Food review: The Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh - The Caledonian
This time last year, hotel dining rooms such as The Caley’s would have been alive with the sound of warm chatter and the clinking of crockery and cutlery over afternoon tea for Mother’s Day.
Lockdown was something we blissfully couldn’t yet understand, while fast-forward 12 months and it doesn’t need pointing out that being able to enjoy some occasional luxury to punctuate life events big or small remains not impossible but still a big ask.
Dining at the hotel whose Sunday name is the Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh – The Caledonian was something I had only done very occasionally, and enjoyed it thoroughly every time.
I am therefore very pleased to discover that I can harness some of this five-star refinery with a mouthwatering-looking brunch delivery (£49 for two plus £10 delivery) from the hotel. It is one of its two takeaway offerings, the other being afternoon tea.
Brunch appeals to me more, not least as it is advertised as “sumptuous” - a billing I don’t contest at all from the photo that wouldn’t be out of place in a glossy magazine.
The lavish-looking spread includes a platter of salmon and caviar, beermat-sized pancakes topped with berries and cream, a fruit bowl, some artfully laid out cheese and ham, slices of crusty-edged, springy-centred bread, glasses of orange juice and cups of tea and coffee.
I decline the option to add a bottle of Champagne or some Bloody Marys for a fee, but I ask for more Parma ham instead of its honey roast equivalent.
While I know there will be no accompanying white tablecloths, it puts a spring in my step all week to know that the feast will be enlivening my weekend.
That said, the service I do experience is five-star level - I am called the day before to confirm my order, and they phone again on the morning of my delivery to ask if they can come earlier than planned. Not a problem!
An extremely polite man arrives in a Mini with the goods, and I cannot wait to unbox it all. But this is where the shine comes off a little. Everything is technically there, it’s just not quite, to my eyes, as advertised.
To be fair I haven’t helped matters by not having given my living room the urgent clean and tidy it needs - and the vibe is sadly leaning too far away from sophisticated hotel ambience and too close to Buffalo Bill’s lair in Silence of The Lambs.
Undeterred, I start with the honey Greek yoghurt with homemade granola, and a bright, fresh fruit salad - so far so good.
I also brew up some of the ground coffee, which is in fact the highlight of the whole brunch - rich and ultra smooth. There is also very fresh-tasting bottled orange juice.
I then start gearing up for the carb section, with some slightly morose-looking mini pastries, but I’m a little underwhelmed by the ciabatta and ham, the bread seeming shop bought and the ham thick and chewy. But the selection of Scottish cheeses, including a moreish brie, holds its own.
I then make a beeline for the salmon, which I dish up with the caviar. It is in fact Avruga caviar - which I look up and discover is a kind of caviar substitute, and it has a rather un-nerving strong scent and grey tinge.
I then progress to the next stage of my food marathon – if only I had this kind of stamina for exercise – and I warm up the pancakes, which are billed old-school style as “drop scones” - to serve with a spoonful of vanilla-dotted cream and red berry compote. I feel the dish needs some extra sweetness so I add some honey, and it all gets the thumbs-up.
Overall, my verdict is that it has been fine rather than excellent - and I’m not sure is fine if OK for £25 a head, although I also don't want to snipe at businesses working hard in trying circumstances. The meal also makes me realise that whenever I’ve had brunch in a hotel I haven’t focused massively on the quality of the food, but my memory is stronger of the general ambience, the treat of having something different, in the mild buzz of novel surroundings.
The brunch also reminds me about how someone had calculated that the cost of the ingredients of afternoon tea was mere pounds, but subject to what on the face of it seemed like a huge mark-up.
My initial reaction of indignation soon gave way to the realisation that much else was, quite rightly, being factored into the cost – and it’s the same with brunch surely. Super-polite apron-clad staff attending to you, artfully decorated surroundings, maybe a harpist, and being a visitor, if sadly not a permanent resident, in a world where everything exudes luxury.
I go back and look at the hotel’s impeccable-looking afternoon tea, much of which seems to comprise bespoke patisserie made from scratch, and which I think would have been the better option than the brunch. The Caley also points out how the building formerly housed a train station. The brunch, in my view, arrives at its destination as billed but seemed slightly lacking steam in some aspects.