RAY Philp visits 21212, a Michelin-starred restaurant with luxurious rooms in the heart of Edinburgh
ROYAL Terrace is a quiet street in the centre of the capital. Its long, uniform row of Georgian townhouses stretches out in an outdoor corridor of cobblestones, wrought iron and Playfair architecture, uninterrupted by bars and clubs (though the nearest pub is only a five-minute walk away.)
21212 opened six years ago, and has established itself as one of the few places in the city where you can both begin your night and end it. Above Paul Kitching’s Michelin-starred restaurant, 21212, there are four luxury bedrooms – two of which face the large garden to the rear, while the others look out to the Firth of Forth.
WINING AND DINING
21212’s traditional New Town exterior feels like a piece of misdirection. Below a sort-of-chandelier made of intersecting glass sheets shaped to resemble candles my partner and I sat on one of two long, dark green banquettes, the tops of which looked like rolling waves. The restaurant’s earthy brown and pastel green interior mimicked nature too. Eating at 21212 is an exciting – occasionally disorienting – experience. It asks fundamental questions of why we eat the way we do, and then offers playful and imaginative answers.
Pebble-shaped butter dishes, rectangular saucers, and “open-up” wine glasses were the vessels for Kitching’s food, which mirrored the restaurant interior’s sleight-of-hand: a salami slice was coiled into a conch; a scrap of bacon was pinned on to the plate like a corsage. Seasonal produce is king in Kitching’s restaurant – the menu changes weekly – and the amuse-bouche of vegetable trifle felt like the purest expression of a 21212 edict: take a familiar dish, turn it on its head, and deliver it with personality.
BUDGET OR BOUTIQUE?
21212 isn’t cheap, but it does make one or two concessions to the more frugal diner. Two-course lunches are £22, and on weekdays (except Mondays, when the restaurant is closed) you can pay as little as £55, excluding drinks, to sit down to a three-course meal. Bring two wallets on Saturday, though: double rooms that cost £150 on weeknights cost nearly twice as much on 21212’s most popular evening.
Each of 21212’s four rooms is crammed with luxury. At the end of a kingsize bed with plump, shimmering cushions splayed over a third of the mattress, a short-backed fabric sofa squatted just in front of a flatscreen television. On the opposite side of the wall from the bed was a corridor with a wardrobe and a full-length mirror. Space was at a premium, but the furniture was thoughtfully distributed. The en-suite bathroom, though, felt more open – the free-standing bathtub, which looked like an upturned eggshell, was the biggest I’d ever seen. The Noble Isle toiletries, packaged in smart, svelte black boxes, were of a piece with the sleek yet unshowy bathroom fixtures.
WORTH GETTING OUT OF BED FOR
Breakfast is served from 8.15am to 10am in one of two communal dining areas on the first floor. According to 21212’s website, the ATE room, the larger of the two, has a “traditional fireplace, cornicing and Georgian door frames”, but you tend not to notice any of that when you’re hungry. Eyes firmly fixed on the table, I saw – and ate – pillar-sized piles of toast, strips of smoked salmon and caviar, apricot and raisin muesli… and drank milky pools of coffee. A Scottish couple in their early 40s, visiting from Dubai, sat opposite and ordered bacon and eggs, like normal people.
The sloe gin, glowing in a crystal decanter on a glass-topped console, was a nice touch, as was the welcome letter, signed by Kitching and his partner, Kate O’Brien. I was also struck by 21212’s pleasant and efficient staff who were easygoing in their guests’ company and seemed free of the stiff gestures and bullet-point kindnesses of service culture.
A wonderful culinary experience and a restful night’s sleep was a rare treat and a real pleasure. At 21212, in the heart of Edinburgh, you feel like you’re somewhere else entirely.
• Double rooms at 21212 from £150 on weeknights (Saturdays from £295). Dinner at Paul Kitching 21212 is extra and costs: Tuesday– Friday, three courses from £55, four courses from £62, five courses from £70, Saturday, five courses from £70. 21212, 3 Royal Terrace, Edinburgh, Midlothian EH7 5AB (0345 222 1212, www.21212restaurant.co.uk)