I’ve given our trip to Edinburgh this year the unofficial title “The Big Tom Kitchin Love-in Weekender”.
Over the August bank holiday weekend we visited 3 restaurants in 3 days. Each had strong ties to the curly haired culinary maestro.
Saturday night was the turn of Castle Terrace, sister restaurant to The Kitchin.
On Sunday we visited Tom Kitchin’s gasto pub, The Scran & Scallie. And, when we popped into The Ship on the Shore for Monday lunch, who was chilling out on his day off? The man himself - I wasn’t stalking him… honest.
First, back to Saturday night.
Located in the shadow of Edinburgh Castle, Castle Terrace has held a Michelin star since 2011 thanks to the guidance of Chef Patron Dominic Jack. With the same ‘Nature to Plate’ philosophy as The Kitchin, their food is all about high-end seasonal Scottish produce prepared using classical French technique with a dash of molecular gastronomy thrown in for good measure.
The tasting menu (which we ordered) weighs in at a cool £75 whilst the a la carte has starters for around £15, mains for £30 and puds at £10. Finding anything in the weighty wine list for less than £35 is a bit of mission too - but after a good thumbing we stumbled on a beautifully floral viognier for a respectable £27.
A trio of canapés to kick off the meal were a mixture of good and outstanding. A striking jet black pastry was filled with a light salt cod mousse whilst a cumin twanged mini burger was let down by a squiffy burger to bun ratio. The clear stand out was a “Caesar salad” – a vivid green olive-like glob containing a wonderfully creamy, cheesy & salty liquid centre.
A basket of warm crusty bread was impossible to fault.
Gazpacho, one of my favourite summertime dishes, saw a light cucumber jelly topped with a vibrant tomato-based soup with a venerable chilli kick.
A Japanese influenced gurnard tartare was another perfect dish for the warm weather – finely diced fish was joined by crisp puffed rice, cubes of intense soy jelly, cylinders of pickled cucumber and a nose-tickling wasabi ice cream.
A juggernaut of a scallop - hand-dived that day in Orkney - was as sweet as can be. An accompanying tart of caramelised shallots, anchovy and olive was equally lush. However, the sweetness of the two elements meant they’d have worked better as two separate dishes.
It seems sacrilegious to say the best risotto to ever pass my lips isn’t made with rice but with that hipster favourite… spelt. But this dish of unparalleled indulgence still has me drooling almost a month after the meal. The nutty grains were bathed in a creamy sauce laced with Parmesan, sweet peas, fragrant summer truffle, crisp cubes of ox tongue and chorizo slices. Oofh.
A dish of extraordinary lightness and fragrance balanced the richness of the preceding course. A meaty fillet of hake was paired with a dainty raviolo of crab, a salad of cucumber, sweetcorn and radish, and a fragrant Thai broth, heady with lemongrass, coriander and fish sauce.
The more I eat grouse the more I can’t get enough of it. Delicately gamey and perfumed with heather, Castle Terrace serve theirs (£10 supplement) with crafty interpretations of the classic accompaniments (a paper-thin game chip, a deep meaty gravy and a croquetta like cube of bread sauce) alongside a few extras (dainty parsley gnocchi, sautéed girolles and a buttery watercress puree).
Then, things came crashing down to earth with a clanger of a dish. A non-descript flavoured, overly set blackberry panna cotta couldn’t be saved by its captivating, geometric appearance. An accompanying handwash-like lemon verbena sorbet and a piece of shortbread, which rapidly became soggy in the presence of a watery blackcurrant sauce, were no better.
It’s a shame the only disappointing dish of the night was also the last. However, a clutch of killer petit fours pulled things back around - a salted caramel filled chocolate, a pistachio macaron and a perfectly soft and chewy piece of nougat were all faultless.
I liked Castle Terrace a heck of a lot. However, I didn’t like it as much as The Kitchin.
Whilst the atmosphere at Castle Terrace was way better (a brilliant buzz of chatter reverberated around the dining room and Nina Simone provided a funky soundtrack in the bar), the food at The Kitchin felt less faffy and therefore let the unbelievable produce speak more for itself.
Address - Castle Terrace, 33/35 Castle Terrace, Edinburgh EH1 2EL
Telephone - 0131 229 1222