21212 Edinburgh

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21212 sign (photo credit: The Justified Sinner)


We ate and stayed at the 21212 Restaurant in Edinburgh at the weekend. This restaurant with rooms is located in a Georgian townhouse at the end of a long terrace, halfway up Calton Hill and with superb views over the Firth of Forth.

The new owners have put a significant investment (some £4.5m) into the refurbishment, and it shows. The rooms are luxurious. We stayed in a room with a large bed, a wet room with a great shower, and a big comfy sofa. The dining room has curved high-backed banquettes giving the place a rather intimate and sumptuous feel. The chefs all work away behind a glass wall at the end of the dining room. When they were assembling dishes they looked as if they were gathering like monks in prayer.

The owners and staff are truly charming and provide a warm welcome. They remembered preferences we had stated either when booking or earlier in the evening. Service was really well paced – so much so that we didn’t really notice it.

But, what about the food? The 21212 premise is that there are two choices for starter, a single soup course, two choices for main course, a cheese course, finishing with two choices for dessert. 21212, geddit?

Although there are few choices, the menu is complex (see below). The portions are small, but totally packed with flavour. No two bites are the same, and I wished that we had the menus in front of us so that we could analyse and understand all the flavours. For me, the best part of the meal was the main course; the depth of flavour in the lamb was incredible, and hit a delicious spicy finish from the merguez sausage.

I only have two suggestions for improvement. First, the cheese course did not feature any Scottish or even British cheeses; secondly I would have welcomed twice the quantity of soup. But neither of those mild criticisms took away from the pleasure of the meal.

On the whole, 21212 is an different (eccentric?) dining experience. It is very much culinary theatre, but is matched by the tastes and textures of the food. An evening to savour and remember.

And the cost – £60 a head, but that included a complimentary pre-dinner drink. The wine list isn’t ludicrously expensive, and they charged less than a fiver for a single malt at the end!

“Fish & Chips Twice Please”
Warm Smoked Salmon Nugget Topped With A Sliver
Of Sliced, Apricot + Mint, 2 French Fries, (Chips),
Cornflakes (Yes) & A Mushy Pea Sauce.
Ketchup + Asparagus

Tender Fillet of Beef, “Banana-Shallots”,
Chinese Style Bean Sprouts, Rice,
Broken Lemon Curd Cheese Tart,
Sunflower Seeds + Pease Pudding.
Ginger & Peanut Butter Sauce, Fresh Basil

***

Soup

***

Slow Cooked Young Seabass “Scottish Flavours”
(Haggis, Neeps, Carrots, Smoked Haddock),
Garlic & Tomato, Dates, Almonds & Pineapple,
Feta Parchment, Balsamic Reduced Cream Sauce

Assiette of Lamb, Fillet, Merguez, Braised, Diced.
Mediterranean Styles, Rosemary, Currants + Walnuts,
Aubergine + Courgette Confit, Pimento + Yoghurt.
Wild Rice + Onions

***

Cheese

***

Slow Baked Then Glazed Vanilla & Egg Custard,
Cream Cheese, Chestnuts, Apricots & Oatmeal
Served With Pink Peppercorn Flapjack

Mascarpone Cheesecake, “Icky-Sticky”, Oatmeal

***

Coffee and truffles

TorryBattery on Flickr has some great pictures of the food from his visit earlier this year.

Ardanaiseig

Ardanaeiseig Hotel

We stayed at Ardanaiseig for 2 nights at the start of our West Coast holiday, and arrived on a beautiful late afternoon after having walked up The Cobbler.

From the outside the hotel is a somewhat shabby Scots baronial house built in local granite. Inside, it feels like a highland country house. Our room was spacious and comfortable with antique furniture, and a great view over Loch Awe to the Argyll hills.

View across Loch Awe from Ardanaieseig Hotel

We had dinner both nights. Each night had a fixed menu, which meant that the kitchen could concentrate on putting out high quality food. The highlight for me was the dessert on Monday – coffee, doughnuts and iced double cream – this was a coffee creme brulee topped with cappuccino foam, with a solid doughnut and double cream ice cream. And it didn’t skimp on the portions either.

Monday

Amuse bouche: Crab spring roll
Butternut squash veloute with pancakes
John Dory with artichoke
Best end of lamb, aubergine puree, garlic crisps, garlic foam, courgettes and white beans
Pre-dessert: passion fruit minestrone
Coffee, doughnuts and iced double cream
Coffee & confectionery

Tuesday

Amuse bouche: Ballantine of quail with red onion and black pudding
Veloute of Jerusalem artichoke with truffle shavings
Ravioli of goats cheese with red pepper coulis
Sea bass, potato scales, mussels in saffron sauce
Pre-dessert: stawberry jelly
Chocolate fondant, white pepper ice cream, raspberries
Coffee & confectionery.

And I must also mention breakfast!

Fresh fruit, nuts, dried fruit, cereals
Croissants, pains au chocolat, toast
Full Scottish – beef sausage, bacon, black pudding, tomato, mushroom, potato scone, poached egg
Smoked salmon and scrambled egg

Ardanaiseig does some things really well – in particular the warmth of the hotel is matched by the warmth and friendliness of the staff (many of whom seem to be Aussies on a RTW trip). The rooms are comfortable and spacious, if a little quirky, and the food is intelligent and well presented.

The hotel could be even better – the dining room would benefit from someone supervising and mentoring the front of house staff, the food could make more use of seasonal ingredients (butternut squash in June?), and they could plant up the beautiful walled garden with veg to provide that really local flavour to the kitchen.

The Samling, Ambleside

We’ve had a cracking weekend at The Samling in Ambleside. The Samling is a luxuriously comfortable hotel high up on the banks of Windermere.

Samling

We stayed in the Tyan room, with it’s striking blue Lake District wallpaper.

Tyan

This room has a gorgeous view over Windermere, which was particularly special while eating a full breakfast brought to our room.

View from Tyan

The hotel has a fantastic restaurant, with a coherent and complex menu featuring the best ingredients. We ate from the same menu on both nights:

Canapes: bread sticks and dips
– parmesan & green pesto
– beetroot & sour cream
– cumin & curried aubergine

Amuses bouche:
– boiled egg, white bean creme, chorizo
– pesto, red pepper, parmesan foam

Chicken mosaic with leek, prune & lentils
Roast scallops, chicken oysters, celeriac puree
Slow cooked Gloucester old spot, langoustine, celeriac puree
Red mullet, minestrone, crushed ratte potatoes

Wild venison, dauphinoise of roast vegetables, cabbage
Braised Herdwick mutton, shoulder, shank, langoustine, artichoke puree, potato
Fillet of brill, curried parsnip, kipper tortellini

Cheese (for one night only!): 5 Northern English cheeses

Pre-dessert: Cinnamon tuile, sherry jelly, catalan creme, acacia honey sorbet

“Apples from the Samling garden” – apple pie, apple parfait, apple brulee, apple sorbet
Chocolate delice, fennel ice cream, mandarin jelly
Poached pear, olive oil ice cream, upside-down pudding

Coffee & petit fours
– lemon meringue
– lemon & thyme shortbread
– blackcurrant jelly
– chocolate & hazlenut cluster
– madeleine

Phew!

To walk off the effects of this meal, we had some spectacular, although slightly snowy, walks, particularly from Patterdale

Brothers Water, Patterdale

and above Windermere

Windermere