From where you are, you can hear their dreams... He’s previously borrowed from Shakespeare and invoked the philosophers Voltaire, Camus and Homer Simpson: this month, John Holmes thinks nought of the ponceometer risks by bastardising Dylan Thomas. A short while back, on pondering our too-short a summer and, unlike the Bard, comparing it to the statistical likelihood of a new restaurant’s longevity, I encouraged you to support our Leith newcomers. Not so far up The Walk, another newcomer arrived to much fan-fair and, according to many, was the most widely-anticipated Edinburgh restaurant opening for years. Paul Kitching (not to be confused with Leith’s own (or adopted) Tom Kitchin of Michelin-star fame) decided to up his game, leave his Altrincham base, and move to Edinburgh. In Altrincham he’d built quite a reputation with his playful, quirky, ingredients-driven cooking at Juniper, which also had a Michelin star. His new gaff – 21212 – occupies an expensively refurbished townhouse on Royal Terrace. We visited for lunch in the first week of opening, on a sunny holiday Friday in May. Sweetness and I were the only customers. There were six cooks on display (you can count them through a glass-fronted kitchen facing the dining room – close enough to hear their dreams). The whole place is fabulously opulent. It’s all silk drapes, velvet banquets, hand-printed wallpaper, interesting artwork, etc. I don’t normally like opulence, but it works. The lunch was excellent, but given the proximity to opening day - with the potential for wrinkles, yet the undivided attention of 6 cooks arguably making it a doddle - it may not have afforded the most reliable representation of the kitchen’s skills on which to base a review. So we returned for dinner in a typical, nearing-autumn driech, to see how it was developing. The warmth of the welcome and general sunny disposition of the place had not waned, despite (or perhaps because of) the grey downpour outside. The format for dinner is much the same as lunch (and is hinted at in the name) – you’re offered a choice from two starters, followed by a soup, a choice from two mains, then a cheese board, and a choice from two puddings, with coffee and truffle chocolates to finish. All of this will set you back £60 a head. Not cheap, so is it worth it? Well… Sweetness and I were accompanied by good friends that night - Richard “don’t go daft with the wine, I’m happy with a bottle of plonk” Scott and his (far-too-glamorous-for-him) wife, Elizabeth. A charming evening ensued of intelligent chat (Hibs hopelessness), witty repartee (“don’t sit too far back without your hearing-aid or you’ll end up with next table’s trifle instead of your trout”) and foodie insight (“how much was that wine?! I told you not to go daft. Is the Leither paying for this?” “NO - or not your share anyway. Gouldie’ll have a canary as it is.”). The starters were Scallops and Trout Fillet, Broccoli, Hazelnuts, Herb Pancake, and Bees Pollen or Summer Vegetable Ragout, Bayonne Ham, Morels, and Granny Smiths. Both were outstanding with a brilliant marriage of flavours. The soup was so moreish that they really should have given us more. (NB If you’re the type who’s likely to comment on portions rather than food quality, this place is not for you.) But at this stage I have to admit I couldn’t recall what kind of soup we ate. I did my usual and took away a copy of the menu but upon deciding, eventually, to sit down and write this review, I found the menu simply stated “Soup”. Further, it advised me only that we had “Cheese” for the second 1 in the 21212 line-up. So, I spoke to Katie (Paul’s effervescent partner) on the ‘phone - the soup was Green Pea puree, Macadamia nuts (named after a Scot, don’t you know), Bacon, Sultana (yes, singular) and Split Pea cream foam. She was able to tell me this well after our visit because Lauren, one of the waitresses, is dyslexic. Wait for it... Lauren does drawings of all the ingredients for the soup so when asked what kind it is, she has a visual reminder on which to call. Adversity breeds innovation, eh. But the cheese will have to remain a mystery (Lauren doesn’t draw cheese). All Katie and I can tell you is that there is a selection of three, it’s sourced from Henri’s in Morningside Road (who, from previous experience, normally specialise in French cheese), it changes daily and all three were delicious and generously proportioned. It’s served with delicious home-made oat biscuits. The home-bread is also delicious but went better with the cheese, because it’s quite sweet, than with the other dishes.
The mains were Beef Filet, Glazed Pears, Feta, Pink Peppercorns, Caramelized Onions or Tender Young Sea Bass, Toulouse Sausage, Brown Rice, Cucumber, Carrot Puree. Both were superb. The beef was the most tender I’ve had in years and the sea bass was plump and spanking fresh. Again, every ingredient splendidly complimented the others, resulting in wonderful synergy in each dish. The puddings were Layered Chocolate Trifle, “Icky Sticky” Sponge, and Pedro Ximenez or Baked Egg Custard, Dried Cherries, Pudding Rice, and Caraway. Both were stunning. 1 We hosed it all down with a couple of bottles of excellent Alsace Pinot Blanc 2007 Lucien Albrecht Reserve and an equally good Morellino di Scansano 2005 from Tuscany. Richard and Elizabeth have a holiday home in a converted farmhouse in Tuscany, and they approved (despite the former continuing to witter on about its price – don’t know how she puts up with him). This was certainly the best meal I’ve had in Edinburgh for ages. The menu is brilliantly judged and the food first rate. Every dish is intriguing and thought-provoking, which is something you simply don’t get in lesser places. But this is not playful stuff – this is serious, confident, high-end cooking. So when 21212’s diners retire, their losses and disappointments, and flight and fall and despairs and big seas of their dreams flitting through their minds, they can go gentle into a rainy Royal Terrace with a warm glow. Albeit with lighter wallets too. Bill for four: £347 - £240 for food, £87 for 3 bottles of wine + £20 for pre-dinner drinks. Lunch is £20 for two courses + £10 for each course thereafter. Score:
21212 3 Royal Terrace EH7 5AB T. 0845 22 21212 or 0131 523 1030 www.21212restaurant.co.uk
Adjective borrowed from WT “Ahem” Gould, as I’ve run out of superlatives.
Published on Nov 1, 2009