Having a Michelin star may not be the be all and end all of a good restaurant, but it is often at the very least an indication that the chef may have an idea when it comes to cooking! In the case of Tom Kitchin, there can be absolutely no doubt at all that he has a genuine passion for food and this shines through in all three of his Edinburgh eateries.
Having previously enjoyed eating at his flagship restaurant The Kitchin down in Leith, where the glass panel allows you to stare into the busy bustling kitchen, but sadly having not yet managed to get into his gorgeous looking bistro pub, I can say that wherever you eat the beauty of the experience is in the fact that flavor seems to be the focus; fancy techniques and presentation are there but they are understated and not the main focus.
So, last time we were in Edinburgh, Charlotte and I took full advantage of a gift voucher (a present for our second wedding anniversary) to Tom’s restaurant in the city centre, Castle Terrace. Looking forward to a night of good eating, we drove the short distance from our hotel to Castle Terrace. This trip turned out to be the only negative event of the evening as parking in Edinburgh seems to be either free but in an area where you feel your car may not have all its hubcaps when you return, or so expensive you fear it may cost more than your meal!
Sitting down in the bar, we both ordered a drink and were able to soak in the atmosphere that is surprisingly far less stuffy than you would imagine for a high-end restaurant. We were presented very quickly with the most delightful assortment of nibbles which included a dish that actually allowed me to enjoy squid ink after having been put off by a bad experience when I was much younger!
With the nibbles gone in an instant we were presented with the far harder choice of what to eat. This pretty much left us in a world of pain as we knew that whatever we picked there would always the chance we would miss the dish of the night (and therefore face the nightmare that is food envy!)
Having decided to go for a wild mushroom starter followed by monkfish wrapped in pancetta I felt comfortable in my choice as I strolled through into the dining area.
Although relaxed and somewhat more cosy than The Kitchin I felt that the lack of an open kitchen and also the slightly shut off feel of the dining area detracted somewhat from the lovely décor and excellent waiting staff who were attentive and enthused when describing dishes and wines, allowing us to feel that we would be comfortable in what we would be enjoying and not just having a stab in the dark.
As my mushroom dish appeared I was in no doubt my choice had been vindicated as nothing felt nor looked slimy and despite being a touch too ‘brown’ for my liking, the sauce and mushroom mix hinted at a rich woody flavour that looked set to pack a punch in terms of flavour and promptly delivered on this.
With the starter gobbled down almost too quickly we awaited the sumptuous mains which were soon brought to us and described in beautiful detail – why is it that only top restaurants seem to do this, not just popping food down like its slop?
Meanwhile, I looked over in sheer confusion at Charlotte’s dish…where were the chickpeas that had been described on the menu?! Fortunately the fantastic waiting staff pointed out that the ‘burger bun’ enveloping the pulled pork was actually made of chickpeas. It was a dish to trick the eyes and the taste buds and by all accounts made for a highly scrummy dish that boasted an extremely rich and smooth texture for the pork and packed an almighty flavour punch to boot.
My main itself was lovely but not astounding and although it respected the monkfish and the celeriac puree was just as you’d expect, it somehow left me thinking that I hadn’t made a smart choice compared to some of the other treats available. Alas one cannot always have their cake and eat it!
With my very slight disappointment out of the way, dessert was soon brought in to restore a smile to my face as I saw a magnificent strawberry soufflé presented to Charlotte and a raspberry dish for me that offered a lovely aroma as well as beautiful presentation. It did not let down in terms of taste either!
All in all, a great dining experience, yet for all the focus on flavour I felt somewhat wistful that I wasn’t sat down in Leith in The Kitchin enjoying a slightly riskier dinner…
Categories: Restaurant reviews