Tom's pedigree is well known, former mentors include Pierre Koffmann, Alain Ducasse and Guy Savoy; impeccable then and well grounded in the French tradition. Meanwhile his restaurant promises seasonal and local ingredients but there again, whose doesn't? With many chefs and restaurants making similar claims, how would The Kitchin distinguish itself?
To jump to the conclusion, the fact is that The Kitchin not only made good on all these promises but delivered one of the best meals of the year. The cooking was clearly grounded in classical technique yet the presented food was utterly contemporary and so felt relevant in ways that many even more successful restaurants in the genre do not.
And not only were the ingredients appropriately seasonal but they were handled with huge respect, another distinguishing feature. Eating Tom's food, dishes from both Brett Graham's The Ledbury and David Everitt-Matthias's Le Champignon Sauvage came to mind, not least because both of these two Michelin star chefs have a preference for game and a deft touch in transforming it from 'nature to plate', Tom Kitchin's motif.
We recognise from blog posts elsewhere that The Kitchin does some exceptional value set lunches etc but the tasting menu (which is also we have to say exceptional value) is surely a must to encounter as much of Tom's food as possible; so the food begins. To snack on at the table there is a crudités selection with a fabulous blue cheese sauce followed by a variety of bread. The bread was the sole weak point of the meal in our view with, possibly a reflection of the late hour we are eating today, though the butter was compelling and moreish (a wonderful dilemma). There's a lot of food ahead of us though so it's not a big deal.
Next up is something special: Shellfish Rockpool. Tom comes out of the kitchen to serve it personally, and no, he's not doing that especially for us, Chef Kitchin is regularly out of the kitchen, personally serving dishes at all tables where table side service and explanation is required, it's a nice touch and builds a remarkable connection between the guests and the restaurant. Anyway, this dish, Tom explains, is inspired by his son's love of rock pools and the sea life within. Accordingly, here's a dish of crab, mussels, oyster and more, the tomato consommé poured at the table onto the dish as the incoming tide.
We love the authenticity, the dreamy nature, the anchorage to his (and his son's) seaside experience. Again, we're reminded of another great chef, Massimo Bottura, describing cows on a hillside as a childhood memory as the inspiration for one of his dishes. The Rockpool tastes remarkable and feels to us like a new classic. In fact, the dish as a concept offers much that you need to know about the food here: the ingredients are local, cooked perfectly onto the plate, and while nothing is necessarily unique to The Kitchen, this brought together combination is somehow itself unique. The dish as a whole then becomes a new discovery.
We follow this with Razor clams, chorizo, diced vegetable and lemon confit. It's again elegant, beautiful and tasty. There's also a lot of it for a tasting menu but it is beautifully constructed. The chorizo is in fact hard to find, or generously subtle, but otherwise the dish come together well in perfect balance and satisfaction in a rich and creamy way.
... the other classic: bone marrow, snails, girolles, and jambon de Bayonne. What a dish: rich, luxurious, unctuous. There's also a beautifully done egg on top too but this dish is, like Rockpool, an amazing combination of amazing ingredients in the right proportions and so totally decadent. Totally fabulous.
After that though is a masterpiece: grouse. We've already enjoyed grouse this year at Royal Oak Paley Street which was fantastic, but this, to be honest, surpassed it. We cannot imagine grouse more perfectly presented to the diner than how it is served here, tender to cut, amazing game flavours, but never too much, always... perfect. We fail to imagine anyone serving us better grouse (as an after note, The Kitchin's sister restaurant Castle Terrace served equally brilliant grouse to us the next day)
Scotland has delivered to us some amazing food this year but this is amongst the best. Indeed, one can put to one side the Scottish notion, this is amongst the best food in the UK. We talked earlier about Tom Kitchin's strong grounding in classic French cooking, but as we have argued in the case of, for example, Gordon Ramsay (Hospital Road), the tradition, and indeed brilliant precision shown by the kitchen still fails to make it as relevant in our view as many less feted restaurants. The Kitchin meanwhile with its food is shouting from the rooftops, part of the new traditional of great British chefs giving British cooking and British ingredients so much to be proud of, more than holding our own on the culinary world stage.
Considering The Kitchin then, we've already alluded to provoked memories of The Ledbury, perhaps Britain's currently best regarded restaurant, and as we consider a broader natural UK peer group for The Kitchin, it's flooded by double Michelin star names and we can only believe that the second star is a case of when not if. With the smallest of tweeks, The Kitchin could be close to perfect.
Indeed, Michelin need to think seriously hard about Leith, Edinburgh, for Martin Wishart and The Kitchin are merely yards apart but both offer meals that in our view seriously surpass their one star rivals while simultaneously shaming a number of two star plus establishments. The food contains quality ingredients but doesn't use them as a prop to a short cut to brilliance. Both kitchens display genuine and innovative talent.
Like we said, we didn't plan our trip to Edinburgh solely to eat at The Kitchin, but if we had, we wouldn't have been disappointed.
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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