W Edinburgh W Deck_landscape_4

Review: SUSHISAMBA, Edinburgh

As someone who reviews a lot of restaurants in Edinburgh, there’s a handful of questions which recur on a regular basis. By far the most frequent is “what’s your favourite restaurant?”, but then there are a whole bunch of others jostling for elbow space. Where are the best private dining spaces? Where’s good for gluten-free or vegetarian dining? Where has the best views?

That last question about stellar vistas of the capital has a few answers, depending on how you want to eat. The Lookout on Carlton Hill is undoubtedly the best, but it’s not cheap. Chaopraya’s glass box has good views of the castle if you feel like Thai food, and if top-end fine dining is the order of the day, the Pompadour is right up there with its views of the castle and Princes Street.

But there is now a strong viewing platform challenger from the ultra-hip W Hotel – one of around 75 in the world’s most fashionable cities – which comes with an unbeatable 360 degree rooftop view of Edinburgh, and which also offers a cocktails terrace. The W Deck, a terrace and outdoor bar which provides panoramic views over every part of the city and across to the bridges and to Fife, is one of the highest points in the city and is truly stunning if you’re looking out rather than in (it’s just below the controversial and contemporary Mr Whippy-style landmark that powers over the end of George Street and which has become universally known as The Turd by the city’s largely unimpressed inhabitants).

There are occasionally signs that a summer is about to break out in these parts and when that happens, the W Deck and its bar, which is run by ace Sri Lankan sommelier Sumith Alahakoon, is a glorious sun trap. When summer stays away, it can be as chilly as it is windy.

Fortunately, there are no shortage of places inside the hotel to have a scoop or two. Not only that but if you’re planning to eat then the W Hotel’s in-house restaurant Sushisamba is right next to floor-to-ceiling windows which look out over much of the city, although they are marred slightly by a barrier which comes up to eye level and obscures a significant chunk of the view when you’re sitting.

With the W Hotel being slap bang in the middle of one of the most restaurant-dense square miles in northern Europe, Sushisamba has been designed as an adaptable restaurant serving the obvious combination of ‘Japanese, Brazilian and Peruvian cuisine’. The hotel clearly believes this will appeal to both international visitors and the domestic market, while they say the rest of the picture is completed by relatively affordable food in small quantities (our meals came in at well over £200, so ‘relatively’ is doing quite a lot of heavy lifting here).

We started off with a big bowl of sea salted edamame (£5) seasoned with lime ad plantain chips with a sauce made from the Peruvian yellow chilli pepper aji amarillo (£6). So far so great.

Next up were a selection of small plates. By far the best dish of our meal was a gorgeous taco stuffed with yellowtail tuna, avocado and roasted corn miso (£17), but we also loved the five wagyu gyozu – little dumplings from northern China – which came with kabocha puree and sweet soy sauce (£19). Less endearing was a tuna ceviche (£17) which sat in a stew of pomegranate leche de tigre (‘tiger’s milk’ is a soup with the consistency of broth which is made by made by blending fish trimmings, onion, garlic, ginger, coriander stalks and chili). I like my ceviche au natural and although this is a personal preference, honestly, I wouldn’t order this if I had my time again.

We moved swiftly on to the Peruvian street food of antichuchos, which was comprised of two perfectly cooked skewers of cod cooked in miso (£25) which came with a plate of Peruvian corn, which is rather like a cross between broad beans and corn on the cob, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

We now entered the Japanese phase of the meal, which consisted mainly of sushi with a tiny excursion into sashimi land. I’ve always liked Californian rolls, and the eight chunky discs of crab, cucumber, avocado, seasame, Japanese mayo and truffle oil (£17) was both the best value dish, and one of the most enjoyable. We finished with sea bass sashimi (£8), which disappeared in one gulp and salmon roe Ikura nigiri sushi (£9), wrapped in seaweed.

We rounded off with an enjoyable Carioca, a Brazilian dish made of 66% dark chocolate, caramelia mousse and obata coffee (£12) and five golf-ball-sized Japanese doughnuts which were served with dulce de leche, red fruit coulis and citron ice cream (£12), a dish I’d definitely order again.

It goes without saying that in somewhere as high end as W Hotel, the service was impeccable but slightly more surprising was the fact that the wines very not only good but surprisingly decent value. Overall, this was a very enjoyable, if gastronomically schizophrenic, experience. But solid though the food was, it was no match for the views.

SUSHISAMBA, W Hotel, 1 St James Square, Edinburgh EH1 3AX. 0131 287 1450.


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