The Witchery by the Castle is something of an Edinburgh institution. Owned by renowned hotelier and restaurateur James Thomson, it was established in 1979 and quickly grew into Scotland’s best-known restaurant, developing a worldwide reputation for exceptional food, wine and service within the most atmospheric of settings.
And what a setting it is. Whether you eat in the magical Secret Garden or the candle-lit indulgent Witchery, the surroundings are unique, theatrical and decadent. Situated on a cobbled street at the foot of Edinburgh Castle, this place is the last word in romance.
Located in the most historic part of the building, the Witchery is rich, warm and atmospheric, its oak-panelled walls hung with tapestries, mirrors and carvings. We ate in the enchanting Secret Garden, which, entered from the courtyard above via a stone staircase, looks onto a hidden urn-filled terrace studded with candles.
The classic menu is relaxed and unfussy but well thought out and showcasing the very best in Scottish produce, such as Angus beef, lamb, game and seafood. To start, I chose smoked fish from the Inverawe smokehouse: Loch Etive trout with East Lothian crème fraiche, eel with micro herbs and hot-smoked salmon with beetroot puree. Each element of the dish was distinctive in it’s flavour and texture, the eel in particular standing out with the deep smokiness and balanced with the delicate micro herbs. Across the table, herb-baked Kilbrannan scallops were sweet and fleshy and perfectly matched with deeply savoury smoked Iberico pancetta and garlic. A stupendous start to the meal.
We were both in the mood for red meat and opted to share a Beef Wellington for two people, which, at £78, was ferociously expensive but turned out to be worth it. Served medium-rare, the meat was meltingly tender and encased in beautifully flaky pastry. The accompaniments of garlic mashed potato, green beans and truffle and Madeira jus were perfect, the mash perfectly seasoned, the beans with a slight crunch and the jus pleasingly rich with a subtle and not over-powering truffle flavour. A very good bottle of Château Montaiguillon, Saint Emilion was the icing on the cake.
We carried the sharing theme through to dessert and devoured the Witchery pudding selection, comprising of: Chocolate torte, rhubarb triffle, bread and butter pudding and burnt Cambridge cream. Each constituent was sublime, the bread and butter pudding being declared the winner. Or was it the chcolate torte? Or the rhubarb triffle?
The service at The Witchery was truly excellent. Discreet but friendly, welcoming and helpful. The sommelier made an excellent wine recommendation and the waiters were able to answer any queries we had of the menu. The only question we left with in our minds was when could we return?
At around £160 for two including wine and coffee, dinner at The Witchery is not cheap. It is however very special and worth every single penny for a magical dining experience in Scotland’s capital. If you really want to push the boat out, there are several stunning suites – but these can be booked up months in advance so it’s worth checking availability.
For more information, please visit: www.thewitchery.com
**Reviewed by:** Carine Seitz