Monday, 21 November 2011

Castle Terrace

Castle Terrace, Edinburgh

Visited 19/11/11

Castle Terrace, recently adorned with a Michelin star, is an off-shoot of the wonderful The Kitchin and has the great advantage of being in central Edinburgh, so you don’t have to add on £20 for taxis to Leith. It is in the site of the former Abstract which I quite liked apart from a) the faux-shark-skin tables and b) their belief that vanilla and fish are a good combination. And the ‘champagne cart’.

The space is quite small and neutral and a band of waiters scuttle around with well-trained but slightly cramped precision. They were charming and the sommelier was great. The menu pretentiously heads each dish with the main ingredient, as if one might not work it out for oneself, but everything else about Castle Terrace is very relaxed and friendly

I started with a ceviche of halibut with various Japanese flavours rendered into non-Japanese forms, such as soy jelly and wasabi ice cream. Each element was extremely well executed, distilling the flavours. My only reservation is that you are left to reassemble all the constitutive parts to achieve the tastes that you have combined for you in a really good Japanese restaurant, but that was just a psychological effect and no disrespect to the dish.

The main courses are based around the foods that a number of top Edinburgh restaurants offer—local fish and game. I had venison which came with a quince tatin, chestnuts, pumpkin and gnocchi. The venison was superb in texture and flavour, the quince gave a sharp accent to the meat. Personally I felt the tatin and the gnocchi together were a bit too much. Did all these different elements warrant the elevated prices of Castle Terrace? I had a wonderful but simpler hare dish at the Grain Store the previous week and to be honest I think I enjoyed it more. I did miss the artistry and stunning combinations of flavours of the Kitchin here. With this we had a bottle of Bandol (Sorin, 2005) so lovely that I later researched it on the web only to discover that you could have it for £10 less at the Plumed Horse in Leith. I’m just saying.

Pudding was a little disappointing given the exemplary standards of cooking elsewhere. I had a pear infused with hibiscus, but despite closing my eyes and concentrating really hard, I couldn’t get any flavour of pear and not much hibiscus. This came with a delicious, delicate nougatine.

In sum, Castle Terrace is very good indeed, but in my view the starry Leith restaurants are a noticeable notch above.

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