Neil Braidwood finds a warm welcome awaits.
Castle Terrace, in Edinburgh’s west end, made the news last year when the brutalist concrete multi-storey car park there was awarded listed building status by Historic Environment Scotland. Whatever you think of that, there are other reasons to visit the street. There’s the superb view of Edinburgh Castle for example, perched atop the volcanic rock, and then there is the eponymously named restaurant, that has been serving discerning customers for 10 years under the direction of chef Dominic Jack (pictured below).
Jack has some chops, having worked at more than a few Michelin restaurants during his career. Close friends with Tom Kitchin, Castle Terrace was founded by the two chefs in 2010, and has gradually built up a formidable reputation with Jack as the Chef Patron.
My wife Maureen and I chose a freezing Thursday night in February to visit, and were given a warm welcome by the professional staff kitted out in tweed mini kilts (the women), and tweed suits (the men). You can’t help but be impressed as you sit in the lounge and stare up at the gold leaf ceiling. The embossed floral wallpaper too, is a unique feature, creating a 3d effect with the help of some clever lighting.
First things first, and Maureen was tempted by the seasonal cocktail – a gin, rhubarb and apple concoction with more than a dash of absinthe. I went for the non-alcoholic option – the house ginger beer. After just one sip of these refreshing beverages, we were presented with a trio of canapes. First up was a tiny cushion of ravioli filled with a salt cod brandade, second, a polenta biscuit topped with goat’s cheese and pork. However, the masterpiece was a Caesar salad sphere, coated in a lettuce jelly, with a chicken/anchovy flavoured liquid filling. Each was a marvel, both in the presentation and the taste. A prequel to what was to come.
While we had been sitting, the restaurant had been filling up nicely with a mixture of couples and larger parties, helping to create a lively atmosphere. We were shown through to our table, and our starters were shortly delivered.
Maureen, being from Orkney, was drawn to the hand-dived scallop from her home islands. It was a huge specimen, seared and set afloat in a sea of provencale broth, and surmounted with braised squid. Maureen declared it: “Melt in the mouth”, and polished it off in record time. I had chosen a cauliflower velouté, poured theatrically by our waiter into a bowl of Strathdon Blue cheese striped ravioli. It certainly looked amazing, and yes, the velouté was rich and creamy, with the green and white pasta yielding perfectly to the salty cheese within.
Our main courses were delivered promptly, and the sommelier had taken charge of choosing a wine to go with each of Maureen’s courses. I had stuck to the non-alcoholic option, and was tucking into a delicious dark ale called Wheesht from local brewers, Harviestoun. It was a fitting accompaniment to my venison, served in two ways – one as a crumbed loin, and the other, a braised haunch enclosed in a delicate puff pastry pie and accompanied by celeriac, celery, apple and walnuts, with a rich venison wine jus.
Maureen had chosen roasted saddle of Inverurie lamb – a generous portion of three slices surrounded by artichoke, gnocchi and black olive, and topped with a kromesky (croquette) of braised lamb shoulder. The roast lamb was deliciously pink and flavoursome, and the fresh pasta a perfect accompaniment.
Amazingly, we still had room for pudding – and we chose two opposites – Maureen a spicy souffle with brown butter ice cream, and for me, a lemon meringue pie with forced rhubarb. The souffle was a towering masterpiece, just right for a cold winter’s night, and although I enjoyed mine, I was envious.
Our meal was completed with two coffees, served with delicate homemade petit fours.
We both agreed as we made our way into the freezing night air, that if a car park can be listed, then why not an eating place? So begins the campaign to save Castle Terrace restaurant for the nation.