A Michelin-starred Lunch At A Bargain Price.
Lunch at Castle Terrace is truly a thing of wonder and beauty. The beauty part is the food itself, the wonder is how they manage to produce such an exceptional three-course lunch for just twenty new pounds.
In fact, you get even more than just three courses for your bucks. While waiting for our table to be made ready during what is clearly a very busy lunch service, our party of three is comfortably seated in the lounge area where we are provided with complimentary nibbles to go with our drinks. Lighter than air cheesy puffs and deep fried crisp fragments are perfect bar snacks.
Upon being seated in the dining area, orders taken, we're then given another complimentary taster, this time an amouse-bouche of olives, basil and tomatoes. But it's slightly more complex than that. Presented in a tiny tea-cup, this is more like drinking a heavenly milk-shake of Mediterranean flavours. An example of snug perfection and invention. A wide selection of breads are also offered.
The lunch menu, it must be said, is not expansive. Just three choices are on offer per course. Happily, these all seem to be of equal perfection. A tartare of Fraserburgh mackerel with apple and ginger confit is silkily smooth, while poached fillet of Shetland skate on summer vegetables (it being August at time of dining) is the winner of the entire meal. The skate itself is robustly luscious, but underneath are the raw veg of green beans and peas over which a smoked salmon consomme is poured. This creates a delicately fragrant broth beneath the skate in which the incredibly fresh (surely only a matter of hours since they were picked) vegetables cook. Magnificent.
My main course is less subtle but equally excellent. Seared hampe of Scotch beef with an ox tongue pastilla is perfectly cooked slices of beef garnished with onions, both fried and caramelised, then placed over what I can only describe as the perfect meat pastry. Roughly minced ox tongue inside a light pastilla which combines with the meat itself to become a celebration of beef on my plate. Poached fillet of megrin sole with crushed basil potatoes and tomato sauce is also worth rejoicing for; like all other dishes served it comes looking like a perfect picture. In this case, Rothko at his brightest, I would say.
Initially, desserts can seem slightly uninspiring, a straight-up choice between treacle toffee pudding or creme brulee. Rest assured, however, these are the best treacle toffee pudding and creme brulee you could possibly expect. There is also the cheese platter, which comes with a somewhat hefty price mark-up of six pounds. I decide to give it a go, and the added expense is well worth it. A huge trolley is hauled around to my position at the table where our excellent waiter proceeds to give me a guided tour and lecture of what cheeses are on offer. All sourced from Scotland and France, I give him carte blanche to impress me and he serves me a marvellous selection of five different cheeses which perfectly complement each other as well as the small pot of ginger honey.
It's all finished off with coffee and petits fours. Castle Terrace provides a fine-dining lunch of exceptional quality, both in terms of cooking and the ingredients' provenance. The amount of detail in the menu and the tremendous service makes this quite possibly the best value lunch for what you get in Edinburgh. I look forward to going back for dinner!