(Visited: June 2013)
This in a way is the ‘offspring’ of the Kitchin, and while it bears a family resemblance in some dishes, as we shall see it definitely has a character of its own. And what a character…
Although this time we went for lunch, they were kind enough to recite to us the special seasonal dishes generally available in the evening only. We had to have three of them: as there was no menu and we’re insufficiently sad to take notes, we have to go by memory: apologies for the vagueness and imprecision of some descriptions.
The amouse bouche consists of two offerings: a layered vegetable cream, this time with carrots, then a coriander foam, and a dust of cumin:
Cream of carrots with coriander foam and cumin dust
followed by a ravishing trio: a salt cod raviolo, a mini hamburger, and a spectacular Ceasar salad of Beck-esque memory (like Heinz Beck’s fagottelli carbonara, where the carbonara makes the explosive filling, here the parmesan is liquified inside the green “salad”: wonderful!)
what a trio!
And now the food proper. First off, a tartare of mackerel and one of salmon:
Classy, precise, powerful stuff, with many layers of flavours and great attention to textures (a feature we’ve noted, and appreciated, in Chef Dominc Jack’s style), where the natural succulence of the fish is not covered but enhanced by all the minute things that go on around it.
Then a lovely terrine of roe deer from Saltoun Estate, served with pear, prune and port.
Just look at it and you see the technique. For the flavour, you have to trust us: it was as good as the technique.
And look at the work in the first seasonal special, crab meat lovingly rolled in thin avocado slices:
Crab and avocado
to which the mango imparted a beguiling sweet note.
For mains, a roe deer with celeriac and a pithivier reached stunningly deep into the meanders of flavour, the exemplary jus lifting this complex homage to game:
And then perhaps the superstar in a meal of stars: her majesty the lobster
Lobster a la plancha with squid, asparagus, peas and green beans
Sure, we had tried this dish (or a close relative) at the Kitchin, but it never ceases to amaze us. The splendid ingredients (beside the lobster, squid, asparagus, peas, green beans) are there, undisguised and beautiful, just so very perfectly cooked (probably first boiled and then grilled). One of those apparently simple dishes that in fact only a very accomplished chef can obtain, and that one could go on eating forever. The £45 it cost us seems a lot but was entirely justified.
Desserts were a fitting conclusion. A raspberry souffle’ served with a raspberry compote, both extremely intense, and the obligatory icecream, good and improvable (hard to please bothersome Italians with icecream – by the way, we forgot to say that bread, that other bugbear of ours, is good). And a delicious strawberry cheesecake, with layers of strawberry gelatine alternating with different flavoured layers, from the spongy strawberry one at the top to the crowdie cheese one at the bottom.
Service is strikingly well drilled, with a team of sleek young waiters ready to answer with ease any question on the dishes and their components. The chef here clearly makes an effort to make FOH and kitchen interact, and the manager manages his crew very well.
The room is nice, modern and rather understated, but it can be noisy, both because of the structure (many reflecting surfaces) and of loud tables. Regrettably, this restaurant doesn’t merely attract quiet old farts like us. If you are like us and want to concentrate on food and conversation, lunch is better than dinner. Prices are high but what we said for the lobster applies generally: they are totally justified for food of this quality. Though sadly we do find mark up on wines sufficiently outrageous to give them a miss.
We like the ‘technique with a mission’ style of Castle Terrace. There is (almost) nothing vapid or superfluous in those dishes, which retain a basic heartiness and full flavouredness. The comparison with the Kitchin cannot be avoided….If we have to put it coarsely, it feels a bit more ‘haute cuisine’ here, with a penchant for its intricacies and complexities, and a bit more ‘raw energy’ at the Kitchin, where the superb cooking skill is more hidden, and where there’s more of a preference for simplicity and for the ‘from nature to plate’ approach, as evidenced already at the amuse bouche stage (raw vegetables at the Kitchin). Both fantastic restaurants in different ways. Both with the finest executions of the finest examples of what nature has to offer. We have to confess that we eat at least as well, and sometimes better, in these places (and at the Peat Inn) than in several multistarred venues (recent experiences at Ducasse and Bottura spring to mind…). If the Michelin star system wasn’t what it is, Scotland would glow with many more stars. A pity for the professionals, perhaps, but not too bad a situation for us customers :)