Kitchin in Leith has expanded since I last visited, taking over a neighbouring Chinese restaurant and now being rebuilt from scratch with an expanded and modernised kitchen. The dining room can now seat around eighty guests at any one time. The tables were quite small but well spaced, the overall effect of the dining room quite grey, with exposed brick, stonework and bare tables.
There were three tasting menus, including a full vegetarian option, at £85, in addition to a la carte at £75 for three courses. The wine list had over 350 labels from around the world, ranging as far as Armenia and the Lebanon. Example labels were Bodega Amalaya Salta 2015 at £35 for a bottle that you can pick up in the high street for £11, Chateau Musar 2002 at £89 compared to its retail price of £26, and Josmeyer Riesling Dragon 2011 at £95 for a wine that will set you back £28 in a shop. If you have the means to splurge then you could do so with labels like Jean-Claude Boisset Chambolle-Musigny 2013 at £133 for a bottle with a retail price of £49, and Ridge Monte Bello 2012 at £325 for a wine whose current market value is £134. A nice touch was a little rolled up map of Scotland showing where the various ingredients came from. Tom Kitchin was in the kitchen tonight, directing a brigade of fourteen chefs.
Sourdough bread was made from scratch in the kitchen and was excellent (16/20). As a nibble there was a chilled soup of carrot and ginger veloute, with both red and green apple, yellow and green courgette, radish, confit lime and pak choi leaf. This was remarkably effective as an amuse bouche, the lime bringing refreshing acidity to the dish (17/20).
A large hand-dived Orkney scallop was served in its shell, sealed with pastry (17/20). Inside the shell, the scallop flesh was cooked in a sauce of vermouth, white wine and herbs alongside diced autumnal vegetables including chestnuts. The scallop had lovely inherent sweetness and the beurre blanc sauce had excellent balance, a delicious dish (17/20). Even better was cannelloni of langoustines with crab meat, brown shrimps and a celeriac purée, alongside an intense crab veloute. The shellfish was again of very high quality, the pasta delicate, the celeriac adding an earthy note. However for me the sauce was the star, a glorious, rich, intense creation showing old-fashioned classical technique (18/20).
Wild sea bass came with a medley of vegetables: carrots, artichoke, courgette, fennel, leek, turnip, squash, beetroot, raw artichoke, radish and pak choi leaves. The fish was nicely cooked, as were the array of vegetables (16/20). Loin of red deer was coated in a pepper crust and served with carrots, pak choi, apples, brambles, a root vegetable mash and a red wine sauce. The venison had lovely flavour, the brambles and apple bringing a pleasing acidic balance, the carrots in particular excellent (17/20).
A pre-dessert of blackcurrant sorbet came with yoghurt mousse, nut and fruit granola and a garnish of wood sorrel. Many pre-desserts can seem like afterthoughts, but this was very enjoyable, the texture of the granola an enjoyable contrast to the silky sorbet, the sharpness of the fruit balanced by the yoghurt (17/20).
Coffee soufflé was well made, served with milk ice cream and a rich dark chocolate sauce (16/20). Apple millefeuille was prettily presented, served with calvados ice cream and toffee sauce. The puff pastry was lovely, the sharpness of the apples cutting through the richness of the toffee sauce. This was a lovely dessert, pretty, delicious and thoroughly enjoyable (18/20). Coffee was from Italian supplier Bei & Nannini and was rich and dark.
Service was excellent, the French gentleman looking after our table having previously worked at three Michelin star restaurant Bras in Laguiole. Topping up was faultless and the staff that we encountered were capable and friendly. The bill came to £186 a head, albeit with plenty of excellent wine. If you shared a modest bottle then a typical cost per head would be around £110. This was a most enjoyable meal, showcasing the superb produce available in Scotland and demonstrating excellent culinary technique.