Editor's note: in late June 2020 it was announced that The Castle Terrace will not reopen after the Covid-19 lockdown.
Castle Terrace is the sister restaurant of Tom Kitchin, looking directly up at Edinburgh Castle. Head chef Dominic Jack worked with Tom Kitchin at Gleneagles, then at Fleur de Sel in Haslemere, Arpege in Paris and two star Les Elysee, where he worked his way up to sous chef. From there he moved as a sous chef to Taillevent, was chef de cuisine at Swissotel in Istanbul and then returned to Kitchin in 2008. He was made chef/patron of Castle Terrace in 2010 from when it opened in July that year. The restaurant earned a Michelin star but lost it in 2015.
The wine list was substantial, with labels from places as far afield as Georgia, Romania and Morocco, and with four different vintages of Chateau Musar from the Lebanon. References included Terre Olivettes Viognier 2016 at £34 for a bottle that you can find in the high street for £9, Marco Felluga Pinot Grigio Isonzo 2016 at £67 compared to its retail price of £22, and Pingus Psi 2009 (misspelt as “Psy” on the list) at £125 for a wine that will set you back £35 in a shop. There are plenty of posher offerings. Chateau Musar 1989 was an ambitious £300 for a bottle whose current retail price is £126, with Chateau Angelus £400 compared to its current market value of £265, while passing oligarchs keen to get rid of their money could indulge in Chateau Latour 1985 at an absurd £1,800 for a wine that costs £516 in a suitably upmarket off licence. Water was £5.50 for a 750ml bottle.
The restaurant has a bar area as you enter, where you can read the menu and have an introductory cocktail. The smartly decorated dining room can seat around 55 guests and has dark patterned wallpaper on one wall and a paler shade on the side walls, with a large piece of art along one wall, and dark wood floors with white paintwork. Tables are dark wood with no tablecloths, with a little vase of lilies on each table. There is also a private room that can accommodate sixteen guests. There is a full a la carte menu priced at £70 for three courses, including a full vegetarian menu, as well as a tasting menu at £80, again with a complete vegetarian alternative.
We opted for the tasting menu, which began with a trio of nibbles. A cracker with goat cheese and apricot was topped by a sliver of pork collar, salt cod barbajuan (a fried pasta popular in Monaco usually stuffed with Swiss chard and ricotta) and a technical take on Caesar salad, a little hemisphere containing a liquid centre flavoured with the elements of a salad i.e. mayonnaise, anchovies and lettuce, etc. This last was clever and pleasant, but I particularly liked the barbajuan, which had lovely texture. The goat cheese nibble was simpler but also enjoyable (15/20 nibbles on average). A further amuse-bouche was Arbroath smokies (smoked haddock) on which rested a cracker topped with what looked like a quail egg but was actually a panna cotta with a centre of mango. This was clever because even when you cut open the panna cotta the mango resembled an egg yolk, maintaining the illusion. This was tricksy but more importantly tasted good, the flavour of the haddock coming through well, the textural contrasts enjoyable (16/20).
This was followed by tartare of Shetland salmon topped with crisp rice and wasabi ice cream, with little soy cubes alongside. The salmon had good flavour and the soy cubes went really well with it, with the crisp rice providing an extra texture. The wasabi ice cream was also a logical addition though it would have been interesting to see what it would have been like with real grated wasabi root rather than the notional wasabi (coloured horseradish) from a tube. Even so, the dish worked really well (16/20). Next was a large diver-caught Orkney scallop with curry sauce, basmati rice, celeriac ring and a miniature naan. The scallop was absolutely superb, carefully cooked and with lovely flavour, and the mild curry sauce did not distract too much from the centrepiece of shellfish (17/20).
Pate en croute of roe deer from Stobo estate in the Scottish borders came with pear, prune and a port reduction. This was very good (15/20), though my benchmark pâté en croûte is still that made by world champion pâté en croûte chef Jean Francois Malle at La Rotonde in Lyon. This was followed by a distinctly non-traditional take on a cheeseburger. This had at its centre barbecued and braised shoulder of Ayrshire pork in a chickpea bun with sesame seeds, tomato ketchup jelly, and pickled turnip instead of the cheese that a traditional burger would have. To complete the dish was an edible “cocktail stick” holding the burger together that was actually fried pasta rather than a real cocktail stick, with a pork jus to the side. This was another tricksy dish, but again the important thing was that it tasted good, the pork excellent and the ketchup jelly working well with it (16/20).
Duck liver foie gras terrine came with raspberry jelly and compote of raspberries, set out on a long tuile. The terrine had silky texture and the acidity of the excellent raspberries, from Blacketyside farm in Leven, cut nicely through the richness of the liver (16/20). Ravioli of wild sea trout from Hoy Isle was served in its own consommé, the latter enlivened by Asian spices and a little red chilli. The consommé had good flavour but was quite salty, even for me, and there is a limit to how thrilling trout can be (13/20).
The best dish of the meal was seared whole langoustine from Tobermory with tiny summer peas and Perthshire girolles. The quality of the langoustine was really impressive, the shellfish delicately cooked and going well with the mushrooms and peas, both of which had excellent flavour (18/20). This was an example of how you don't need clever cheffy tricks to make a lovely dish, just beautiful ingredients. After this was spelt risotto from Eden Valley topped with strips of Scottish minute steak (known as beef ham in Scotland). I gather that he may have picked up the idea of using spelt rather than rice from a stint at Taillevent in Paris. This dish was enjoyable, though to me it is highly debatable whether wheat can really compete with top quality risotto rice like Acquarello, and the beef was good but unremarkable (15/20).
We tried three desserts in all. Cardamom and salted caramel chocolate eclair rested on a brownie and came with vanilla cream, the different textures working nicely and the flavour good (16/20). This was better than a raspberry macaron that had nice raspberry flavour but texture that would not trouble Pierre Hermé (14/20). Honey soufflé was very well made, evenly cooked through and suitably light and fluffy. The honey flavour was quite subtle and for me could have been more pronounced, though sour cream ice cream in the side was nice (15/20). Petit fours included lemon shortbread and apple pate de fruits, the former lovely though the latter’s texture could have been improved. Coffee was from a company called Miko in East Kilbride and was pleasant.
Service was lovely throughout the evening, the staff attentive and friendly. The bill came to £221 each but this was mostly due to some over-indulgence on our part on the wine, including a final glass of Chateau d’Yquem 1990. If you just shared a modest bottle then a typical cost per head might be around £110. Overall I was very impressed with the meal at Castle Terrace. There were a couple of small glitches but generally the cooking was skilled and the dishes highly enjoyable, the cheffy touches not distracting from what was very appealing food. I have no idea why this lost its Michelin star a few years ago but it is obviously operating at very solid one star level based on this meal.Book