Had a great day out in trade last week. Along with Scottish salesman Les Somerville, photographer Ralph and I arrived in Edinburgh to capture some of the city's top restaurants and the people who run them for our next wine list. First stop, the legendary deli / restaurant Valvona and Crolla. Managing director Philip Contini greeted us with great warmth - saying 'feel free to arrange things as you want for pictures'. As well as an appetite-inducing selection of meats, oils and breads, V&C has one of the best wine ranges around, with a natural strength in Italy balanced by some great New World wines - especially from New Zealand. Next we drove down what Les informed us is known locally as 'the Michelin mile' - through Leith to the docks. Streets which were once the haunt of sailors (and what usually accompanies them) are now home to three Michelin starred restaurants.
The last of these is Tom's Kitchin, where the eponymous Tom and Michaela Kitchin have built up a reputation for stunning food in a funky and attractive setting. Tom has a dazzling Cv, having worked for both Pierre Kauffmann and Alain Ducasse amongst others prior to setting up the Kitchin to tremendous acclaim. Both Tom and Michaela were extremely accomodating (in fact everyone we met in Edinburgh was so helpful) and we also took some 'moody' pics of their Scottish sommelier Murray, with a glass of Lehmann's Margaret Semillon in hand. Then, from a Kitchin to a Kitching.
Paul Kitching left Juniper restaurant near Manchester 18 months ago to set up 21212 - an extraordinary 'restaurant with rooms' in a Georgian Royal Terrace with views all the way down to the Firth of Forth (where you could actually see the sunshine on Leith). Within six months of opening he had picked up a Michelin star. The decor is a magical mixture of classical, funky modern and unique - one entire wall of the drawing room is taken up by a blown up section of Carvaggio's Seven Works of Mercy. Paul is a true one-off, and taking pictures in his kitchen and dining room made us wish we had arrived nearer to dinner time! But we couldn't stay.
Next stop Divino Enoteca. Described as 'a round trip to Italy at a fraction of the price', it is an Aladdin's cave in an ancient building next to the law courts, packed with Enomatic machines, meaning that customers have a huge selection of wines to try by the glass. An adventurous listing policy also means you get to try wines you might not otherwise come across. For example Blauburgunder (Pinot Nero or Pinot Noir) from Colterenzio. You wouldn't immediately think of northern Italy when thinking Pinot Noir, but the example we tried from the machine at Divino tasted divine - especially with the dish of home-made meatballs we scoffed following the photos.
Our thanks to all the restaurateurs who gave up their time for us - we had a top day.
Ps The Enotria Roadshow tasting in Edinburgh is on Thursday 10 March.