Monday, 14 December 2009

21212 - 3 Royal Terrace

How did that happen? It's been 11 days since my last post!

I have had a busy couple of weeks. T was ill, I got up at 5am to fly to Birmingham for a job interview, my mum came up to visit, and I was offered the job! It's also my birthday soon, so we had decided to go to 21212 for dinner to celebrate.

We arrived a little early, and started off with Bellinis in the upstairs drawing room. The decor was reminiscent of a neo-gothic or regency interior, and the thick fog outside made it all feel very old fashioned. As well as our drinks, we had some fat olives and some crisps - bizarrely they were cheese & onion or barbecue flavour. It wasn't clear whether they were homemade or if they'd just got a good deal on Kettle Chips.

The Dining Room (from the 21212 website.)

Moving downstairs, we we seated in the middle of the dining room, and we had a great view of the kitchen. My only knowledge of professional kitchens is from the TV. Instead of the sweary chaos that usually seems to reign, here it was quiet and controlled, although as the evening wore on we noticed the chefs crowding round the central prep table, all desperate to add the finishing touch to each dish. We were intrigued by the equipment hanging from the ceiling, as alongside the serving spoons and whisks there was a large triangle. What was it for? Some elaborate mould for plating something? It turned out to be a trivet.

21212 is so named to reflect the menu. There are 2 starters, 1 soup, 2 main courses, 1 cheeseboard and 2 desserts. As there were three of us at dinner, it was perfectly possible that we could order everything on the menu. My mum and T decided they would go for the same starters and main courses, so I was sorely tempted to order the other options just to try everything, but instead I went for what sounded tastier. We were offered some bread to nibble on while waiting for the food. It was airy and spicy, and reminiscent of savoury pannatone. The combination of spices was quite old fashioned and medieval tasting.

The first course was Xmas Best - a version of an all day breakfast. It contained black pudding, mushroom, a giant cornflake, sausage, bacon, parma ham and a porridge and butter sauce. There was also some pureed tomato at the bottom, and a weird black piece of skin on top, which turned out to be mushroom parchment. While this was an interesting dish, it wasn't as exciting as I was expecting. None of the flavours really stood out, and I did slightly regret not ordering the smoked salmon with chestnuts, prunes, asparagus and confit banana...

Next up was billed as "Traditional Winter Scottish Vegetable Soup". This was actually a celeriac puree, with an onion foam on top. In the middle there was a chunk of fig and some mange tout pieces. While I don't think mange tout or figs can even grow in Scotland, this was an absolutely stunning dish. I would happily have eaten another portion, and I would go back to 21212 for this alone.

For our main course, we all ordered the slow-cooked beef fillet with "Classic Duos". The beef was still pink, and had the smooth, soft texture of rare meat. We couldn't decide if it had been slow baked or been done sous-vide and seared. We asked the waiter who said he thought it had been baked, but he wasn't sure. Anyway, it was a really good piece of meat, and my mum and T, neither of whom like rare meat, enjoyed it too. Accompanying the beef were some cheesy onions, a lemon pancake, brazil nuts and dates, and a horseradish and watercress sauce. I really liked the dates and the horseradish sauce, but I wasn't swept away by the nuts or the pancake. There was also the slightly random addition of a lump of feta and what tasted like uncooked dough. The feta was very creamy and firm, but the saltiness overwhelmed the other ingredients. The women on the table next to us also ordered the beef, and they sent it back for being undercooked - they should have been a bit more adventurous I think. The other main course option was halibut with neeps, rice, sultanas and walnuts, with yeast cream.

Next up was the cheese course. 3 of the cheeses were nice, but the 4th one was very pungent. I've only recently started eating cheese, so although I tried the pungent one, I wasn't really a fan. There were two soft brie like cheeses (one Scottish, one French) and a hard Scottish cheese from Mull that was similar to edam. The cheese was served with some thick oatcakes, and some spicy crispbreads. There was even a little bowl of grapes.

Before pudding, there was a surprise palette cleanser course of coconut porridge milk. This was served in a paper shot glass, and poured from a jug that looked like a cow. The liquid was smooth and thin, and had just a hint of an oat taste. This was very moreish, and I was pleased that the waitress left the jug for us to finish every drop.

At dessert, we did vary things a little. Mum and I had bread and butter pudding, with cinnamon creme Anglaise. This was again very medieval tasting, with heavy spicing and lots of dried fruit. The bread pudding was delicious, but the spices were not ground down, so the sauce was a little grainy. T went for a trifle with sponge, bananas and chocolate, but again it was a little too heavy on the spices, nuts and dried fruit.

We went back to the drawing room for chocolate truffles with tea and coffee. While the tea came in an enormous tea pot, the coffee came in paper cups, supposedly as they keep the coffee warmer than ceramics. I'm in two minds about this. Part of me thinks it is a bit petty, but on the other hand, the whole point of 21212 is that you submit to the chef's whims rather than vice versa.

Overall, I really enjoyed the evening. The food was generally very good, and the staff were very friendly, although they could have been a bit more knowledgeable about the food. However, the concept is king (Raymond Blanc would bloody love it), so it wasn't the most accommodating of experiences. Certainly I wouldn't attempt to go there with anyone fussy or with multiple food allergies. For that reason, I don't know if I'd go back in a hurry. It was an academic meal, one to be pondered, with every detail mattering. Even the cutlery had been specially chosen for each course. It was fun, but heavy going. You couldn't take people who aren't interested - it would be like making them sit through an OU documentary on particle physics.

Restaurant 21212 on Urbanspoon


Chele said...

Great review Jenny. I've always heard mixed reviews of 21212 but would still really like to try it just for the experience - think I may need to leave Hubby at home though as he is one of those fussy eaters you were talking about lol

Jenny said...

It's definitely worth trying, although yes, I wouldn't take a fussy eater! Maybe if you have a foodie friend/relative visiting who can enjoy the experience with you!