25th November 2017 7pm
I hadn’t been to Castle Terrace for over three years, but it had been a firm favourite of mine. With such a big gap, I still somehow managed to visit the restaurant twice in a week – once for lunch and once for dinner. It is the dinner I will be reviewing because I think it put them through their paces more. This was part of my birthday celebrations so we already knew we were all in on the tasting menu (because why wouldn’t you?!).
On arrival we were warmly greeted and had our coats taken in exchange for a cute little charm, so we could claim them back later. We were immediately taken to our table, even though we had arrived a little early, which suited us fine. We noticed later that other people were given stools for their handbags. We were not. I had this happen at the Kitchin too. I don’t know why our handbags were fine to be left on the floor but others not. My poor handbag has now developed a complex.
We were only given drinks menus to start, which we found a little frustrating as we hadn’t indicated at that point that we were choosing the tasting menu, so those drinking wine had no idea what the cost of a paired wines option was or if they had gone for the a la carte menu, what they might be eating so to choose an appropriate wine. This resorted in them not going for the matches wines option, which undoubtedly cost the restaurant some profit. I chose a cocktail – Scottish Rose. I was horrified on its arrival that it had a slice of cucumber in it. I should have guessed as the cocktail had Hendricks gin as an element but it also has Cointreau and rose water. Anyway, I scooped it out and left it on my side plate.
We were brought some amuse bouche which consisted of a goats cheese, apricot and pork collar, salt cod barbajuan and a Caesar salad. These were delightful on the eye (a recurring theme), with the goats cheese canapé looking like a mini eggs and bacon and the Caesar salad a vivid green hue, which had to be popped in your mouth in one go as it was in fact liquid inside. All lots of fun but still packing in some serious flavour. Some bread was also brought to the table with some salted butter. The bread was warm, with a crunchy exterior. It would have been nice if they had offered to take away my slice of cucumber (from the aforementioned cocktail) so I could use my side plate properly but that didn’t happen. It just glared at me as I scooted my bread around the remainder of the plate.
We ordered the surprise tasting menu and stipulated dietary requirements. We then waited for what was quite a long time before we had the next lot of food. The appetiser arrived a good 45 minutes after we entered the restaurant. This was the only real wait we had but it wasn’t a great start. The appetiser was a panna cotta of Arbroath smokie. It was clever as it looked like an egg but the yolk was mango. A smart idea which really tricked the mind. The smokiness came through well too, so it wasn’t all style and no substance.
The next course was tartare of Shetland salmon, served a little like sushi. The salmon was exquisite and had sesame seeds scattered across it. Placed delicately on top was a small quenelle of wasabi ice cream. I love wasabi ice cream so revelled in eating that. There were also small cubes of soy sauce jelly, alongside slivers of ginger and cucumber (or courgette for those who disliked cucumber). The textures and flavours were executed to perfection in this dish. I really had to restrain myself from gobbling it all up too quickly.
Next came a seared wing of skate, served with a light curry sauce. The skate had a beautiful golden colour to its top, which provided a lovely taste and texture. A little bit of coconut was scattered on top. To its side were some dehydrated grapes and apricot, a celeriac purée topped with a crispy shallot, and a mini naan. Every single mouthful danced on the palate. The curry sauce, whilst light, was still thick and had a mild heat running through it. I was tempted to lick the plate.
The next dish was very clever indeed. It was presented to us as a pork burger but nothing was quite what it seemed. The meat component was a patty of pork, but with additional elements inside. The bun was actually made of chickpea. It was astounding that this still managed to not just look like but also have the texture of bread. There was a slice of ketchup but in jelly form and what looked like some cheese was in fact turnip. It seemed only the lettuce leaf was wearing its true identity. The whole thing came with a pork jus. Utterly delicious.
The fish course was probably one of the least memorable of the evening. That isn’t to say that it was bad – it just didn’t stand out as much. It was a cod dish and had been poached, with a minestrone of vegetables sat on top with a crab ravioli. A crab bisque was then poured over the top. The fish was soft and the bisque was velvety. A solid course, just a bit uninspiring after the previous dishes.
Onto the meat course. This was a spelt risotto with various beef elements on top. I first had a spelt risotto here several years ago and fell in love with it. I’ve yet to have a spelt risotto as good and was as tasty as I remembered it. On top was heart, beef slices and oxtail. Each element was packed with flavour and was quite a rich dish and felt quite opulent but somehow homely at the same time. One of my friends described this course as spectacular.
Lastly came the dessert. This was an apple and mascarpone cheesecake. A swirl of caramelised sesame seeds sat on top with a slice of confit lime and apple sorbet. This was not too heavy for dessert and the flavours were relatively subtle, apart from the confit lime which was quite tart and make me pucker up. One of the staff was fiddling around in opening a bottle of wine for the next table at a little side table between us and them. Whilst he did this he encroached on my friend’s space while she was trying to eat, with his side rubbing up against her arm. This isn’t a good set up at all and needs to be adjusted.
My friends ordered an espresso and a breakfast tea, which arrived with petit fours for us all. My friend who had chosen tea wasn’t offered milk, so had to ask for it, which yet again was a little disappointing. The petit fours were cute and tasted nice though but not as fun as the amuse bouche at the beginning of the meal.
I know from what I’ve written sounds as if I didn’t have a great time but that’s not true. Overall, I did enjoy the experience but it wasn’t as good as times gone past. The food was excellent but elements of the service took the shine off it. At another restaurant I wouldn’t have found such things annoying but at this standard of restaurant, there is more scrutiny. My friend also found some of the insistence of the sommelier a little pressurising, particularly as they had already made their choice. As an aside, my lunch experience was different because I went with someone who was a regular and was recognised by all the staff – plus it wasn’t busy. This shouldn’t really impact on the experience. Perhaps this is why they lost their Michelin star.
Food – 9/10
Atmosphere – 8/10
Value – 8/10
Overall – 33/40
Would I eat here again? Yes but I’d probably pick the Kitchin instead.
Cost £320 for three tasting menus, two half bottles of wine and a cocktail