Andrew MacRobert is Head Chef of the numerous restaurants in Edinburgh’s Roxburghe Crown Plaza Hotel which includes the George Street Bar & Grill looking over Charlotte Square.
5pm: How did you get to where you are now in hospitality?”
“Lots of hard work and dedication. I’ve just been lucky enough to work and meet some of the good people in the industry. John Paul McLachlan, he was at the Marine [hotel] in North Berwick, I worked with him as a senior sous-chef for three and a half years. He has a great reputation, he worked with Martin Rus and Gordon Ramsay, so I learnt a lot from him. I was introduced to him by Joe Queen, anybody who is anybody in the Scottish culinary knows who Joe Queen is. Joe is executive chef of Braehead foods and has been around for a long time. Guy is president of Federation of Chefs. So yeah, long hard work and being lucky enough to work with some of the best people in the industry has got me to where I am today. “
5pm: Can you run through how you started chefing?
“I started in the Omar Hotel, in Bridge of Allan, which is owned by Terry Butcher, the ex England captain at the time. I did my apprenticeship there with chef called Paul McGrill, another fantastic chef.
“Then I moved to Jersey where I really found my passion for shellfish, fish and fresh produce. For such a small island, it has an abundance of good ingredients. Jersey really brought me on as a chef. I worked in the Village Bistro and in another few small places on the island and had a great education.
“In 2002 I went up to the Forrest Hills Hotels in The Trossachs, as a sous-chef for three and a half years there. I then moved to the Isle of Arran, and ran the Lagg Hotel, a little 14 bedroom country house hotel, and built up a great reputation with the food there.
“Three years later I went to the Marine down in Berwick, with John Paul plus I did a short summer season as an acting sous-chef at The Old Course in St Andrews.
“I was fortunate enough that the Roxburghe came up and due to my experience I got the role here. That was ten months ago and now we are re-branding into The Crowne Plaza and we have a lovely new restaurant, which we’ve been able to make our own and put a stamp on it and here we are today!
“In the restaurant all our products are locally sourced; the steaks, the fish, everything is locally sourced. We try and give a good service with a smile and try and take care of people that come in. We are obviously part of the hotel, so we welcome the guests of the hotel too.”
5pm: You have background of working on a farm?”
“Yes, I used to help on my uncle’s farm out in Port of Menteith. My big brother also works for limousine herd and they have 13 farms and a big estate so I have a real appreciation for beef, lamb and pigs. I grew up around them but didn’t think of becoming a chef, when I was younger. I really fell into it and never went back, it was all through work experience at school. In third year, and I didn’t know what to do and figured “I like cooking”. When I worked with my uncle, my Aunt was a great baker and would cook a lot. I was fond of the sweet stuff, so I choose to go into the kitchen and didn’t look back.“
5pm: So that farming background, gave you appreciation of meat and local produce?
“Meat and vegetables and not just meat, everything – tomatoes, cauliflower, broccoli, wild berries.”
5pm: Do you try and bring as much of that into your cooking now?
“We try too. We try and keep it as fresh as possible, buy in little, small and more often. I can get deliveries 7 days a week. The steak comes from Buccleuch, who’s meat is well renowned. When you get good produce, you don’t really need to too much with it.
“I love fish, especially after my time in Jersey. I’ve never looked back from then. I love seabass, turbot, scallops; scallops are so versatile, they can take so many different flavours, – chilli, coriander or cauliflower puree, they take on anything they want and you can be creative. It is important to be like that.”
5pm: Can you give us an idea of the other types of dishes you do at The George Street Grill?
“We do a catch of the day, everyday, whether it be whole roasted lemon sole, or dover sole or steamed muscles, poached bit of smoked salmon, roasted Cajun salmon. That all comes on one slate. I work with all the chefs here and its pretty much the suppliers who dictate our daily specials as they supply what’s fresh that day. We put our thinking caps on and say “lets make that” so there’s not any one thing that’s the same. People come in specifically for the ‘catch of the day’.
“Calves liver is very popular, it’s amazing. I do a warm chicken liver salad with pancetta, mushroom and red wine jus, it flies out the door. Braised beef cheeks are popular, I seal them and braise them for thirteen hours overnight, cook them at a low temperature and take them out in the morning , strain the cooking juices, reduce that down and into the sauce for the actual beef and it’s very intense. It’s an off cut and people are more tempted by off cuts. Even though we are a grill and we do lots of steak, people still love trying other things out.”
5pm: You won an award recently, the Food and Drink Special Commendation Award at the 2014 Scottish Hotel Awards – congratulations.
“Yes. It’s been very successful. We won and it’s all going very well and we’re getting lots of positive feedback as well. The location is really good, we try and make the best of this location.“
5pm: Why do you like being based in Edinburgh’s New Town?
“The clientele that we get is very good. There are a lot of offices around here, so lunches are very popular but families as well, at weekends. This is a very good location over summertime, there’s the Book Festival in Charlotte Square, which we’re ideally placed for. I love this city and living here.”
£16.95 for 2 courses on pre-theatre menu + glass of prosecco – George Street Bar & Grill have a number of offers, reviews & menus on 5pm Dining – check them all out here.