Saturday, 31 May 2014

If You Can Stand to Eat, Then Go to The Kitchin

Ever since we first saw Tom Kitchin on the Great British Menu, and through his subsequent appearances on Masterchef and other cooking programmes, Clare and I had wanted to go to his Edinburgh (well, Leith) based restaurant The Kitchin. So, when an opportunity to take a mini-break in Scotland's capital city presented itself, a visit was always going to be top of the list of things to do.

Although we arrived nearly half an hour early on the night of our booking, we were given the choice of going straight to our table or having a pre-meal drink in the stylish bar area. Declining the drinks, we were ushered through to the dining area and settled in. Before making our menu choices we were presented with a helping of crispy raw vegetables and breadsticks accompanied by a blue cheese dip to whet our appetites. After polishing these off we both opted for the seasonal tasting menu and wine pairing with the optional whole lobster to share for the fish course.

Our first course of the menu proper was a smooth, chilled pea veloute served alongside a ham hock croquette. The veloute was nicely pea flavoured (well, obviously) and contained a few plump, round peas (again rather obviously) and some small croutons for texture, whilst the croquette was crunchy and packed full of salty ham. Together the two made for an excellent start to the evening. This opening course was preceded by some piping hot crusty bread served in what looked like a workman's hat.

Next up was a crystal-clear consomme of tomato which coated a helping of crunchy vegetables and some hefty slivers of hand-dived scallop. The scallops were also served chilled and their sweet and subtle fishiness was delicious alongside the clear soup. It seemed amazing that such a light, delicate liquid could contain such an intense tomato flavour.

The only slightly discordant note of the evening was the time between the second course and the next but when it arrived it was well worth the wait. This course, in my opinion, proved the value of choosing a tasting menu rather than an a la carte option. If I'd have been selecting dishes for myself, I'd have given a wide berth to a dish containing braised ox tripe and crispy ox tongue. However, that's what the third course consisted of and very nice it was too, with the rich, meaty tripe being perfectly complemented by the crispy tongue, all topped off with a warm quail's egg.

Following this we were back to the sea, with our lobster being presented to us before it was cooked. This was the tastiest lobster I've ever had the pleasure of eating; beautifully grilled and covered in snail butter and bacon which provided a salty contrast to the sweet meat of the crustacean itself. For me this was the highlight of the menu and definitely worth the extra we paid for it.

After the ocean it was a return to the fields, with our main course comprising perfectly cooked lamb. A duo of small pink slices were joined by shredded shoulder meat which had been encased in a thin mesh of stomach lining. Trust me, this was much nicer than my description sounds! The lamb came with vegetables, an olive tapenade and a sumptuous black olive jus.

By this time we were both pleasantly full so we skipped the optional cheese board (though it did look pretty impressive) and went straight to our first dessert. This was an immaculate quenelle of Earl Grey sorbet and a strand of candied lemon peel. The sorbet was packed with the unmistakeable bergamot flavour of the popular tea but not overpoweringly so, and the lemon supplied a refreshing zing.

Finishing things off was an impressively towering rhubarb soufflé with a sphere of rhubarb ripple ice cream and a smattering of crunchy biscuit. The creaminess of the subtly flavoured ice cream was delicious, as was the sour rhubarb contained within the fluffy exterior of the soufflé. The biscuit added the necessary texture and the whole thing was a fantastic end to what had been a wonderful meal.

Coffee and petit fours - a square of carrot cake and a chocolate and vanilla macaron - were included within the price and, impressively, the service charge was entirely discretionary, with the option being given to add a 10%, 15% or 20% service charge.

This was a really impressive meal in a beautifully appointed setting. Service was, for the main, exemplary and it was nice to see Tom Kitchin himself conducting proceedings in the kitchen. If you ever find yourself in Edinburgh then a trip out to Leith to sample Tom's wonderful cooking is definitely recommended.