Tom Kitchin (and his wife) opened this restaurant in June 2006. The building, on the waterfront in Leith, was once a whisky bond house. It gained a Michelin star in the first year of opening (the 2007 guide), which it has retained ever since. Tom Kitchin had previously trained with Pierre Koffmann at La Tante Claire, Guy Savoy in Paris and with Alain Ducasse at Louis XV in Monaco. The dining room includes an open kitchen, and seats about 75 covers plus a private room, with 13 chefs in the kitchen at this service. This includes a full-time butcher, as all the meat here is butchered from whole animals. Tables are well spaced though noise levels are still quite high because of the hard surfaces everywhere.
As well as a la carte at £110 for three courses, there was a tasting menu at £130, a vegetarian version of this at the same price, and a prestige tasting menu at £180. Wine pairings were available at either £75 or £150 per person. One nice touch was a little map of Scotland showing just where each of the main ingredients on the menu actually came from e.g. langoustines from The Hebrides, mussels from the Shetlands etc, demonstrating that the kitchen is very much aware of the origins of its produce.
The wine list had 473 labels and ranged in price from £42 to £5,500, with a median price of £115 and an average markup to retail price of a huge 4.34 times (even in Mayfair you rarely see above 3.3 times). Sample references were Domaine Les Yeuses Viognier 2021 at £42 for a bottle that you can find in the high street for £12, Weingut Josef Ehmoser Weisser Burgunder Vom Gelben Loess 2018 at £68.50 compared to its retail price of £21.60, and ‘M3’ Shaw & Smith Chardonnay 2019 at £89 for a wine that will set you back £16 in the high street. For those with the means there was Domaine Gagnard-Delagrange Batard Montrachet 1999 at £490 compared to its retail price of £211, and the lovely Etienne Guigal La Mouline 1995 at £830 for a wine whose current market value is £504. There were four wines below their retail price on the long list if you hunted for them, but set against this there were no less than 52 wines priced at over six times their retail price, and nineteen labels at over eight times retail, which is a level of markup that is hard to justify. The list is lengthy and features some top growers, but is the second most expensive I have ever seen in terms of average markup.
The meal began with a canapé of smoked cod mousse with seaweed relish and dehydrated sea kelp, which had a very delicate pastry base and a pleasant balance of flavours (16/20). Sourdough bread was made in the kitchen and was served warm, the bread having a very good crust. An amuse bouche of onion velouté with onion compote was garnished with chives, black pepper and bacon crumble. This was lovely, the onions nicely sweet, the velouté having deep onion taste and the bacon adding its distinctive smoky flavour (17/20).
Orkney scallop was served in its shell, the scallop sealed with puff pastry and then baked. Inside the shell as it was cut open was the scallop resting in a creamy sauce made from the scallop skirt, stock, Noilly Prat and herbs including chervil, with just a few shredded vegetables to add a little extra texture. This was a lovely dish, the scallop beautifully sweet and the sauce a fine complement for the shellfish (18/20).
Sweetbread from the central belt of Scotland was precisely cooked and had excellent light texture and mild flavour. This was served with a superb pan-roasted scallop and a sauce of sauce of veal trimmings with pumpkin seed and vadouvan spice mix, as well as some autumn squash. Both the scallop and the sweetbread were top notch in their own right, and they combined well together, the rich veal sauce bringing them together nicely (easily 18/20).
Turbot fillet was from a very large 9.5kg fish, served with salsify, octopus and prawns with a red wine sauce made from the head and trimmings of the turbot. The turbot was carefully cooked and had excellent flavour, and the octopus was unusually good, beautifully cooked. Even in Japan it is easy to find chewy octopus but this one, slow cooked, was tender and delicious. The sauce had good depth of flavour (comfortably 17/20).
Kitchin specialises in game and today offered snipe, woodcock or teal. I chose teal served with salt baked celeriac resting in a meat jus, served with chestnut gnocchi. The earthiness of the celeriac worked very well with the carefully cooked teal. which had lovely flavour, and the chestnut gnocchi was a nice seasonal addition to the dish (18/20).
Cheese was all from the UK and Ireland, a selection of eight different types including Tunworth, Irish Gouda, Colton Basset Stilton. The cheese came with either oat cakes or poppy seed crackers or two different lovely sourdough breads, one being flavoured with figs and walnuts. A pre dessert was yoghurt mousse with blackberry jelly, with consommé of blackberry and Lambrusco and panacotta. This was pleasant enough but for me lacked enough fruity acidity (just about 15/20). A pre dessert should really be refreshing, so this quite heavy dish seemed an odd choice for a pre dessert.
Cherry rum baba came with whipped clotted cream infused with lime and macerated cherries. The baba was good though not in the same league as the classic version at Louis XV, and while the cherries had nice flavour it was a little careless to find a stone in one of them (15/20). Apple crumble soufflé was nice enough, though the texture for me could have been a little lighter and fluffier. The apple crumble flavour came through well enough though (just about 15/20).
Coffee was made from capsules in a Nespresso machine and was from an Italian roaster called Partilio. The coffee was drinkable but the choice seemed odd to me. Firstly, it seems peculiar to choose an Italian roaster when there are many good ones in the UK. The coffee itself was made from North African arabica beans and was pleasant, but for a restaurant that takes such care over ingredients in other areas, why would they not use a specialty coffee?
Petit fours consisted of a shortbread base on which was chocolate mousse and caramel mousse, this being a very nice way to end the meal. Service was excellent and the bill came to £168 per person including tip. This was a highly enjoyable meal, with the savoury dishes clearly at a high two-star Michelin level. The desserts were not of the same calibre, but the overall experience was excellent.