As a fan of 21212’s food, Peter Ranscombe couldn’t turn down an invitation to try the Michelin-starred restaurant with rooms’ wine pairings.
CHEF Paul Kitching cracked the code for good food a long time ago – the proprietor at 21212, the restaurant with rooms on Edinburgh’s Royal Terrace, has held his Michelin star since 2010, a year after opening the eatery.
Kitching had previously held a star at Juniper, his restaurant near Manchester, and both kitchens were also awarded four AA rosettes.
Yet food is only part of the story at 21212; I’m a big fan of its wine list, so an invitation from head sommelier Jessica Taylor to sample some of the wines that she pairs with the five-course lunch menu was too good to resist.
Wine pairing menus are a fantastic idea and often incredibly good value too – rather than needing to decide on a single bottle or two to accompany a whole meal, having a different glass with each course opens up a whole new world of flavour combinations, especially in the hands of skilled sommelier.
And Taylor demonstrated her skills in spades over the course of the lunch, choosing wines I would never have thought to pick and showing a very precise understanding not just of wine-and-food matching but also of chef’s unique style.
21212’s kitchen sits in full view of the 38-seat dining room, adding to the theatre of a visit.
Yet it’s the textures of Kitching’s food that always stick in my mind, mixing soft and crisp surfaces and consistencies in the same way he blends sweet, sour, salty, bitter and umami tastes.
In the pink
That same fine balance was on show in the wines Taylor selected, which began with the 2015 Tardieu-Laurent Tavel, a rosé from the Rhone valley in France, which she paired with a risotto of mature cheddar, haggis, caramelised onion and mushroom – a true mix of sweet and salty, creamy and crunchy.
Taylor explained that she had chosen a rosé as a lighter match, feeling a red would be too heavy and wanting to leave the palate fresh afterwards.
The raspberry yogurt notes alongside the strawberry and lemon on the nose made me think it might be too sweet, but it was deliciously dry on the palate, with plenty of crisp acidity and fresher strawberry and raspberry flavours.
Wine number two was the 2017 Celler Del Roure Cullerot, a white blend of verdil, pedro ximénez, chardonnay and macabeo made in Valencia.
Having been fermented in amphorae, the wine had a tangy savoury edge to it – like salted nuts or blue cheese – alongside flavours of lemon peel and soft ripe pears.
The savouriness of the wine matched the saltiness of the layered vegetable soup, with the wine’s acidity providing a fresh lift.
Soft, slow-cooked chicken – with toasted almonds for crunch, tiny pasta balls, a tomato foam and a quail’s egg in its own cup – was paired to the 2016 Tenuta delle terre Nere Etna Rosso.
Offering aromas of spun sugar and sweet cherry, the palate had soft tannins to complement the soft chicken, with fresh acidity and plenty of red cherry and raspberry flavours.
Taylor likened it to a pinot noir or a “baby Barolo” and that certainly struck a chord with me – a very grown-up style of Etna Rosso.
Old wine, fresh taste
In the French style, cheese proceeded dessert and was accompanied by a favourite sweet red wine of mine, Maury, which can also be a fun match with chocolate.
Les Vignerons De Maury Solera 1928 Cask 933 is a blended wine made from different vintages, with the oldest stretching back to 1928.
Sweet woodsmoke, toffee and caramel aromas led onto rich fig, prune and blackberry on the palate, with fresh acidity to cut through some of the richer cheeses on the nine-strong board.
Break my tart
Dessert was another very creative dish – a “broken tart custard heart”, formed from a custard tart with a caramelised top, a broken pastry case and strands of shredded wheat.
Kitching does a great job of deconstructed dishes like this and Taylor produced a perfect pairing with the 2015 ATS Pince Late Harvest Tokaji, which offered passionfruit, mango and pineapple on the nose, and then pear, green apple and plenty of acidity on the palate to slice through the sweetness of the tart.
The Tokaji was equally as enjoyable on its own, with a fine balance between sweetness, acidity and fruit flavours.