Michelin-starred restaurants can be expensive, haughty and, for many foodies, inaccessible. Intimidating and often pretentious, these establishments are rarely destinations synonymous with youth or excitement beyond the plate. However, 21212 in Edinburgh reinvents gourmet food into a destination that transcends a great meal.
Rather than a hotel providing accommodation and amenities with a restaurant attached, 21212 turns a traditional formula on its head: they want you to enjoy the food so much that you have a sleepover.
Set in on one of Edinburgh’s most significant and beautiful terraces, Royal Terrace, and with an enchanting and eclectic menu changing weekly, 21212 attract an assortment of local and international food aficionados. They flock to Paul Kitching’s restaurant knowing that no two meals will ever be the same. Since it won the UK’s Best New Restaurant in 2009 and multiple awards since, everybody seems to know it.
The building itself is grand and kooky. A blend of Vivienne Westwood and Paul Smith, it’s a zany melee of quirky sophistication that feels immediately disarming and inviting, suggesting more of a guesthouse vibe than the luxury accommodation actually sitting above the restaurant.
The staff greet you like a long lost friend returning home after a ramble in the Outer Hebrides, with the warmth and charm of a dinner party host. The restaurant is surprisingly small yet tastefully decorated. With an intimate dining room, all tables have a clear view of the kitchen, where guests are able to watch the chefs at work.
It seems easy to wax lyrical about Michelin-starred food: they have the ultimate accolade already. However, such an intimate setting makes you feel special, as if real quality time and effort has been put into each of the five courses under construction.
<p>The food was inventive and presented immaculately. The mixed vegetable soup garnished with dried fruit and spiced popcorn was about as exciting a vegetable soup as anyone could ever order, sandwiched between a selection of dishes that despite their inherent adventurousness could alienate no diner.
The waitress had warned pre-arrival that the halibut would be slow-cooked to provide extra softness, and she wasn’t wrong. Tender and delicate, it came with an exotic basil dhal and smoked pines (derived from pine cones!) with a neat assortment of buttery asparagus tips, placed around the fish in an expert construction.
The ‘Snicks & Snobs’, a chocolate and peanut brûlée with glazed marshmallow and blueberry compote was quite incredible, an international twelve-cheese bonanza board the final touch in a sophisticated yet truly fun meal.
Up a winding grand Georgian staircase, just four tastefully decorated rooms await those looking for a kip after an indulgent meal. Charming, ‘contemporary with a twist design’ greets 21212’s residents and, although not as exciting as the dining experience, provide the perfect hospitality after the evening’s entertainment.
Possibly the best part of the whole experience was breakfast where, in a separate room, residents of the four rooms ate together around a single oval table, naturally sharing in just how enjoyable Paul Kitching’s food was the night before. It rounded off the experience, making a gastronomic and luxury travel adventure seem almost homely.
For a disarmingly fun Michelin-starred experience in Scotland with the additional benefit of a bed one flight up, 21212 is the place.