You’ve got to love these voucher websites. While some may feel uncomfortable using them, the truth is that they offer us lesser mortals the opportunity to wine and dine in some exceptional establishments which would usually be out of our price bracket. Or they allow us to try out a restaurant which we would have previously missed on our search for gastronomical fulfilment.
Anna and I use ItIsOn, which caters for (pun intended) Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Dundee and Newcastle-Upon-Tyne (just in case you thought I meant the -under-Lyme version). And we have been able to enjoy some incredible meals in some wonderful places across the city. We also went somewhere stuffy, pretentious and unwelcoming… but that’s for another story.
Anna had decided to treat me recently to one of said vouchers and our latest excursion took us to the Royal Mile and into a well hidden restaurant named Monteith’s.
I had come straight from work, as had Anna, and we met on Princes Street. The pair of us had been salivating all day at the prospect of enjoying a steak dinner for two with an accompanying glass of red wine. So, we exchanged pleasantries, loaded up Google Maps and made a beeline straight for our destination. There was no time to be spared.
As we turned the corner at Radison’s, I spotted a sign in the distance. Actually, it was the sign for Monteith’s, but I’m being all enigmatic, so I’ll continue.
Looking like a cross between a bookshop from Harry Potter and a 19th Century cobbler’s from the outside, we knew we had arrived. The feeling of intrigue and wonderment was left unabated by the delightful fairylight illuminated walkway through which we had to walk to reach the entrance.
I couldn’t decide if we were heading in for our steaks or to a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party. It really was quite the experience.
The stairs twisted and turned with curios, knick-knacks and more adorning the walls and shelves. Until we finally reached the bar.
We were greeted warmly and genuinely as they asked us if we would like to sit for a drink first or head straight to our table. In case you didn’t read any of the top bit there, we headed straight for the table.
Looking round, it felt like being in the living room of the coolest person on Earth. With book shelves, dark but no sullen colours on the walls, a massive mirror which helped to keep the place from feeling dingy and the chairs which didn’t quite match. It felt like being invited somewhere and welcomed wholeheartedly. You could feel the pride of the place in every aspect of it, and quite rightly so. Anna and I looked around the room to see which ideas we could steal for when we decide to decorate our abode.
And the men’s washroom smelled amazing. A strange sentiment, I grant you, but hear me out. You know when you watch Mad Men and Don Draper comes on the screen. Just by looking at him you think, “I bet he smells amazing”. It’s smelled like that…. just me? Like you don’t think Jon Hamm smells wonderful… liar.
Our waitress came over to bring us our menus and we decided to start with a portion of the olives whilst we waited for our steaks. The olives were amazing. Just incredible. They were marinated in oil with a little bit of vinegar (I think) so they weren’t too piquant, as well as some chilli for a little bit of heat and I think there was onion in there?
They tasted like meat. Which doesn’t exactly sound like a ringing endorsement but it is. They were the most powerful olives I have ever eaten.
While we were gorging ourselves on the olives our waiter (it was fairly informal, we had a few people serve us throughout the night) came over with a strange contraption, which turned out to be a water jug with cucumber and grapefruit sliced inside which really helped to cleanse our palates after the olives. And can I just say, having tried and failed to use the bloody thing, you sir are an artiste at water pouring. I sent a cascade of water across Noodle’s side of the table on my first attempt while he spilled nary a drop.
We were asked how we wanted our steaks cooked. This is the point where I usually give up all hope. I can count on one hand the number of times “How would you like your steak?” has turned out to be a rhetorical question. They ask as though they care, but they don’t. You’re getting it medium or burnt. They are your options.
This time, however, I was pleasantly flabbergasted. I ordered mine Blue and Anna ordered hers Medium-Rare. And lo and behold, they were cooked to those exact specifications. If I didn’t have a free afternoon, which gives me the time to pad this entry out a little bit more, I would just leave it there. I ordered a steak and it came the way I asked. Goodnight everyone, go to Monteith’s.
