Michelin-starred restaurant 21212

One of five Michelin star restaurants in Edinburgh and the only one with rooms, 21212 fronted by chef Paul Kitching offers unorthodox cuisine. Prepare to be mystified and dazzled at the same time, says Tina Banerjee

First impressions
Set within a listed Georgian townhouse, the ground floor restaurant feels like a grand drawing room, with the décor combining modern and traditional. High ceilings, elegant, sweeping banquettes, elaborate cornices and romantic, shimmering drapes are offset by a striking moth print carpet, a contemporary chandelier and a glass panel at one end offering views into the kitchen. Colours are subtle and the overall effect is exquisite luxury.

There is a subdued atmosphere on the Tuesday evening we visit, which I attribute to the fact there are only three other couples in the 38-seater restaurant. Thankfully, the cheerful, effusive staff help to lighten the mood and service throughout is exemplary.

21212kitchenDiners can watch the chefs at work

Ideal for…
Innovative and replete with surprises, 21212 offers a culinary odyssey like no other and is a place for adventurous gourmands. If you want to impress your other half or boast to your friends that you’ve dined at one of Edinburgh's most exclusive restaurants, then this is the place for you.

Best table
A solitary, more intimate booth facing the kitchen and obscured from the views of other diners enables you to enjoy the silent, industrious efforts of the black-clad chefs close up - and indulge the fantasy that you have them all to yourself.

The drinks
Thankfully, there’s a sommelier on hand to guide you through the colossal list of 250 wines spanning the Old and New Worlds, and including even Lebanese wines. Prices range from an affordable £20 for an Argentinian Chardonnay to an eyebrow-raising £845 for a French Chateaux Margaux. We plump for a modest but excellent £30 bottle of Chilean Sauvignon Blanc.

The food
When the restaurant first opened, its fixed, five-course menu featured a choice of two starters, one soup, two mains, one cheese plate and two desserts, giving rise to its rather unmemorable name. Four years on, and the name is now out of date; diners can choose from three options for each course.

We start by tucking into plump Spanish olives and a pillowy-soft, lightly-spiced bread, by far the most conventional things we’re to eat over the course of the next two hours. Our amuse bouche arrives, showcasing Kitching’s artful inventiveness. It looks like a restrained foamy cappuccino – but apparently, it’s a spring vegetable trifle accompanied by a mushroom-flavoured wafer (the foam and the wafer prove to be something of a theme throughout our meal). The cold, multi-layered ensemble reveals a riot of flavours – a bread and butter sauce topping, homemade tomato sauce, surprising morsels of rice and peas finishing at the bottom with a custard-yellow sweetcorn puree. It’s astonishing and delightfully more-ish.

21212foodMake space for the cheese plate; mains of beef
World Travel Guide / Tina Banerjee

I wonder what mysteries lie in my cheesy risotto starter; I discover it barely contains a grain of arborio rice. Instead, superheavyweight abalone mushrooms are counter poised by crunchy pak choi and delicate white asparagus covered in a creamy aubergine and dill sauce, with a strange dill and pink peppercorn crisp. My husband’s Cumbrian assiette sounds like a challenge for even ardent carnivores but he easily polishes off the humble portions of venison, chicken, smoked duck, Merguez sausage and liver, presented with flair, and accompanied by white beans, sweetcorn, garlic and tofu, all drizzled in red pimento sauce. “Every mouthful is different,” he murmurs, appreciatively.

Soup follows; this time, a tangy vegetable wafer accompanies the slightly bitter spinach and creamy cauliflower combo with vegetable chunks providing satisfying texture.

At this point, I’m pleased I’ve kept the menu at hand, if only to help identify what’s on my plate. My mains however are easier to decipher. It consists of a delectable seabass, with flakes sliding off perfectly at the touch of my fork. Pinky-orange gems of mussels, giant crunchy walnuts, kidney beans, green beans and tiny, sweet cubes of pineapple add bursts of colour to the dish, which is garnished with a frothy coriander sauce and a barely-there hint of soy sauce.

My husband’s medallions of steak, partnered beautifully with sausage and bacon, and embellished with carrots, mushrooms, creamed leeks, barley, chickpeas, broccoli and the odd chip, disappear fast.

21212breakfastBreakfast is served in a beautiful Italian furnished private room
World Travel Guide / Tina Banerjee

The cheese plate arrives and it’s overly generous – there are 10 different varieties from citrusy Devonshire cheese to a salty Hampshire version, accompanied by breads and sweet biscuits. “Chef says blue cheese and digestives are the next big thing,” says our waitress. I test out the theory but I'm not convinced.

Next comes the biggest surprise of the night - milk sweetened with porridge oats poured from a china cow into a paper thimble.

It’s supposed to prepare us for the final flourish: desserts. I am presented with another frothy-crowned creation, which turns out to be a substantial, minty chocolate trifle featuring a treasure trove of almond nuts and sharp berries that cut into the sweetness of the dish. It’s heavenly. My husband's crème brulee served with a confit of figs, kiwi fruit, cinnamon, sultanas and garibaldi biscuits, is equally superb.

If Kitching’s dinner (and lunch) menu appear complex, breakfast impresses for its sheer simplicity. Taken in the stunning, first floor, Italian-furnished private dining room at a communal table seating 10 guests, I enjoy a light serving of muesli, creamy yoghurt, fresh strawberries and a modern take on a bacon and eggs fry-up.


21212 roomThe restaurant offers four sophisticated rooms
World Travel Guide / Tina Banerjee

After our feast, we decide to forgo a drink in the Drawing Room and pad upstairs to our top floor bedroom overlooking the restaurant’s serene garden. There are four rooms in total, two of which have front-facing views to the Firth of Forth. Our room is seriously grown up, with harmonious beige and olive greens complemented by a king sized bed, a small lounge area, shuttered windows, mirror-plated wardrobes and a wet room with a double walk-in monsoon shower and Elemis toiletries. It’s a suitably perfect end to a memorable evening.

3 Royal Terrace
EH7 5AB.
Tel: 0845 22 21212.
Website: www.21212restaurant.co.uk
Prices: Our five course meal for two, excluding wine and service, cost £136.

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