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Oct 30, 2012 07:43 AM


Contemplating a pre-Christmas weekend away and there are surprisingly few Edinburgh reports on the boards so I thought I'd ask our resident expert AWaiting and anyone else who has been for their views.

I'm fairly set on The Kitchin but torn between Martin Wishart and 21212. Has anyone actually eaten at the latter as it looks like it could be genius or horrendous (and not really anywhere in between).

We're keen to try as much uniquely Scottish food as possible to the point where that takes precedence over quality to some degree so any other suggestions for smaller bites or wonderful places to hole up for the afternoon with a few drinks would be very welcome. I've read about Urban Angel and The Dogs looks a decent lunch venue. Bon Vivant seems good for drinks.

All and any comments appreciated.

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  1. Not tried 21212 - although I know Paul's food from when he was at Juniper in South Manchester. Interesting, creative stuff - although a tad overly wacky from time to time (and, I think uniquely, the only place where I have seriously thought about getting a bag of chips on the way home)

    His partner, Katie, runs front of house and you should find the service warm, friendly and bang-on for efficiency.

    I miss them - not least as the metro area hasnt been able to get a Michelin star since they left. I doubt, however, that he is cooking uniquely Scottish stuff, although I presume AW will have knowledge of what's what.

    5 Replies
    1. re: Harters

      Thanks John that is what I thought from looking at the menu - it does look interesting but it doesn't look like somewhere you particularly need to go to Edinburgh to eat given the options available in London and nearer by.

      1. re: ManInTransit

        I look forward to seeing your report back - mainly on the Kitchin. We plan to have a couple of nights in the city sometime next year and that's the only definite one. I may include 21212 "for old time's sake" but take your point that you don't have to go to Edinburgh to eat this style.

        1. re: Harters

          I ate at both Kitchin and 21212. They were,as you might expect, quite different. The lunch at 21212 was a bargain and it is pretty unique - even by London standards. I liked Kitchin, it was game season, but I must confess I paid the bill and felt it wasn't worth the substantial money.

          Got to have fish and chips at the Tailend.

          1. re: mr_gimlet

            I ate at Wishart some years ago, and whilst superb, however it has the same Scottish pedigree and influences as Mary Queen of Scots.

            1. re: PhilD

              I like that analogy Phil. It’s spot on as well!

    2. For what it's worth, I have an ex-pat cousin living in Edinburgh now for some years - a young couple from NYC. They're favorite restaurants when asked by me last year were Martin Wishart and 21212, but that's just their opinion and I'd want to try Kitchin next time I'm up there... so am looking forward, too, to seeing your report.

      1. I'm up there next week and have chosen Wishart and 21212, plus Gardeners Cottage for a more casual option. I'll report back and hopefully it'll be in time to be useful!

        8 Replies
        1. re: abby d

          Will be very interested in your report Abby. I get the impression Martin Wishart employs classical techniques using Scottish produce but can't decide whether that's something I want to try or not.

          1. re: ManInTransit

            And Wishart - I would go in a heartbeat. Have heard it is GREAT value for lunch if you don't want to drop the cash on dinner

            1. re: ManInTransit


              I can only go off eating at his Loch Lomond offshoot. It was awarded a Michelin star last year - richly deserved, IMO. We had a very fishy meal there but whether it was Scottish landed produce, I dunno.

            2. re: abby d

              Abby, that's a really eclectic mix of restaurants and I'm sure that you'll love them all in their separate ways

              1. re: abby d

                I’m back and had a wonderful time - every meal was good and I’d return to each place very happily.

                Comparing 21212 and Wishart is not easy as they have such different approaches.

                Wishart definitely takes a more classic approach but I thought there was a freshness of flavour and lightness of touch that is sometimes missing from this style of cooking. We had the tasting menu and my favourite dishes were the amuse (a melt-in-your-mouth beetroot macaron with horseradish cream), the langoustines (so tender, served with parsnip & white chocolate plus melted smoked butter which added a wonderful savoury richness to it all) and the veal sweetbreads which came with an intensely savoury buckwheat and wild mushroom sauce. We had great wine advice and tried, for the first time, a Petit Manseng which I’ll be looking for again (similar to a jurancon sec but lighter).

                21212 was a lunch option for us so had a different context but given the menu can be same as would be served in the evening I think it's fair to compare. Starting with the wine, interestingly there was some overlaps between this and Wishart and in each case they were cheaper at 21212.

