The Kitchin78 Commercial Quay,
0131 555 1755
£ – inexpensive
££ – mid-price
£££ – expensive
££££ – very expensive
True fine dining in The Kitchin
Review published on 21/11/2006 © Sunday Herald
Lately, I have been feeling that Edinburgh restaurants are in the doldrums, so much so that when friends ask me to recommend one, much to their puzzlement, I cant instantly think what to tell them.
It seems to me the same glitzy, complacent places dominate the top end of the market, and charge London prices, even though their cooking is generally inferior to their London equivalents.
Now, I can recommend a relative newcomer, The Kitchin in Leith, a breath of fresh air blowing through the capitals stale fine dining scene.
The chef-proprietor, Tom Kitchin, is a Scot who has honed his skills in restaurants run by some of Frances most elite chefs, such as Guy Savoy and Alain Ducasse. He also worked in London for Pierre Koffman, another highly respected star in the gastronomic firmament.
Now he has opened his own place along with his partner, Michaela Berselius, who is in charge of front-of- house. Like Mr Kitchin, she is a professional, with stints at Claridges and the Savoy under her belt.
It has become fashionable for chefs to make positive noises about seasonality and local sourcing. Some take that commitment seriously, others just want a 365-day supply of lolla rossa and really couldnt care less where it came from.
Mr Kitchin impresses me because his menu is so faithfully led by the seasons. When I scanned his menu recently, it was like being a hunter gatherer, eyeing up the eating possibilities in autumn woods alive with grouse, hare, venison, mallard duck, chanterelle mushrooms and the last few brambles.
I was tempted by the game terrine which came with pear, ginger and walnut chutney but, having resolved to have the hare (of which more later), I went for a lighter option, a tartare of mackerel with beetroot, which I had dreamed of fondly since sampling it some months back. It didnt disappoint. This is a streamlined, tastebud-awakening starter that sets you up for your main course.
The only wrong note in our other starter three immaculately fried, diver-harvested scallops with a fricassée of fragrant chanterelle mushrooms and a mellow beurre blanc sauce was the presence of a rocket and parmesan salad. The cheese seemed out of place.
Our sommelier and waiter, an infectiously enthusiastic Frenchman, very much framed our choice of main courses. He talked us through the dishes, not in a poncy, This is a trio of X, sitting upon a precious little jus of Y sort of way but by explaining the cooking method. After listening to him, I had to have the saddle of hare, which the chef bones out, stuffs with the hares liver, kidneys, et al and other interesting things like pistachio and then slow cooks for six hours, finally serving it with pink-fried hare fillet and a reduction of the gravy from the braise.
This was strong meat, but fantastic, and with its creamy polenta, roasted purple and gold carrots from Arran, and a further generous helping of chanterelles, it was a brave, triumphant dish.
My dining companion was captivated by the prospect of lobster served with an intense pressed sauce made from lobster coral and carapace. And what a lusciously fleshy and juicy crustacean it turned out to be, its intense vivid sauce nicely complemented by la Ratte potatoes roasted in their skins, crisply fried Jerusalem artichokes and globe artichoke hearts. Once more, there were chanterelles, but we agreed you can never get too much of a good thing, especially when its an elusive one.
Gratins of seasonal fruit, browned under a frothy egg sabayon, are one of Mr Kitchins trademarks. We loved our burgundy-red fig version, made with some prime specimens from the blue-skinned, yielding Turkish crop, their sweetness sharpened up with brambles.
Sticking to the seasonal theme, I went for apples and chestnuts, vaguely fretting it might be a bit homespun and ordinary. But it was a delightful concoction, consisting of cubes of hot, cinnamon-spiced apples, an airy amalgam of cream and chestnut purée and a sparkling, zingy sorbet of green apple lent backbone by the presence of Calvados.
Yet again, Ive let food steal the show, but be assured, this is a chic and comfortable place for a memorable night out.
© Sunday Herald