Scottish produce is something to be truly proud of, from West Coast Lobster to Hebridean Sea Salt, North Sea Monkfish to Perthshire Wagyu Beef…we are extraordinarily lucky to have such seasonal variety and quality in ‘Scotland’s larder’. The Kitchin not only highlights the flavours of locally sourced produce, but brings it to our doorstep…in fact, my doorstep, in Leith.
Gone are the days that it takes 4 months to get a booking (well, not necessarily, but we decided to make a midweek lunch sing in a spectacular way). Since the expansion of The Kitchin, the restaurant is more spacious, brighter and, even more appealing. The lighting is welcoming, the walls are papered with an array of elegant designs and sumptuous material ensures a feeling of relaxation in this Edinburgh culinary retreat.
After a seat in the lounge area, my friend and I promptly decided to skip our aperitif and get straight to it. Sitting at a table next to the roaring fire, we admired the decor and lusted after the luxurious tartan chairs for a moment, before being distracted by the first of many culinary delights. First up, a basket of crisp rye bread, which included seaweed & squid ink, caraway seed, honey and oat & mushroom and rosemary, served alongside a surprisingly delicate blue cheese dip. This was followed quickly by a chilled Carrot Velouté to cleanse the palate, and so it began.
A sommelier promptly arrived to advise us on a wine selection, and after some toing and froing on wines that I was mostly unfamiliar with, my starter of (Sussex sourced) Quail terrine was paired perfected with a delicate red to match. My lunch date for the day thoroughly enjoyed her (rather large) monkfish cannelloni starter, served with an unusual pepper marmalade washed down with a crisp glass of white wine.
The next course brought smaller dishes that packed even more of a punch. While Kirsty’s choice of risotto of wild garlic and pearly barley served with crispy lamb sweetbreads, liver and braised neck was enjoyed, she felt that the intense flavours were a bit of the heavy side for her taste. I, on the other hand, would have delighted in a bowl of offal, and would certainly choose this dish next time around. My main course brought a more delicate selection of flavours; Haulkerton chicken (crispy leg and tender, soft breast) served with carefully balanced artichoke barigoule and just a hint of olive.
Now, I must tell you, I had been dreaming about The Kitchin’s Apple Crumble Soufflé since my visit last year and it did not disappoint in the slightest. Light, delicate and (unsurprisingly) perfectly risen, the soufflé was served alongside a dollop (well, quenelle, although at this point, what does it matter?) of vanilla ice cream – a sure winner. In the past year, I have attempted a number of variations of this soufflé countless times, with little success. This wonderful dessert course, however, served as a delicious reminder of why I should simply never give up. I might not ever manage to get my soufflé to be quite as light, quite as tall or quite as flavoursome as Tom Kitchin’s, but it’s sure as hell worth another shot.
As is so often the case with restaurants with such high culinary standards, guests often feel that relaxation is not really an option, instead speak in hushed voices and critique food they would ordinarily rave about. The Kitchin, however, is most certainly very different. Simple, dressed down and unpretentious, fellow dinners were simply all there for the same reason; to sample creative food, cooked by a Scottish kitchen genius, using some of the best local produce one can dare to imagine.
There is nothing egotistical or showy about the way Tom Kitchin cooks. Ingredients are treated with respect, flavours are enhanced and each compliments another. Unusual ingredients, unexpected textures, remarkable flavours and vibrant colours presented in an innovative, and understated way, Scottish cooking at it’s best.