                The food is constructed very differently - there are large numbers of ingredients on the plate and trying to get any consistency between mouthfuls is impossible, which is nice in one way as it means you try all sorts of combinations but on the other hand, when something tastes wonderful and you can't recreate it, is a bit annoying! It’s difficult to talk about what we ate as everything had so many components. To me it felt as though everything was prepped separately and then came together on the plate with the help of sauces and dressings – mostly the dishes worked but it did feel as though it was in spite of the large number of ingredients rather than because of them. My boyfriend said it felt like 80’s food – not in a bad way and not to say the approach is dated, just that it’s something that he’s not encountered for a long time. The comparison is made elsewhere with Viajante – I think Nuno’s dishes are much more coherent and have a simplicity and elegance that is different from the 21212 approach.

                There were themes in the 21212 dishes which may put some people off – curry spices are common (incl. in the fudge petit four which I really enjoyed but think that was because it fitted with some of the other flavours we’d eaten, I’m less sure I’d have liked it out of context!) as is the use of fruit (both dried and fresh) in the savoury dishes. We both thought the bread was dreadful – nice flavours with caraway and dried fruit but a really claggy texture; and no butter 

                Portion size has been mentioned – we had 4 courses and left absolutely stuffed (the soup is a very meagre portion but delicious, so might be easily avoided if you’re watching the bill). This was at least partly due to the enormous cheese plate which I had in place of desert (no choice of cheeses but a dozen pieces give a good mix and I liked the selection of biscuits, wafers and dried fruit that accompanied it) but I still don’t think we’d have left hungry. However, it’s interesting to pick up on some comments about there not being a main fish/meat component in a dish – they are just part of the mix of many parts and don’t necessarily have a starring role.

                Dinner at the Gardener’s Cottage was inevitably a very different affair but I loved it – the setting is very simple with shared tables, an open kitchen and music from the record player (everyone is welcome to choose which record goes on next).

                We had pumpkin soup with elephant garlic aioli (they used crown prince pumpkin which is my favourite so I obviously liked this), squid with bacon and fennel (absolutely wonderful, I don’t know how they got their squid to be so delicate and tender; obviously the flavour combination is a winner), venison with pumpkin, apple & parsnip sauce and pink fur apple potatoes (my favourite potatoes to go with my favourite pumpkin plus tender flavoursome venison), a palate cleanser of homemade ricotta with walnuts and honey was followed by cheese (Lanark white) with oat cakes and Scottish grapes (boy were these sour!) and finally chocolate cake with poached pear (with the skin left on which was a really nice contrast).

                The other meals we had were lunch at Urban Angel which was just wonderful (I particularly enjoyed my spicy lamb wrap) and breakfast at Mimi’s Bakehouse in Leith (I had the full Scottish which kept me going until the following morning! The French bread with bacon and maple syrup was also lovely).

                1. re: abby d

                  A fantastic report Abby thank you. Sounds like you had an excellent trip and that's incredibly useful to hear your views on the MW and 21212. I can imagine that it's the sort of decision you almost want to take on the day depending on what you're in the mood for.

                  Definitely going to try and copy your trip's to the Gardener's Cottage and Urban Angel too.

                  1. re: ManInTransit

                    I think you're right about ideally being able to decide on the day.

                    I'll be interested to read about how your visit goes - I hope you have great time!

                    1. re: abby d

                      Abby, great report back. It's funny how people have such contrasting opinions. I love the bread and you hate it! Apologies if there was any confusion over mentioning Viajante. It was simply meant to highlight the totally different style to most restaurants in both of these restaurants. As you say, there is no great comparison between Viajante and 21212.

              2. Hi there! I would definitely recommend Castle Terrace - with their wine pairing. Great value for lunch.
                The Dogs is OK - perhaps not as great as it was and the wine isn't anything special.
                Hewats in Newtington has always been tasty
                Stac Polly - both locations also great though the New Town one a bit nicer I think - very Scottish
                Bon Vivant is good for drinks
                Cloisters bar serves good ales
                The Canny Man in Morningside is an insitution - service and locals can be a bit snooty, but I have liked it there
                Not Scottish, but Peter's yard is a great Scandanavian bakery
                Union of Genius is a great soup cafe - again, not really Scottish, but still tasty
                Chippie from the Tailend or the Alba d'Oro
                Freemans in Marchmont does cracking coffee and some tasty brownies - soups, sandwiches and egg dishes get a great name too, but I've not tried it
                The Whiski rooms is quite a nice environmnet to have lunch in - food pretty decent given the location and the price
                I haven't eaten there, but the Scotch Whisky Experience on the Royal Mile has a restaurant and they also have a bar with a HUGE range of whiskies which don't seem to be TOO badly marked up and the view from the bar is great.
                Mosque kitchen does great curries - either under tarpaulin outside or in their new restaurant

                Hope this helps, if you have any other specific requests, let us know!

                6 Replies
                1. re: alisonk

                  Lovely Alison thank you - a great overview which was exactly what I was looking for.

                  I did try the Castle Terrace but they were fully booked (new Michelin effect?) so it's Wishart and the Kitchin.

