“ Located at the Thistle Edinburgh Hotel, St James Centre, 107 Leith Street, Edinburgh EH1> Tel: 0131 556 0111. „
I have already referred briefly to Craigs Restaurant in my opinion on the John Lewis 'Place to Eat' opinion. Craigs Restaurant is the 'formal' dining facility in the Edinburgh Thistle Hotel at St James Centre at the east end of Princes Street. It is named 'Craigs Restaurant' in memory of James Craig, the great Edinburgh Architect of the 18th century, best know for his part in 'creation' of the Edinburgh New Town. In 1766, James Craig was a 22 year old architect who won the competition set for the erection of a new suburb to the north of the Old Town of Edinburgh, that was then centred around the Royal Mile (that cobbled thoroughfare that runs from Edinburgh Castle doon to Holyrood Palace. The basic design that was finally executed, formed parallelograms of buildings laid on either side of George Street, which linked two squares, St Andrews Square to the east and Charlotte Square to the west, with cross streets made up of tenements 9disguised as houses). Apparently Craig wanted to call the most southerly street of the original New town, “St Giles Street”, but the King baulked at that, so it was called ‘Princes Street’, and the Queen consented to the street to the North of George Street to be named ‘Queen Street’, rather than ‘Forth Street’ (since it was looking towards the Firth of Forth) as proposed by Craig. Seems the young whippersnapper had not learned the art of toadying ! The marvelous New Town of Edinburgh was extended over the following 100 years by a succession of architects, but it was Craig who laid down the basic design. It is unique in vision and atmosphere. Now an admission. I am a cheapskate ! Over the past 3 years, whenever 'The Times' starts its "Eat out for a Fiver' offer, I consult the list of places available in the Edinburgh area, search out avidly and put a red ring and a collection
of exclamation marks opposite 'Craigs Restaurant' entry, which in my experience is the best bargain of the lot !. I shall certainly be disappointed if The Times does not continue with this promotion and even more disappointed if Craigs Restaurant is not among those 'on the list'. The restaurant is situated on the same level as the main shopping thoroughfare of St James Centre, so that you enter via The Thistle Hotel entrance on the shops level. However, you have to 'know that it is there', since there is often no Menu displayed at the entrance and you certainly have to search for any mention that this Restaurant is 'available'. There is a bar immediately adjoining, but there is no problem in getting drinks brought to your table. The menu at lunchtime is quite varied, always including the options of vegetarian, pasta, beef, chicken and fish (salmon, halibut, haddock and monkfish have all been featured when we have 'lunched' there). The cost of a 3 course lunch is normally £16.95 ..... Now that is NOT cheap..... Now, the last occasion we lunched, at the end of 'The Times' offer, will give you the 'flavour' of the place. There was no problem in booking a table for two for 12.30, with The Times offer. We arrived at 12.25 and the restaurant was almost empty. We were given a table at the window, with a view over to Calton Hill. The tables are well-separated, so that a large party (from a Training Operation) in the general vicinity did not disturb. The first course choice (for The Times offer) consisted of Leek & Potato Soup or Avocado salad. The main courses offered were chicken breast in a wine sauce with mushrooms and vegetables and Halibut with new potatoes and mange toute. We chose the avocado salad and the fish, but the waiter came back and apologised because the Halibut ‘had not been delivered’. He offered salmon, which we accepted. The £5 offer
was for 3 courses and on Tuesday and Thursday included coffee and a glass of wine. They also serve a keen pint of Guinness (£2.50), so Sidney was in his element ! (and Heather was ‘reasonably content’ with her mineral water – she was driving !). The avocado salad was a coarse mixture of avocado with a dressing on a green salad and was delicious (a bit like a coarse guacamole). The salmon was superb. Pan- seared with sea salt and coarsely-ground black pepper, the flesh ‘melted’ on the tongue. The glass of ‘house white’ was a reasonable Chardonnay, nicely chilled and the third course was a simple raspberry tartlet with cream that was ‘just right’. Even the coffee came with refills. So the total bill for two was ... £14 ! I had no hesitation in proffering a £20 note and two pound coins, waiving the change. The attentive but not intrusive service was just right and worth a reasonable tip. Just a warning. It is not quite such good value in the evening for The Times Offer, where you get 2 courses for £5, and coffee costs £2.50 extra. A reasonable bottle of wine is £14 - £16. But the quality and the service was still just as good. Maybe I would baulk at paying the full prices, but when The Times Offer is on could be a good time to visit Edinburgh ....