Midlothian EH7 5AB, United Kingdom
Tastiness Factor: 9/10
Locavore Approved? YES- weekly changing menu. List of local suppliers on their website. States that he buys locally whenever possible, but goes afield when needed to get the best of ingredients. Cannot argue with that!
Edinburgh is an amazing city in so many ways. The history, the beauty, the friendly people and, more recently, the food scene. Many may not consider Edinburgh to be high up there on the foodie radar, but in the last few years, it has really started to make its mark with 5 Michelin Star restaurants.
21212 proudly holds one of these stars which it acquired shortly after its opening in 2009. Prior to that, its owner, Paul Kitching, owned a Michelin Star restaurant in Manchester, helping him grow his profile quickly in Edinburgh and earning 21212 the title of "Best New Restaurant in the UK". As per the website, Kitching and his partner Katie, who is also extensively involved in the restaurant, have over 45 years of Michelin Star experience.
21212 is located very close to city centre, right off the start of the Leith walk heading to the district of Leith. It is in an old Georgian townhouse and looks very stately, much like the majority of the buildings in Edinburgh. It is quite an impressive set-up, including not only a 38-seat dining room with a very impressive open kitchen, but also a drawing room, 2 private dining rooms and, in case your food coma overwhelms you, 4 luxury hotel rooms. Although some features have been modernized and updated, many unique elements of the historic building have been preserved, making you feel as though you were transported back in time. The best place to experience this is in the drawing room, where you must take the time to either enjoy a pre-dinner aperitif and /or an after dinner coffee.
Although the setting may have be some degree of pomp and circumstance, the service is everything but pretentious. The dining room, which was quite intimate with only about 20-30 well-spaced tables, was serviced by very approachable and warm men and women, including the chef's wife Katie who greeted us when we arrived and then visited our table on several occasions throughout our dinner. The servers worked seamlessly to deliver all of our dishes simultaneously and ensure that all of our needs were met. We ended up being the last table of the evening, but were never rushed and told that we were "welcome to stay until 5am" if we wished. The whole experience made me feel as though I was a dinner guest at Paul and Katie's home.
The menu at 21212 is short and sweet. Guests are offered up to 5 courses. There is a standard soup and cheese course, and then 3 choices offered for the appetizer, main and dessert courses. The dishes rotate quite often, with a least a few of the choices being switched up each week. There are a few favourites, such as the delicious lemon dessert that I had, that have kept popping up on the menu since it opened. At both lunch and dinner, guests are welcome to indulge in all 5 courses, or any combination of 2, 3 or 4 courses (note that only 5 courses are offered for the Saturday dinner service). Prices at 21212 are quite reasonable for a Michelin Star restaurant, with a 2-course lunch priced at only 22 pounds, making it accessible to a wider audience.
There is an obvious French influence to Kitching's cooking style, but this is anything but straightforward, simple classic french fare. Although I only technically had 4 courses (which ended up as 6 courses with the mouse and the pre-dessert), it felt as though there were many more since many dishes came with a side of this and/or a shotglass full of that. Although I quite enjoyed this at first, I found it to get a bit repetitive as the meal progresses, both in terms of plating and flavour profiles. Perhaps a little less would have been more. Having said that, all of the dishes that I had were thoughtfully conceived, expertly executed and seasoned perfectly. The meal ended on a real high note, with arguably my favourite dessert of the trip (the signature lemon tart had remained on the menu for so long for good reason!). And don't worry about going home hungry with "only" 5 courses. I was more stuffed after this meal than I remember being at some of the 10-15 course dinners I have had at other restaurants.
As you can tell by the pictures below of the dishes that we enjoyed, the plating at 21212 is exquisite. I loved the dishes and serving trays they used (loved the colourful locally-made water jugs) and the food presentation was refreshingly whimsical (the pre-dessert was quite a conversation piece!).
Summer Truffle Blanquette (abalone, fregola, duxelles, gigli, coriander with coleslaw side)
10 C.C (cornfed chicken, chickpeas, cashews, carrots, chives, courgettes, cumberland and ships, curry, cherry tomato)
Halibut, Egg Shells (prawn, cauliflower, walnuts, crab, rice salad, soy)
Ginger-Nuts (chestnut, cinder toffee, glazed meringue, black berry brûlée)
Dill, Chocolate, Caramel (marzipan, riz au lait, sesame snaps)
Lemon Tart 23rd (strawberry and rhubarb "delight", "milkshake" cottage cheese, goji berries)
I would recommend including a visit to 21212 into your Edinburgh plans. The setting is truly unique to the city which is filled with so much rich history and the dishes presented are packed full of heart creativity. There is no way that one can leave here without a broad smile on their face:)