Everything at Agua was a treat

Agua restuarant in the Apex Grassmarket Hotel, Edinburgh
Agua restuarant in the Apex Grassmarket Hotel, Edinburgh

Hotel dining used to get a poor name for offering very standard fare but that’s certainly all changed in recent years.

Many of the country’s top chefs are now linked to hotels, whether it be individual properties or brands, while others are now happy to boast that they don’t only offer attractive and comfortable accommodation but the food is also of the highest standards.

The Apex hotel in Edinburgh’s Grassmarket is such a place. You would be right to think that it’s a very handy location, a short distance from the Royal Mile and in the heart of this lively part of the city, but don’t just pass by, pop in and try its Agua restaurant.

Once inside you will immediately be taken by the very stylish surroundings and despite being a long, narrow room there is no feeling of tables being squashed in – which, as any regular reader will know, is one of my pet hates.

However, not only is it a pleasant ambience in which to enjoy your meal, it’s also very reasonable on the wallet.

We selected from the fixed priced menu which offers lunch from 12.30-5pm for a remarkable £10.95 for two courses or £14.95 for three. Even in the evening from 5-9.45pm the cost is only £16.95 or £19.95 – excellent for city centre establishments.

For those who want an even wider choice of dishes there is also the a la carte menu to select from.

Despite this being a fixed price option there was certainly no stinting on the added extras which all added to the experience.

Bread and two dips – oil and balsamic, as well as chilli, were immediately brought to the table and were a welcome appetiser as we waited on our starters to arrive.

We didn’t take too long to make our choices and everything we went for was delicious, while the presentation was perfect.

A trio of home cured Scottish salmon, including beetroot and gin with juniper, was lovely, while the chicken wing lolly pops served with a spiced buttery tomato sauce I was assured tasted even better than they looked if that was possible.

The heather honey glazed pork belly was perfectly cooked and the accompaniments of parsnip and thyme puree, buttered carrots and apple and vanilla jam made this a plate of food that you would want to eat again and again.

The caramelised beef cheeks provided a substantial portion of meat which had been cooked so well it just fell apart on the fork. It came with garlic creamed potato and red wine jus making it a perfect winter warmer.

It’s hard to believe I know but after those two courses we had no room for dessert, especially after seeing what was arriving at neighbouring tables.

But given how clean their plates were afterwards, I would happily try the lemon posset and the double chocolate brownie with pistachio ice cream and warmed chocolate sauce – something to look forward to for the next time.

But the treats weren’t finished because when we ordered coffee to round off our meal, it came with two handmade chocolates each.

As we stepped back outside in the cold, wintery evening we were already planning our next trip to Agua indicating how good this meal truly was.