Yesterday, we awarded a second Michelin star to The Kitchin but today, we've gone a step further: having eaten at Castle Terrace, currently a 'rising star' in the official Michelin system, we have no doubt that what we ate tonight was a truly exceptional meal and we're awarding Chef Dominic Jack and team a full and immediate two star rating, Castle Terrace really is that good.
In our short time North of the border, we keep raising the same issue again and again each night over dinner: has Edinburgh displaced London as the home of the best cooking and the best restaurants in the UK? Certainly, there is a good argument to be made to that end, and when we consider chefs like Tom Kitchin yesterday, and tonight, Dominic Jack at Castle Terrace, we're simply in awe of the culinary talent currently residing in Scotland's capital.
As a recap for those not familiar with the restaurant, Castle Terrace is the sister restaurant of The Kitchin. Tom and Dominic met many years ago while working together at Gleneagles (both were in their teens) and all these years on, they are friends and business partners. Both learned their trade in some of the world's best restaurants, in the case of Dominic: Gleneagles, l'Aperge, Hotel Vernet - restaurant Les Elysees and Taillevent. Dominic more lately reunited with Tom for a period at The Kitchin. With the establishment by Dominic, Tom and Michaela of Castle Terrace, now, both chefs are running their own restaurants in their own styles. Despite being sister restaurants, it's worth clarifying: Tom is the Chef Patron of The Kitchin and Dominic is the Chef Patron of Castle Terrace, it's not, despite the link, an interchangeable affair.
That said, communication between the restaurants is clearly excellent, and Chef Jack was fully expecting us tonight. We again did a tasting menu but to ensure that we saw all that was on offer, two parallel tasting menus were presented (together with a couple of extra courses thrown in we think - thank you Dominic). Chef Jack went to a bunch of trouble for us but wow, can this guy cook. The meal was faultless from start to finish, technically brilliant yet fun, constantly changing gears, constantly surprising us, constantly delighting us. Dominic Jack is another young chef of genius and is likely to be over coming years an established name in the British cooking constellation. To eat his food was a privilege.
Before we embark on tonight's tasting extravaganza, the restaurant kindly allowed us to take our pre dinner drink at the Chef's Table in the kitchen allowing us to watch Dominic at work. We also enjoyed some pre dinner nibbles.
A visually stunning ham trifle is so intense it divides us: does it need more balance or is the blow your head off pork flavours its own justification while on the other side of the table, a Spelt risotto lays waste to pretenders (for who isn't using the 'rare grain' spelt these days). Even a well done spelt risotto can leave the feeling that you've got your head in a grain trough but here, a creamy brilliance sees it shine. Endlessly appealing. For the squeamish, close your ears to the fact that it comes with crispy ox tongue and veal heart confit.
Rabbit and grouse for the final mains. The rabbit dish delivered intricate variety, including leg, rack, saddle, and offal. Simply excellent. The grouse, well, not wanting to pitch chef against chef (and friend against friend), it was on a par with The Kitchin which means that it rates level pegging as the best grouse we've been lucky enough to enjoy. Here, the bread sauce was offered up as a fried cube and the sauce, a reduction of chicken stock and grouse bones was worth intensively mopping the plate up for (which I did with the accompanying gnocchi).
But no one should get hung up on Michelin (including us) and here it's incidental against the principal story which is the brilliance with which Chef Jack coaxes Scotland's best ingredients to become some of the UK's 'best on the plate' dishes. There are many restaurants, famous names comprising the great and the good of the UK food scene, doing tried and tested favourites that are right now held in the highest regard by many but which have both feet sadly (in our opinion) anchored in the past. However, if you want to know what a brilliant classical training can deliver when paired with bottomless talent and both feet and a spatula firmly in the future, look no further than Castle Terrace. A meal of joy and genius, who could possibly ask for more?
Additional note. Our usual 'blogging' camera was damaged on route to Scotland necessitating a hastily bought temporary replacement for our trip. The result sadly is that the pictures are of a lower quality than those we would normally seek to publish. We will resume normal service in due course but apologise to our readers and even more so to the restaurants for not capturing the food as well as it deserves.
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