We’ve been looking forward to trying Castle Terrace Restaurant since it opened in July. As previously mentioned, we are massive fans of the Kitchin and were really excited to try its sister restaurant, conveniently located behind Edinburgh Castle.
We were also celebrating the anniversary of my one-year-of-living-in-Scotland which (to us) was a pretty momentous occasion. This was probably the impetus for us changing our minds from having the set-lunch menu (3 course set menu is £19.50, matched wines an extra £15.00), to maybe a la carte, and then finally settling on the surprise tasting menu.
We were given these little cookies, grissini sticks and other nibbles while we made up our minds. An indication of standards to follow, as these were certainly a cut above your usual bread sticks!
Mostly, our decision was inspired by laziness. From our experience of the tasting menu at the Kitchin we knew we would be pleasantly surprised and would discover new favourite foods (e.g. razor clam). This made the decision to go for the tasting menu an easy one, and even were even persuaded to upgrade our mains to grouse.
By reason of its name, the details of the surprise tasting menu are not listed on the menu, and I really enjoyed being taken on a journey where you had no idea where it was heading (except for the cheese and the grouse of course).
We drank a bottle of Pinot Gris from André Scherer, Husseren-les-Chateaux which was immediately sweet but had a soft fruity finish, so was never sickly sweet.
Appetiser: Smoked salmon with cucumber jelly (apologies, I do not have the menu description of this dish!)
Our journey started with this small appetiser, which brought out the food child in us. It was great fun, dipping the “soldier” into the foam to find the salmon below, and then finishing off with a cucumber jelly which was nice and sweet. Everything was presented beautifully, and let us know that we were in for a great meal.
Mackerel: Tartare of line caught mackerel from Eyemouth, served with ginger, lemon and apple
One of the joys of a tasting menu, and a good restaurant, is to give you a dish that you wouldn’t consider ordering and then astounding you with how good it tastes. This was certainly the case with this: the tartare was fantastic, with the miniature crispy croutons adding a contrasting crunch. The apple sorbet was amazing as well, and really complemented the main dish as a refreshing accompaniment. This dish was really packed with flavour, and this carried on throughout the rest of the meal.
Scallop: Hand-dived Orkney scallop, seared with fennel and orange and served in the shell with black olives
We agree that this was probably the highlight of the meal. The scallop was cooked to perfection, and the orange flavour was noticeable without being too overpowering. Luckily we still had some bread to hand, so we were able to get to all of the sauce! This dish is a real testament of the virtues of using local produce – something Castle Terrace and the Kitchin pride themselves on. It is really wonderful to see local scallops being a star attraction in a high end restaurant, and to be presented with such a tasty, fresh piece of seafood.
Spelt: Risotto of organic spelt from Doves Farm, served with sautéed Scottish girolles and persillade
As the menu is local and seasonal, there were common themes through the menu and the girolles were the theme I really noticed. I am not a mushroom fan at all but these certainly won me over, and I ate them all. The risotto was superb, creamy and complimented well by the mushrooms. I really enjoyed the unusual texture of spelt risotto as it was quite different to usual arborio rice as it had more bite and flavour.
Hake: Fillet of wild North Sea hake, gently poached and served on salt cod brandade with crisp potato
By this point, we were starting to feel a little full, and this was recognised by the waiting staff who allowed us some “extra time” for a break between courses. We were glad we made a bit of room for this, as it was excellent. The hake was full of flavour, and the skin was crisp without being too chewy. I really enjoyed the texture of the hake as well – it was so delicately poached that it was literally sliding apart on my fork. The branade was a really interesting change from a standard potato mash, and the crispy potato strips felt like a nice accompaniment rather than a flashy afterthought. Being a new convert to the world of olives, my only criticism was that I wanted more of the olive slick!
Grouse: Grouse from Heriot, served with sautéed Perthshire girolles, bread sauce and watercress
Grouse leg: the leg was served separately as it was cooked for longer
Neither of us had ever tried grouse before, and being only a few weeks into the shooting season, now was the right time to try it (so we were persuaded by our waiter!). The grouse had a supplement of £10.00 per head but it was definitely worth it. It was a rich meat, but not overly gamey and each part of the bird tasted incredibly different. As with all the previous courses, the grouse was accompanied superbly with the girolles making another appearance, fancy potato crisps and light gnocchi. It was a real delight to try, and to really savour as it was such a unique meal to eat.
Cheese: A selection of Scottish and French cheese, served from the trollet with a selection of home-made fig bread and oatcakes
This is the stuff my dreams are made of. A whole trolley of cheese! Sadly, it wasn’t all for me, but we selected four cheeses each to try. I had some really lovely blue cheese as well as interesting creamy goats cheese, while Graeme enjoyed some varieties of smoked cheddar and bries.
Dessert: Millefeuille of Perthshire brambles, served with ginger icecream
Finally, we’d reached the last course. This was the perfect finale as it was refreshing and light, not heavy or overwhelming. The brandy snap and ginger icecream were a lovely contrast to the millefeuille and was generally a very uplifting dessert.
We had a totally amazing lunch at Castle Terrace and the staff really were excellent throughout. It’s a warming experience to be greeted by every single waiter when you enter a restaurant, and have helpful guidance on hand when you need it. Every question we had about our meals was answered, they were friendly without being stuffy, and the sommelier was incredibly friendly and gave us some much appreciated guidance on the difference between pinot gris and pinot grigio. The tasting menu is £55.00 per head (cheese course is an added supplement) and is a highly recommended journey into some exciting, interesting taste sensations.
As mentioned earlier, it is great to see Scottish restaurants producing amazing food from local ingredients. Castle Terrace Restaurant really does highlight the extensive variety of seasonal produce in Scotland, and for this reason, it will be a restaurant we look forward to revisiting as the seasons change.