CLOSED: Castle Terrace (Edinburgh)

Location: Edinburgh, Scotland
Address: 33/35 Castle Terrace
Type of Meal: Dinner

When we visited on a Friday evening, it was a packed house at Castle Terrace; with its laid back atmosphere (for a Michelin restaurant) the dining room was humming with conversation and laughter. Unfortunately, tables are placed fairly close together so you wouldn't want to speak too loudly or risk disrupting your neighbours, but does offer the opportunity to check out what everyone else is ordering.

The amuse bouche for the evening followed a comfort food theme.  The trio consisted of a crab meat ravioli, miniature slider and a liquid Caesar salad.  The crispy ravioli and slider were pretty looking and tasted good, but the most inventive and delicious of the three was the small Caesar salad capsule, which we were instructed to eat in one bite.  As soon as you bite into the half dome, your taste buds are greeted with a blast of garlic sauce.  When paired with the smooth jelly dome and crispy crouton on the bottom, you can certainly see why the chef describes this as a Caesar salad.

Next, arrived an espresso cup filled with the chef's take on a baked potato - smooth cheesy mashed potatoes top with disc of more potatoes (?) and a hint of bacon dust.  As tasty as creamy mashed potatoes can be, but we were still reminiscing about the liquid salad.

As soon as the seared scallops (£19) were placed in front of me, I knew I was in for a good meal. They were a fair size with a beautiful crust that even Mr. Ramsey would be proud of and just cooked so that the middle held a bit of the translucence.  I wouldn’t have imagined making scallops Indian style, but Castle Terrace topped theirs with a light curry sauce (poured table side), placed it on a bed of fragrant curried basmati rice and placed a small disc of naan bread beside each.  

There was just so much to try on the dish! The small pieces dotting the left side of the plate were dried pineapple and raisins, not something I like but thankfully they didn't mix it into the rice. I did enjoy the slivers of fresh coconut topping each scallop adding a light crunchy slaw to each delicate Orkney scallop.  This is certainly as dish you have to try if you like flavourful seafood.

On the other hand, my main of seared hampe of beef (£25) was back to a more traditional offering. Yet, it was presented in an extraordinary fashion and made me sit back for a moment and just take it in before diving into taste it.  From left to right on the plate, a piece of roasted carrot & spring onion, slices of the beef sitting on top of a phyllo pastry filled with crispy ox tongue and lastly a sweet potato mash rectangle filled with bordelaise sauce, mini carrots and a ravioli filled with beef jus (?).

At first, I found the beef to be a bit tough, only to realize when searching "hampe" later for this blog that it was a synonym for skirt steak.  In this case, the beef was actually cooked wonderfully as it was quite tender for this cut of meat and the dish provided a good portion of it. The pastilla (phyllo wrapped ox tongue) was also fairly large and quite delicious. For anyone who has ever had the Chinese pork floss (often found wrapped in glutinous rice or topping congee) the ox tongue had that texture but was moistened with sauce.  Although the flavour was fairly condensed, it didn't have a hint of offal to it and just resembled a gamier beef like bison.

Meanwhile, my husband ordered off of their seasonal menu starting with the crab (£17) which arrived cannelloni style piped into thin shavings of avocado. It was a refreshing dish, much lighter than my scallops, with diced mango and roasted red pepper mixed into the crab filling.  Certainly delicious and beautiful but I did not have order’s remorse.

Being adventurous, he ordered the special of the night, grouse (£33; a type of wild fowl), for his main.  You could tell that these weren't raised on a farm as the menu even warned that the game based dishes "could have traces of shot" in it.  Generally, I'm a fan of gamier tasting meats but even I could not warm up to this dish - breast or leg.  It was either the bird or the bread sauce but there was an unappetizing bitter taste in the dish.  

The only bearable part was the pan fried gnocchi sitting under the legs, served separately, but even these were slightly tainted with a gross aftertaste. My husband ate it and enjoyed it as an "experience" but agreed my beef was the better choice.

Luckily, the meal for him ended off on a sweet note when we ordered the caramel soufflé (£11) to share. Made to order, it arrived at the table towering over the ramekin.  Castle Terrace takes the cake for the most beautiful soufflé I’ve seen. Our server scored the soufflé and then poured a warm dark chocolate sauce on top so that it soaked into the middle.  A generous portion of honeycomb (or what you may know as sponge - the crunchy sweet candy in the middle of a Crunchie bar) and scoop of vanilla bean ice cream topped everything.

The dessert was positively decadent and made to be shared as we couldn't nearly have eaten it to ourselves.  The soufflé was airy and moist and undoubtedly the best sweet version I've ever had. Normally, I prefer my soufflés on the drier side, but even with the addition of the dark chocolate syrup and melting ice cream the structure still remained intact.  The honeycomb was also a smart choice adding a crunchy contrast to the smooth soufflé.
It appears that both of the Michelin restaurants in Edinburgh we visited have some sort of table side cart.  When my husband ordered a scotch (some year of Lagavulin for £11.50) the waiter wheeled over an entire whisky cart and poured it table side - perhaps to entice the other patrons and a great conversation starter.

 Coffee or tea, served with petit fours, will set you back £4.95. During our visit, the selection consisted of a pistachio cream cookie sandwich, a coconut chocolate macaroon and a chocolate filled with pineapple jam.  After such a delicious soufflé all were a bit of a disappointment and a bit sweet.

Castle Terrace did have their service down pat.  Despite being more laid back and casual than Martin Wishart, the servers just had a bit more polish. For example, they remembered my water preference (ice) compared to my other dinner companions (sparkling at £4.50/bottle) without having to be reminded.  It’s these little things that make all the difference.

I did notice a random £1 "charity" charge added onto the bill.  It's unclear what this is exactly for, but after shelling out so much for a meal what's another £1? And perhaps it's a way of having diners look back at the meal without guilt... sure I've splurged and ingested quite a number of calories from the decadent dishes, but in the end I helped someone out so surely all that would be negated right?

Overall mark - 8.5 out of 10

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Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • 6 - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
  • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
  • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!