Ondine had Andy Warhol thrown out of an orgy…

Posted by in November's Magazine

Ondine is the brainchild of Roy Brett, one-time acolyte of Rick Stein, and occupies a space adjacent to the new fashion hotel – Missoni – that replaced the concrete eyesore in our fine old town, which housed the former offices of the Scottish Parliament.



It’s on the first floor and most of the tables have views either onto George IV Bridge or Victoria Street. I didn’t actually ask him but I’m pretty sure Roy didn’t have this review’s title in mind when naming his new restaurant.

The paintings in the attractive and expensively appointed dining room suggest he is more of a water nymphs man than a fan of Andy Warhol’s eponymous superstar, but you never know. Some things are better left unexplained, no matter how obscure, to allow the observer to reach their own conclusions – like restaurant reviews.

As I say, it’s an attractive space, if you like dining in a place that feels as though it’s straight from the pages of a magazine. Me, I’m ambidextrous. As my friends will tell you, I can relax whatever the vibe and felt quite at home, even though my hair needs cut.

However, for the first time since my initial review (Chop Chop, Leither 51) for this much-loved periodical, we dined with the Chief and Dot.

Now the lovely Dot – prepossessing, well mannered and self-evidently a credit to her parents – also managed to blend effortlessly.

But Gouldie? Well, you probably don’t need me to tell you that after five pints of the Extra Cold he’s the sort that gives any doorman whose job is to prevent ne’er-do-wells sully up-market establishments the jumping heebie-jeebies, even though he has had a haircut.

But I had a quiet word with the chap on the door, thrust a wrinkled 10-spot into his sweaty palm, assured him I’d keep the hairy one in order, and we were in.

Having gained entry, and despite the flock of suited management types that had congregated in a corner obviously talking about how they might yet eject the scruff, we ploughed on.

At this stage we didn’t want to play the we’re here to review your restaurant for The Leither card because, despite the fear and concomitant swift increase in attention and service this statement inevitably brings, it is unprofessional to make the declaration before the food is served.

And we’re nothing if not professional at The Leither. So we simply adopted an air of indifference and casual disdain.
Obviously a wrong call because in the time it took us to procure some drinks we could have finished a full meal in next-door’s Pizza Express. And the service didn’t improve as the night wore on. This is not to say the staff were unfriendly: far from it. They were very smiley and appeared to be trying hard. They just hadn’t mastered the art of remembering things – that we wanted drinks; that we wanted two bottles of wine; that we wanted it cold; that we wanted ice (because it wasn’t cold), etc., etc.

We also had a near fall-out because they didn’t bring chips with Dot’s steak tartare, insisting they didn’t come with the small option, despite their being included on the menu. The chips appeared eventually, and ungrudgingly to be fair.
The food itself was ok, which was disappointing because Sweetness and I had gone for lunch just a week earlier and it had been very good. But the ‘ok’ generalises a range from excellent to awful. We shared the oyster selection (£24 for 12) as a pre-starter, which were fine, if a smidgen expensive, and the waitress didn’t tell us which were which so we had to guess.

I then had mutton broth with Welsh rabbit (£6) which was excellent and a very generous portion. About two platefuls came in a soup tureen for me to serve myself, and to keep it hot. Gouldie had grouse and foie gras terrine with Poilane toast (£7.50), very good, and the ladies had potted rabbit with piccalilli and sourdough (£6) and tempura salt & pepper squid (£7.50). The former was nice but had too much tarragon and the latter tender cephalopod was spoiled by having batter which was neither light nor crisp, suggesting it had either been over-beaten or hadn’t been made with iced water (maybe the kitchen had as much luck as I in procuring some ice).

Our mains were an equally mixed bag – roasted shellfish with aioli (£28), steak tartare with green salad and (eventually) chips (£9.50), fish curry with basmati rice and raita (£18.50) and deep fried halibut with mushy peas and chips (£14.50). I asked the editor to describe succinctly what he thought of the shellfish and the steak – “sybaritic and proper, respectively,” he advised. I did ask.

The fish curry was okay but despite being over-spiced the fish was paradoxically bland, and the halibut didn’t appear to be halibut to me (although the chef in our gang of four assured me it was).

It looked pearly white and therefore fresh but had next to no taste and it was encased in a batter so thick and stodgy it wouldn’t have looked out of place in the World Thick & Stodgy Batter-making Championships.
For pudding we shared a very good treacle tart with clotted cream (£6.50) and a not-so-good caramelised rice with jam (£6) – the rice was too hard and the taste quite cloying.

Anyway, Ondine became a good friend of Andy Warhol’s after having him thrown out of that orgy in 1961. And here was I, saving a good friend from being thrown out of Ondine in 2009.

Gouldie assures me he wasn’t at the orgy, but he was invited.

Score :

Bill for four : £168.50
including two bottles of wine (a good Sauvignon Blanc and a poor Chardonnay – both £15.50)

One response to “Ondine had Andy Warhol thrown out of an orgy…”

  1. Inga says:

    The place certainly looks lovely.

Leave a Reply

Your e-mail address will not be published. Required fields are marked *