Sunday, 13 November 2011


I'm going to be upfront about this.  I didn't want to go to 21212.  My first choice was the recently Michelin starred Castle Terrace, but our usual last minute (well, a couple of weeks in advance) approach to booking meant we couldn't get in.

It might be the garish retro signage or the wordy menu which has always put me off, yet here we were pitching up to the entrance of 21212, the aforementioned signage sticking out like a sore thumb on Edinburgh's majestic Royal Terrace.

The building that houses the restaurant and its 4 bedrooms is just gorgeous.  The sort of Georgian townhouse I would absolutely kill to own.  The decor is all about the tasteful muted tones, but with opulent if a bit overstuffed materials and furnishings. 

With our £13.50 glass of Henriot Brut Champagne came some decidedly average nibbles.  Fantastic goddess olives (but I eat these at home with a beer in hand), some crisps, and crunchy things that reminded me of snacks you buy in tubs at the supermarket around Christmas time.  Bread was just awful.  Only one choice, which was white and pappy textured.  Not a fantastic start.

On choosing from the menu, it was easy to try everything given there were two of us and the concept is a choice or 2 starters, mains and puds, interspersed by a soup and cheese course.  The captions beside the pictures below are exactly as written on the menu.

Despite its disconcerting Indian restaurant tandoori colour, 'Spicy Pisces' was delicious, the star being a large plump scallop acting as the bedrock for the plethora of other ingredients.  And here too was our first introduction to what would become the menu equivalent to the unwelcome friend that always turns up at the pub; foam.  Kinda pretty, kinda pointless.

Duck was a bit disappointing.  Cooked sous vide (you'll see a theme developing here) it was evenly pink throughout but still slightly tough and displaying none of the advertised caramelisation or crispiness.  There was no real hint of 'spicy' in the rice either but the omelette element was a creamy triumph.  More foam again, but aside from a cappuccino frother, another piece of kit the kitchen had clearly invested in was a food dehydrator.  This produced more interesting results - the basil leaf adorning the dish having an intensified mentholly flavour.

"Spicy Pisces" 4x Fishes, 4x Mushrooms, Crumpets - Hot & Spicy Jumbo Scallops, Giant Prawns, Barley, White Crabmeat Flakes & Smokes Salmon, Morels, Shitakes, Girolles & Shimeji Mushrooms, Best Truffle Oil, Chilli & Onions, Brown Crab, Ginger & Watercress Sauce, Marie Rose, Buttered Grilled Crumpets.
Crispy Cumbrian Duck Breast, Egg Fu Yung, Spicy Rice - Caramelised Breast of Cumbrian Duck, Baked Omelette, Red Onion Egg Fried Rice, Mange Tout & "Purple Sprouting", Breakfast Radish, Lightly Smoked Soy Sauce Mayonnaise, Wasabi (Oriental Horseradish), Broccoli & Basil Puree.

Soup was layers of veg puree, carrot, asparagus, topped with, you guessed it, a pumpkin foam.  Aside from the as ever pointless topping this was a real taste sensation, with amazing depth of flavour in the veg puree layer lurking underneath.
We had been advised that there was a third option for the main course, as the pork could be substituted for beef.  This was where we really started to have doubts about whether there was any intention for the dish to marry, or if the point was for each of the individual ingredients forever to be doomed to remain single forever.  Surely they wouldn't just be serving beef alonside all of the accompanying ingredients that you would think had been so carefully selected for the pork?? - Certainly as far as we could reasonably tell - apparently so.

Not only rather unattractively smothered in the orangey sauce, the other half complained that the presentation of the beef dish - piling each ingredient on top of the other - made it difficult to see what he was eating.  He was also by now rather sick of eating out of a bowl.  His beef though was delicious.  The meat this time beautifully cooked sous vide, flavourful and tender.  Lovely veg, but the toulose sausage (originally intended for the pork dish) didn't sit well.  The other half also found the wide two pronged fork provided rather difficult to eat with.  The waiter pointed out that's why they also provide a spoon.  What's wrong with just having a decent fork!!?
(This is the menu for the pork dish, which we chose to have with the beef option) Classical Pork Supper, Old Spot, Tomato & Sage Sauce - Slow Cooked Tender Fillet of "Old Spot" Pork, Sage & Onion, Apple 123, Smoked Bacon, Toulouse Sausage, Lentils & Hazelnuts, Scottish Grown Vegetables, Oatmeal & Black Peppercorns, Potato & Artichoke Puree.
Trout was nice.  That's just about all I can say about it.  I personally don't think cooking it sous vide improves the flavour and texture more than a skillful bit of pan frying.  Macaroni - why?  The accompanying caviar 'pour over' was wasted in my opinion.  The ozone-ness (and supposed smoke) of the caviar lost in the confusion of other textures and flavours.  I should have eaten it separately.

Pink Trout "Macaroni" Rosemary & Chickpea Puree - Slow Cooked Fillet of Young Pink Trout, Saffron Macaroni, Sweet Potato & Chickpea Puree, Duo of Asparagus White & Green, Dijon Mustard Mayonnaise, Crosnes, Fresh Sweetcorn, Pumpkin Seeds, Feta Cheese Cube.

Asparagus, Spinach & Chervil Sauce, Smoked Caviar.

Cheese next - lots of it.  So much so I wondered if the poor waiter who had to tell us what each one was would remember them all.  It was good, but the accompanying biscuits and the pitiful pieces of dried pear, were bad.

Next the bubbling undercurrent of kitch-ness came bursting to the surface when the cow teapot arrived (yes I did just say that).  The milky almondy drink served was very much like the mexican drink horchata.  They drink it as it's a good accompaniment to spicy food.  I've no idea what its purpose was in this context.

We were getting a bit bored by now, and pudding didn't much raise our interest.  If anything the hideous swan/duck dish the 'P's & C's' dish was served in was positively off-putting.

Extra Winter Layers - Winter Layers of Dates & Apricots, White Chocolate & Vanilla, Pecan Nuts, Oatmeal, Icky Sticky Sponge, Saffron, Turkish Delights, Early Grey Anglaise, Crispy Biscuits (A True Turkish Delight)

P, P, P, P, P, P, C, C, C - Glazed Lemon Bake With A Fruit Compote Of Dried Cherries, Golden Pears, Salted Peanuts, Pink Peppercorns, Marmalade & Saffron Poached Fresh Pineapple, Peanut Butter & Vanilla Egg Anglaise, Dried Fruit Crisp.

Finally coffee and some good but surprisingly unadventurous truffles and fudge.  I'm sure everyone mentions it, but the coffee served in paper cups is very good (though nothing to do with the paper cups, which simply keep the coffee hotter for longer).
The service is impeccable.  Professional and friendly.  Just a shame that a number of the waiting staff are made to wear what quite frankly can only be described as umpa lumpa overalls, which must be, well, embarrassing.

I do get it.  It's different (for Edinburgh).  It's adventurous.  It's quirky.  But quite frankly I'm not in to different for difference sake.  The ingredients have to work together and while the skill of the chef comes through in the cooking of the individual components, it's lacking in being able to present a coherent plate of food.  There are a number of Michelin starred (and other) restaurants in Edinburgh that I'm just dying to pay a return visit to, but 21212 isn't one of them.

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