I first visited Ondine shortly after chef-patron Roy Brett launched it six years ago. The food and service were so memorable that I vowed to return. I recently had the opportunity to have my birthday meal at this luxurious seafood restaurant in Edinburgh and it was as wonderful as I remembered… even better, if that’s at all possible.
Ondine isn’t easy to spot from the street. From the George IV Bridge entrance of an unassuming building, it’s a flight of stairs (lift available) to the first floor so it very much feels like a hidden gem. The restaurant is beautifully decorated with its high ceilings, large windows, mosaic columns, quirky artwork and stunning circular oyster bar.
The origin of the word “ondine” comes from the name of a water nymph, so it was only fitting to have a painting titled “Mermaids of Iona” in the lobby. Paulo was particularly delighted with the image… because the colours matched his suit and shirt. No other reason, of course!
We were given a table by the window with a lovely view over Victoria street. We chose an early time for our dinner reservations so it was quiet when we arrived but by the time we left, the place was full, including the oyster bar. Nevertheless, the atmosphere was relaxed and pleasant.
Service was impeccable throughout our meal and I particularly have to commend our waiter Toby, who was instrumental in making our meal a memorable one without being aware of the special occasion (I’m almost half a century old… I wanted to keep it low key).
To toast my birthday, we ordered a bottle of La Jara Organic Prosecco Frizzante, which was light, fruity and very refreshing with its gentle bubbles.
An amuse-bouche was served, a type of cheesy puff that was light as air and very delicious. We were also given a basket of fresh bread with salted butter on the side. The bread was so good, we had to resist asking for more so as not to ruin our appetites for the amazing seafood that was to follow.
We ordered oysters as our starter. There were five choices on the menu: Lindisfarne (Northumbria), Carlingford (Co. Louth), Caledonian (Argyll), Papillon No. 5 (Marennes Oléron) and Dungarvan (Co. Waterford). Their flavours ranged from earthy, sweet, minerally, creamy and nutty.
We had two of each type of oyster and they were all fresh, plump and ready to be slurped from the shell. They were served with a piquant relish that balanced the briny oysters but there was also Tabasco sauce available.
Next up was the pièce de résistance… the lobster! We pushed the boat out and each ordered a whole lobster, grilled (there was a choice of having it Thermidor). However, Ondine had a massive 2kg lobster fresh from Welch Fishmongers and half of it would count as a whole portion. They brought out the lobster for us to approve and how could I resist? The huge crustacean waved its claws at me, saying “eat me, eat me”. It certainly was worth the price… look at all that juicy tender meat!
The lobster was served with a tasty herb butter sauce and a half lemon wrapped in muslin to stop any pips. The dish came with thin cut chips but we also ordered a portion of chilli & garlic broccoli, which was absolutely delicious.
The pudding menu was tantalising but we decided to indulge our sweet tooth with dessert wines instead, a Sauternes for me and a Fonseca Vintage Port 1998 for Paulo.
Of course, these went very well with cheese. The menu’s cheeseboard featured Isle of Mull, Lanark Blue, Murcia al Vino, Old Lochnagar and Clava Brie, served with oatcakes and chutney. Who needs birthday cake when there’s such a fine selection of cheese?
We were able to indulge our sweet tooth even further with some complimentary petit fours served with our tea and espresso. These were decadent little chocolates and Turkish delight jelly cubes.
The outstanding lobster alone is a good reason to go back to Ondine. However, I have my sights on the spectacular Grand Fruits of the Sea platter which includes lobster, oysters, clams, crab, scallops, mussels, cockles and langoustines served on ice with an option to have all of these roasted. Also, if you love oysters as much as I do, or simply want to experience them for the first time, Ondine are now hosting Scotland’s first Oyster Happy Hour every Monday to Friday between 5:30pm and 6:30pm for only £1 an oyster! A lunch and pre-theatre menu as well as Saturday brunch are just more reasons to go and appreciate all of Ondine’s fine seafood!
The owners, managers or staff did not invite me to visit this establishment and were unaware that my experience would be the basis of a written review. It is based on my experience at my own cost and I did not receive compensation for my review.
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