Let’s get this right out of the way at the beginning, without any preamble; dinner at The Kitchin was absolutely perfect. No question. One of the very best. So, 11/10 at least. For the food, that is. And the service. The location is a bit so-so, especially in the driech Scottish weather – Leith has promised so much over the last thirty years, but still fails to deliver. Many of the recently refurbished shops and eateries are empty, the Ocean Terminal and the huge Scottish Government buildings failing to bring enough passing trade. The converted apartments look similarly forelorn, the paint peeling, the rainwater pipes overflowing and sinister “no parking” signs discouraging lingering. There’s the attraction [?] of the former Royal Yacht Britannia, moored in the dock. You can visit, of course, but access is through Ocean Terminal – presumably where visitors disembark from cruise ships. It is an unremittingly soulless example of a modern, out-of-town shopping complex. Full of shops you really don’t want to visit, interspersed with the usual crowd of chain fast food restaurants. Welcome to Edinburgh…?
In the early 1980s we went to Skippers Restaurant, a simple converted pub serving wonderful fresh seafood.
It was a bold step back in 1979 to convert a traditional pub in the largely working-class and still working port into a gastropub, specialising in locally sourced fish.
Ian Ruthven and his wife established Skippers, and then converted the former ferry waiting room into an 85 seat restaurant, called the Waterside. Unfortunately Ian died in 1996 and many of the dreams for the area died. A number of Michelin restaurants were established as the area developed, with the Kitchin and Martin Wishart still going. Alas the Plumed Horse lost its star, and with it went most of the custom – fickle these star followers. The food may have still be as good but the place rapidly went bust.
In amongst all this we find Tom Kitchin’s Leith restaurant. Nowt to look at from the outside, as soon as you get through the door everything changes; like going through the back of the wardrobe you enter a luxurious fantasy land. Calm, friendly service with nothing rushed. A couple of boutique gins and some crisp nibbles let you settle in. Nothing overly formal or intimidating, you get time to sort through the menu and think about choices.
We opt for the simply excellent A la carte – we could have happily chosen anything off the menu. Brilliant touches – dark grey menu folders for the starters and mains, with matching netting place mats. The menus and place mats for the puds are in silver folders – dead easy for all the staff to tell exactly where a table is up to in service. You get a little map showing where all the produce comes from – Yorkshire Rhubarb! Tom is on the pass throughout the night ensuring quality is maintained to the right standard. Each dish is simply excellent. What more can we say?
An amuse bouche of silky carrot velvet with crunchy vegetables
- Crab and shellfish – Shellfish cannelloni served with crab, celeriac, orange and a Newhaven green crab bisque, and
- Vegetable – a selection of cooked and raw vegetables from Ken Holland served with a warm lemon vegetable nage
- North Sea turbot roasted on the bone served with a salad of raw vegetables from Ken Holland
- Rockpool – A rockpool of local seafood served with sea vegetables, ginger and a shellfish consommé
- Knockraich crowdie cheesecake served with poached Tomlinson’s Farm rhubarb [from the elysium that is the Yorkshire Rhubarb Triangle], rhubarb sorbet and pink pralines
- Apple crumble soufflée
After a couple of heart warming gin cocktails, we opt for a half bottle of Wild Fermented Greywhacke sauvignon blanc and some delicious pudding wines [Muscat and Tokaji].
Restaurant The Kitchin, Leith
PS We stayed at The Bonham. We’ve stayed before, perhaps when it was less “tired”. Still, we found enthusiastic staff and we were upgraded to the “Honeymoon Suite”. Next time? We’ll see…