps. Or an attempt to appeal to refined, gentrified Edinburgh? Maybe, but plenty of diners, younger ones in particular, are surely seeking a bit of verve and style, however fine the food promises to be.

50-54 Henderson Street, Leith, Edinburgh 0131 554 5556,, Tue-Fri 12.30-2.30pm; Tue-Sat 7-10pm; closed Mon. Reservations are usually essential.


1. Russell Sharp24 Apr 2008, 2:57pm Report

Having dined at the Plumed Horse on a regular basis since they opened I can say this restaurant is one of the best in Edinburgh. On a recent lunchtime visit the food was so good I could have happily returned that evening. Tony Borthwicks food is innovative and stunningly flavoursome. It compares very well and in some respects better than Michelin starred restaurants in the vicinity. The wine list is fairly priced and is imaginative and includes some very good wines by the glass. Front of house has on occasion been too casual, but the recent appointment of a French maitre'd has addressed this. It is well bedded in now and offers fabulous dining in elegant non cluttered surroundings with helpful and knowledgeable staff.

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