Tam's Tales

- 21212


21212 is one of Edinburgh's hottest new restaurants. It opened in the summer of 2009 and now has a Michelin star, so I was chuffed to bits when my son gave me a voucher as a birthday present.

The 21212 refers to the format of the menu. There are two starters, one soup course, two main courses, one cheese course and a choice of two puddings. This might run counter to some peoples' idea of a good restaurant with a long and varied menu.

I distrust long menus. I worry that the ingredients might not be very fresh. Is it likely that any cook will lavish the same care and attention on two dozen or more elaborate dishes? I prefer a menu that has a certain focus - you know that the dishes will turn over promptly and that the chef's skill will not be overstretched.

That said, restricting the choice to two main courses, a la 21212 also has its drawbacks, but it worked for us.. My wife and I both elected to have the beef as a main dish and it was accompanied by thirteen vegetables, fruits and nuts. There was even a tiny piece of pineapple in the mix.

This may seem very odd and certainly the restaurant should not object to being labelled idiosyncratic and probably plays to that image, using its formula in the title. However, I take things as I find them and for me it worked. Would you like it? I cannot really say, mixing up differing foods like that is bound to be deeply subjective.

What I can say is that clearly the ingredients were of top quality. The dishes were quite small, but by the end of the meal we both felt very satisfied. It was also apparent that the kitchen crew had put a huge amount of effort into the preparation of the meal.

The kitchen is at the back of the main dining room and in full view of the diners. We saw six chefs beavering away under the watchful eye of the boss, Paul Kitching. This gentleman stood out from the crowd, dressed in minimalist rock star white t shirt and longish wiry hair. Think Roger Daltry about 1970 ish.

The other dishes were of similar high standard. My smoked salmon was accompanied by about another down ingredients, including some bean sprouts, couscous and tiny pieces of corn. My wife opted for the soup, which was a layered affair, including carrots, chestnuts and a frothy top. It was elaborately garnished with small pieces of 'parchment' which were in fact pieces of vegetables that had been compressed and cooked in some special way.

The desserts were very rich. My wife had their take on trifle, which was elaborate and very sweet. I had 'baked vanilla custard' which was a take on crème brûlée. A big hit with me.

We ended up with excellent coffee - served in paper cups. Another idiosyncrasy - I rather like the idea of an undoubtedly posh restaurant challenging the coffee consensus.

The Bill

It was not cheap. For three courses we paid £35 each, but the wine, water and coffee put the final total up past £100 for the two of us. But it was a really memorable experience. The New Town venue is delightful - the dining room is stuffed full of little design details that delight the eye. The food was an adventure - exciting stuff which might not work for maiden aunts and dyed in the wool Presbyterians - but exuded care and quality.

The whole experience was of a group of people striving for an excellent result. The waiting staff were the absolute tops. They were very attentive without being overbearing and explained the dishes in a delightfully chatty and friendly way. This place is unique and I hope it does well.

More Information
For more information or to make a reservation, see the 2212 Web Site.

Tam O'Ranter
August 2010

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