Except, I do have the time so we’re going to sit here and listen to me prattle on.
I love steak. I love all meat, actually. But steak has a special place in my heart. And good steak is something which I reminisce of time and time again. This was, possibly, the best steak I have ever had in my 28 (so far) years of living. It was everything you dream of when you watch Masterchef and they describe the meat as being “cooked beautifully” and “melt in your mouth”. When I heard that before, I just imagine a mushy lump. I was wrong. The steak held together like a dream, sliced like butter and dissolved into a protein enriched ambrosia as you chewed.
I ordered mine with a Bearnaise sauce which had just the right amount of everything and went perfectly with the meat and duck fat cooked chips (I could eat a bowl of those chips right now). Anna had the Peppercorn sauce and it was equally as delicious, just enough heat, not too creamy and the kind of richness which makes you feel all warm on the inside without being sickly. This definitely wasn’t your average store bought sauce.
Our steaks came with a glass of Merlot and as I’m not a sommelier and know very little about wine I will just say, it was a good wine and went well with the meal.
Having finished off our dinner, we considered moving on to dessert. Instead, we opted to enjoy some cocktails and chat about our day.
Choosing a single cocktail from that list was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do since I went to The Voyage of Buck (shameless self plug). Every single one of them sounded like something I would not only enjoy but that I would cherish, dearly.
In the end, I went with the luscious sounding Rum and Raisin Old Fashioned (because I’m a sucker for a good Old Fashioned) and Anna went with Jerry’s Charred Orange.
If you asked me to decide between eating dessert ever again or having this at the end of my meal, I would stare at you blankly until this arrived at my table. Everything about it was crafted to perfection. The hand carved ice keeping it cold without watering it down, the balance of sweetness with the heat of the alcohol, the amount of drink you actually got (not too little, just enough but you would definitely enjoy another). It was an honour and a privilege to have enjoyed this drink.
Equally as good, but in differing reasons, was Anna’s cocktail. First of all, it smelled like a chocolate orange, which is always a good sign. It was packed full of big, robust flavours which all worked in harmony. Sometimes, when you get boisterous characters like that in one single drink, it all becomes a bit too much, like watching Geordie Shore. There’s so much going on you just want to turn off and have a beer. This cocktail managed to get every single ingredient to agree to let the other shine, while not muting themselves at all. It is a technical marvel and an example of potable perfection.
We finished our meal with a couple of hot drinks, because we’re civilised and that’s what civilised people do. I wasn’t in the mood for coffee as I had to be up in the morning and caffeine either doesn’t seem to work on me or it supercharges my brain to the point that I’m not entirely sure if I’ve just taken crystal meth. So I wasn’t willing to take the risk.
I went with some peppermint tea, a perfect digestif, and Anna had an Americano, because she’s loco.
I love a good cup of tea. Not just your classic black tea, any sort. If it can be stewed in hot water and sipped gingerly, I’m game. This was a good cup of tea. And it came in a tea pot, which always brings a smile to my face.
That’s the coffee. I didn’t try any but Anna seemed to enjoy it. However, if you cast your eye slightly above the cup, you will see one solitary square sitting lonelily atop a slate tile. That is what was left of the sumptuous fudge they brought us at the end of our meal. I’d go back for a pot of tea and some fudge alone, truth be told.
All in all, our meal cost us under £60, with the voucher. Which, I think you will agree, is an absolute steal. Without the voucher, it would have been much closer to £100 and, do you know what? That is perfectly fair. It wouldn’t be overpriced, it would be worth every damn penny.
From the level of service you receive to the quality of the food and drinks, we may not be able to afford to eat here regularly but we will definitely be coming back for drinks and you can bet your ass that we have added this to our list of special nights out. Birthdays, anniversaries and such.
If you’re reading this, people of Monteith’s, thank you for a wonderful evening and we shall be back soon.,