                  My wife is a big fan of scotch so the whisky experience sounds a lovely day out.

                  What do other people make of the Gardener's Cottage? Will look forward to Abby's report.

                  1. re: ManInTransit

                    Have you booked now and decided against 21212?

                    I really like 21212 for its quirkiness and it's certainly unlike any other restaurant food in the country. Some times it steps over the mark but hey that happens when you're pushing the boundaries. The bread alone makes it worth a trip, I was speaking to Wishart's baker and he has no idea how they do it.

                    CT for me sits between The Kitchin and MW for it's Scottish/French crossover if you treat it simplistically. It's still a bit hit or miss to me with some dishes that don't work as they're not correctly balanced. The other reason for CT popularity is proximity to the city centre and The Kitchin name certainly helps along with the star.

                    The food at the GC is excellent but isn’t in the same league (nor do I think it aims for) as the previously mentioned restaurants. The vibe is a lot more informal and food less refined (which is not intended as a dig at the food at GC). It’s a nice counterpoint of a restaurant to the others mentioned above. One slight negative may be that I’ve come back hungry the last 2 times that I’ve been but maybe that says more about me than the restaurant!

                    The WE is good touristy fun although it’s worth knowing that you don’t need to go around the tour to eat in the restaurant or go to the bar. If your wife likes whisky, it may be worth looking at the Malt Whisky Society. There used to be nights when non members could go but my membership lapsed so I’m not sure if that’s still the case. You could certainly eat in the restaurant on Queen St on Tuesday nights and the food is very good. All of their whisky’s are cask strength and you get some stunning whisky for the price that you pay just because it doesn’t have the brand name on the bottle.

                    1. re: AWaiting

                      Thanks very much for the Whisky suggestions - very helpful, will certainly look up the society.

                      At the moment I've booked Wishart but 21212 does have availability so it's still up for debate. It seemed to me a bit bonkers in the way Viajante is. Does he serve the food like Pierre Gagnaire on lots of small plates or do all five elements come on the same plate?

                      I can't really find anyone who has reviewed it thoroughly either but open to be convinced if it really is that good.

                      1. re: ManInTransit

                        For more whisky options there is Bow's bar a try of the royal mile, also a place for good beer or venture through the new town on the way to stockbridge to kay's bar - been a while since I've popped in but I remember them as having a rather large selection, and if you want to know what the beer events are on in Edinburgh (from meet the brewers to festivals etc) of which there are a lot go to the beercast website. Stockbridge is a great place to while away an afternoon, lots of little shops to wander through, located next to a park and minutes from the botanics and next to the water of leith. Great local pub in the stockbridge tap with great selection of beers, heard the burgers are nice, will be trying them out soon. Can't say there's anything uniquely Scottish around there though, french cafes, swedish cafes exist. There's a game butcher if that helps! And at the farmers market in Stockbridge found some Dunsyre's Blue if that comes under your Scottish mission.
                        21212 not sure what you mean by the five elements, if you mean the five courses, each course comes on a plate which has lots and lots of elements on it. Haven't been there in a long while as the price has dramatically increased so can't say what's its like though the bread still lingers in my memory, can't work out what was in it, but it was different and tasty.

                        1. re: ManInTransit

                          Apologies, I’m bad for not documenting my meals in the way that the likes of Harters does, I’ll dig out my note book and let you know what I had and thoughts on my last meals there although it won’t be as fresh in my memory.

                          If you like the likes of Viajante and Pierre G then I’d give 21212 a go and drop one to the Kitchin or Martin Wishart. 21212 is doing something totally different to restaurants elsewhere in the country which isn’t to say that it’s necessarily a better restaurant than The Kitchin or MW. If I went to London for a one off meal, I’d prefer to eat at Viajante than Marcus Waring say. The food at MW is similar in style to restaurants that I could eat at elsewhere in the county whereas eating food like that at Viajante is difficult to find.

                          1. re: AWaiting

                            All very good points thank you and I completely agree re Marcus Wareing and Viajante. If Martin Wishart is just a poor man's version of Marcus Wareing (annoying they have the same initials) then there isn't a lot of point in us going there.

                            We have occasionally been scarred in our search for the most outlandish food which is incredible when done well but terrible when it doesn't come off.
                            Cauliflower foam on a dessert was a personal low point.

                            I think I will leave the choice of MW and 21212 to my wife so I can abdicate responsibility to fellow CHs. We will report back in detail in any event.

                  2. I was in Edinburgh about a month ago. We went to The Dogs, which simple but extremely well done and well priced gastropub fare. We really enjoyed it. We also went to Ondine, which, it's worth noting, doesn't do its set-lunch deal on weekends. Has one course each a la carte, both were pretty good, but I wasn't floored by either.