Review by Alan Scott and Special K (the peat-obsessed girlfriend).
Amber restaurant is located within the Scotch Whisky Experience at the top of Edinburgh’s bustling tourist hive that is the Royal Mile. It offers contemporary Scottish cuisine and a vast selection of whiskies from all over Scotland (however note that no International/non-Scottish whiskies are offered).
On approach to Amber we were greeted by a friendly member of staff at the door and once inside we immediately made a bee line for the whisky shop. A good selection of whisky glasses, whisky and trinkets can be found in the shop if albeit a little over priced for my liking. After pottering round the shop and working up an appetite we made our way to the restaurant. The easiest way to describe the ambiance would be rustic with industrial touches. Lots of wood and sharp edges, a homely inviting feel with the obligatory all important flashes of amber coloured furniture pieces. There’s a separate bar area which from a visual standpoint would make a great place for drinks and schmoozing, especially as it had a backdrop of whisky bottles peppered along the shelves of the wall.
On to the all important food review… I must admit to being a little disappointed, the prices are very reasonable and portion sizes good but we found the food lacking in taste. Special K ordered a vegetarian haggis, neeps and tatties with whisky sauce, while I picked the breast of chicken with skirlie, purple sprouting broccoli and grain mustard mash potato for a main. We skipped the starters as there was nothing we wanted to try. The vegetarian haggis was hard on the bottom possibly from sitting on the pass for too long or possibly from being microwaved, we weren’t sure. The chicken was okay but the haggis that came with the dish, much like the veggie haggis, was bland and desperately in need of some seasoning.
We followed the mains up by sharing a cheeseboard of 3 selected Scottish cheeses. It’s only a Minor nitpick, but was we weren’t advised of what the cheeses were or which region they came from. We noted an inoffensive blue on the board, hard creamy brie (blandish but ok) and smoked cheddar (tastiest out of the 3 but still not amazing) alongside the cheese we had some grapes, 4 small oatcakes and some chutney. Definitely not worth the 8 quid if you like your cheese boards or are a lover of strong cheese!
From a customer service perspective the staff were friendly but I must admit this didn’t make up for the fact that we waited ages to be served and we struggled to get the staffs attention when needed. This could be excused if the restaurant was busy but there was only a handful of customers in at the same time as us.
Now to the main selling point of Amber, the Whisky. A couple of positive points worth noting here 1. they offer a large selection of drams from distilleries across every region of Scotland with some rare ones in there too 2. most drams are sold at good prices with every price point catered for. Having said this, we found it strange and a little disappointing that there’s no independent bottlers drams on the menu. My eye was also immediately drawn to the fact that under the section of the menu for Campbeltown there was no Springbank!! (As I later came to understand this is because Springbank isn’t a shareholder of the Scotch whisky experience... sigh).
To get the all round experience we decided to try some drams off the whisky menu. Special K ordered a Laphroaig Lore and I went for a Laphroaig 16 (full review can be found here). When bringing the whiskies over the waiter mentioned that both whiskies were matured in bourbon casks. This isn’t 100% accurate (Lore is a mixture of casks) I was slightly disappointed by this comment and from this wasn’t very confident in staffs whisky knowledge in comparison to rival bars in Edinburgh.
If we were to rate our overall experience at Amber I’d give it a 7/10. For me the food was ok - passable but bland, nothing special or memorable enough to warrant a return visit to the restaurant. The ambiance was good during the day and I can definitely see it looking more inviting under the cover of darkness. The 7 points awarded is mainly due to the wide selection of whiskies which were available, even though as noted above there is no Springbank or independent bottlers represented.
I’d be happy to go back for the occasional dram and would recommend Amber for drinks providing you know what you like and are happy to pick from the menu without assistance, but if you’re looking for guidance on a dram then I’m not sure I could confidently recommend this place. As for food, I’d probably stick to a poke of chips on the way home instead.