Having lunch for probably the eighth time over as many months in the same restaurant I have to ask myself "Why?". After all, until I retired I spent much of my professional life looking for and collating the evidence for what we doctors do. So, why another journey of 50 miles and one more lunch at Castle Terrace? What is the evidence for this? The simple answer is the consistency of the superb food and the excellent service.
This week my partner (who has twice reviewed Castle Terrace) and I hosted two members of the family. It was plain to see that it was a busy lunch that included at least one large party of men in suits. The place was full, a reflection perhaps of word of mouth recommendation for this young restaurant. Philippe, the ever-present manager, was as cool, welcoming and efficient as ever. But, then, so are the rest of his front of house team.
Our guests opted for the 3 course lunch that is a quality bargain: a chilled oyster soup and the restaurant's own perfect version of a Scottish family favourite, cock-a-leekie soup, were their starters after the small amuse-bouche, a silky smooth veloute of something green (my fault, I forget such details....) with diminutive croutons and soft cheese. Chef sent us a complimentary extra starter of game pate en croute cooked to perfect fineness and firmness. We two ate from the a la carte menu, in part because it offered two real favourites (rabbit and Scottish langoustine). We started with a signature dish of cheese-sauced spelt risotto with langoustine tails that were sweet and just firm enough. The spelt grains made a very welcome and nutty-flavoured change to rice. We followed with a wonderful array of rabbit: a brochette of its liver, the main white meat wrapped in a wafer-thin slice of ham and a large spring roll-like melange of the browner meat. Succulent and delicious. Our guests were treated to wonderful lamb. The four desserts were all different and I need say no more than other reviewers have about the generous and delicious pistachio souffle. Chef Jack's mother's recipe for the Pavlova meringue is perhaps a tad too firm for my liking, but that is the only item in eight meals I have hesitated over.
As Philippe knows, we do not take to the petit fours - but we ate them just the same with the coffee that is as good as we could get in Melbourne, our previous home for over a decade.
And unlike Melbourne restaurants, many of which we were eating in these past few months on a return Downunder, the bill was not extortionate (and I do not refer to the current £/Aussie$ exchange rate). The food for two 'set' (£20 pp) and two a la carte lunches came to £133 for food.
Even with a full restaurant we never felt any slowing down or gaps or even nervous rush by the staff. It was as relaxed as 'usual' and we even had an empty table next to us. Besides, business men eat up and go!
Usually we opt for the excellent set lunch and let Joel, the informative and informed sommelier, choose the glasses of wine for the courses (£17.50 for three different glasses) and we have never been let down, but this week we asked him instead to choose a bottle of red and one of white wine but to recommend them from the cheaper parts of their list! He recommended a couple of each for our choice and they were not just a new experience but very pleasant. For three glasses of dessert wine it was again left to Joel: he chose three that were different - and from the lower to middle part of the price spectrum.
So the answer to my own question is that we go back because the staff are excellent, efficient, friendly and not patronising or aloof - and they cope; the food is consistently excellent; it is a nice relaxing place; and it is not worryingly expensive. We really like it.
We hope that the new broom at the Michelin Guide in UK will recognise that the "the rising star" in Edinburgh is a real star, or two even! We do.
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