Edinburgh holds a very special place in my heart. I studied there many moons ago and over the years have visited at least twice a year, and always for the Edinburgh Festival in August which I haven’t missed in over 20 years. Each time I visit, I fall in love with it a little bit more. Having recently moved to nearby Glasgow, I am shocked by how different these two cities are, whilst only being an hour apart. The architecture, the vibe, the people, the shops, the food scene…its quite astonishing. The bonus of this is that I get a good mix of everything living in Glasgow and being able to pop across to Edinburgh whenever I feel like it.
Edinburgh is really quite a small and compact city but even so, it boasts 4 Michelin star restaurants, the greatest number of Michelin-starred restaurants in the UK outside London, which is quite an achievement. One of those is 21212…a Michelin-starred restaurant with rooms, where chef Paul Kitching’s unique creativity is displayed in every dish. In the run up to Christmas, I spent a lot of time in Edinburgh so decided to check out 21212’s lunch menu.
This boutique hotel is set over four floors, located in a beautiful listed Georgian townhouse on Edinburgh’s Royal Terrace. The name 21212 comes from the layout of its menu…you have the choice of 2 starters, 1 soup course, a choice of 2 mains, 1 cheese course and then a choice of 2 desserts.
It was a very cold and blustery December day when I visited along with my mother, and we were very happy to leave the freezing wind and enter such a peaceful and tranquil environment. We were warmly greeted by the charming receptionist who took our coats (scarves, hats, gloves etc!) and then showed us to the dining room.
The room itself is very Edinburgh…traditional with some modern twists. Drape-adorned walls and brocade seating give the room a warm and cosy feel; some tables are topped with table clothes, while others are not. The tables appear to be orientated to give the diners the best views of the open kitchen so you can watch as chefs prepare each course.
My mother and I were shown to a table by the window…and were seated side by side, with our backs to the window. Now, my mum loves sitting side by side whilst eating. I personally find it quite unusual and slightly awkward. I prefer to face someone when eating and talking, rather than having to turn to the side constantly. But that is a very personal thing. It did give both of us a good view of the workings of the restaurant and the kitchen.
As soon as we sat down we were handed the menu, which they explained (as I said above)…we had the choice of 2 starters, 1 soup course, a choice of 2 mains, 1 cheese course and then a choice of 2 desserts.
The menu is unique to say the least. Paul Kitching’s dishes focus on contemporary French cuisine, but he adds in some of his signature unusual and unexpected combinations. For this lunch menu, you can have 2 course for £24, 3 courses for £32, 4 courses for £42 or the full 5 courses for £55. This makes it very acccessible to anyone who would like to try out Michelin star food without it breaking the bank. We opted for 3 courses.
To start with, I ordered the Duck Ragout with exotic mushrooms, cashews, sultanas and mozzarella.
What hit me first was the sweetness of the sultanas which contrasted beautifully with the earthiness of the mushrooms. Oddly, one mouthful could taste like winter, another like summer (with the mozzarella and peppers). The flavours were delicious, but it was the mixture of textures that did it for me…the dried and pan-fried mushrooms, the soft duck and mozzarella and the crunchy nuts. I wasn’t so sure about the slice of red pepper and the lone mozzarella ball. I quickly realised that Paul’s dishes were going to be a rollercoaster for my tastebuds!
For my main I ordered Assiette Chicken & Pineapple with olive and aubergine, pecan and roots.
This was quite a ‘meaty’ dish. The chicken was slow cooked and therefore so tender it melted in my mouth. There was quite a collection of ingredients in this dish. I think half of the experience is trying to identify everything! I found some white and black pudding, as well as some spicy sausage. I must admit, I didn’t really detect the flavour of the pineapple from the purée. To accompany it, was another small plate of ingredients…
Again, it was an odd selection of ingredients to put on a plate and I’m not entirely sure it was needed. It didn’t really seem to compliment the other plate of food, or pull it together. Perhaps I was missing something? (Not literally of course)
For my pudding I opted for the Pear Of Plums & Rhubarb…
Beautifully presented, this was a lovely dish to taste, and definitely ideal if you have a very sweet tooth. The sharp rhubarb hit me instantly and then the sweetness of the plums and the white chocolate creaminess came through. The crunch of the nuts and the soft crumbliness of the almond shortbread gave the dish some much needed texture.
As a little extra, we were presented with some delicious sweet porridge milk poured from a china cow into tiny paper cups…
My mother, who doesn’t have much of a sweet tooth, opted for the cheese plate (£5 supplement)…
This was certainly a very interesting dining experience. Paul is clearly a one-off. The presentation almost feels like your own personal treasure hunt of ingredients, many of which you would never normally eat together. Clearly, a great deal of thought has gone into every dish and although the menu is relatively small, it does change every week, so regular diners will have something new to experience on each new visit.
The service was excellent. Everyone who served us was extremely polite, knowledgeable and friendly, as you would expect at a Michelin star restaurant.
As we left, we peeked into the prestine kitchen, which was now quiet after the busy lunch service, and then took a little look upstairs. This is the only Michelin restaurant in Edinburgh with rooms and the hotel part was stunning. Upstairs we spotted an elegant, light and airy private dining room next to a luxurious and sumptuous drawing room with views over Edinburgh and all the way to the Firth of Forth. Many of the period features have been retained, complemented by contemporary lighting and furnishings.