We caught up with Chef Patron of Edinburgh restaurant Castle Terrace, Dominic Jack. We quizzed him about his experience in the culinary world, why he returned to his hometown, and what inspires his creations from the kitchen.
Your career has taken you on many travels, how does it feel to be back in your hometown and working with an old friend (Tom Kitchin)?
Tom Kitchin and I first met at Gleneagles when we were just starting our careers. When Tom arrived in the kitchen we hit it off immediately and we’ve been friends ever since. After four years I left Scotland to join the team at Michelin-starred Fleur de Sel in Haslemere. From there I moved to Paris at 21 to work in a series of multi Michelin-starred restaurants including l’Arpèg, Hotel Vernet-restaurant Les Elysées and Taillevent before being headhunted by the Swissôtel in Istanbul as Head Chef.
Tom and I both followed similar career paths. We were two young lads from Edinburgh who were travelling the world, learning as much as we could and it was really special to have someone from home to speak to and bounce ideas off.
While I was in Istanbul - which I loved - Tom would phone and say, 'You have to come back to Edinburgh'. He kept going on about the quality of the produce and how the mentality with regard to food had changed since we left. My wife Francine and I decided to go for it and move back to Edinburgh in 2008.
Since then it’s been quite a journey. It was a proud moment when we opened Dominic Jack at Castle Terrace, alongside the team behind The Kitchin, in 2010 and since then the restaurant has continued to grow and evolve. We’ve built up a loyal customer base and received numerous awards and recognition along the way. I knew straight away that it was the right thing moving back to Scotland. We have such fantastic produce right on our doorstep that allows me to create the very best seasonal menus every single day.
At quite a young age you worked in some of the finest restaurants in Paris with some prestigious names in the culinary world, this must have been an exciting but somewhat daunting experience for a budding young chef? Tell us more about the opportunities and the challenges you faced?
When you’re working in world renowned, Michelin star restaurants, under chefs who are at the absolute top of their game, there is no denying it’s tough. But, it’s also exhilarating and you learn so much. You are pushed to your absolute limits but I never really saw it as hard work, I watched my dad work incredibly hard growing up so to me, it was normal. My mentor Chef Alain Solivérès was very demanding, because that’s how he was trained, but it brought out the best in me and I learned so much from him. He’s instilled qualities in me that still help me today.
Opening my own restaurant has obviously been a highlight. At times it’s been challenging – especially when we first started out – but it’s been an incredible journey and watching the team grow and develop is really rewarding.
How has this shaped your own style of menus, kitchen and attitude towards future talent?
Chef Alain Solivérès taught me the importance of cooking with quality produce – sourcing the very best ingredients and treating them with respect. We live by this ethos at Castle Terrace Restaurant through our ‘From Nature to Plate’ philosophy and it’s something I pass on to all my chefs.
My menu showcases outstanding quality ingredients, cooked simply using French techniques but with a modern twist – new interpretations of classic dishes. Working with the seasons means my menu is always evolving. I strive to achieve perfection in every dish we serve and it is vital for me that every dish does not just taste good, but also is presented in the most attractive way. I really see food a bit like art and I take great pleasure in executing a dish from start to finish, paying great attention to the little details of each dish.
The restaurant philosophy is ‘From Nature to Plate’ how is this reflected in the menu at Castle Terrace?
We only use the freshest, local seasonal ingredients in our menus – all ingredients are delivered to the restaurant daily straight from land and shore as fresh as they can possibly be.
We really make the most of what nature has to offer in all our menus. Our dishes are full of flavour and our guests get the chance to sample the freshest produce in the country the moment they become available.
Other than fresh ingredients where do you find inspiration for your culinary creations?
The seasons really do define my menus, as my dishes change with the seasons. A lot of my inspiration comes from my suppliers who provide us with different, fresh ingredients every day. I love when a new ingredient comes in, we experiment with flavour combinations and we get to create a new dish – that’s what gives me a real buzz.
Describe the atmosphere at Castle Terrace and how is such an ambience successfully created?
I would describe the ambience at Castle Terrace as welcoming and stylish but comfortable. At the beginning of this year both the restaurant and kitchen were fully refurbished, giving us the opportunity to evolve the restaurant further and consistently provide the very best food and service. Restaurant Director Michaela Kitchin was the vision behind the interior and she’s done an incredible job of bringing our location, underneath Edinburgh Castle, and our philosophy to life.
We expanded the dining room giving our guests even more space, and we can now cater for special occasions in our 16-cover stylish private dining room. The dining room now also features a hand drawn impressive mural of Edinburgh Castle which really adds to the theatre for our guests and the heritage of our location.
For us innovation is so important in order to continue to attract new diners but also keep our loyal customers coming back time after time. We never sit still and constantly look for new ways to make the Castle Terrace experience even more memorable.
What type of diner is Castle Terrace most suited too?
I think Castle Terrace has something that appeals to everyone. Our menus change on a daily basis, depending on what’s delivered that day so there will always be something new to try.
We also offer a range of different menus to suit what you’re looking for. Our daily lunch set menu includes three courses for £29.50 which is great value and popular with local businesses. We also offer our full A la carte menu & the Chef’s celebration of the season menu which includes all of my favourite seasonal ingredients. We also offer a six course Land & Sea Surprise tasting menu along with a Vegetarian Surprise tasting menu. I love working with the seasons.
Which is your favourite dish on the menu and why?
One of my favourite dishes we serve is Tartare of Loch Duart Salmon served Sushi Style. It has become one of my signature dishes and is very popular with our guests. We always take pride in the attention to detail put into each dish and this demonstrates this. It is not just tasty but also beautiful to look at.
And finally, for visitors to the city where / what is your ultimate must see / do (apart from dine at Castle Terrace!!)
I have two young children and Edinburgh is full of great local parks, Princes Street Gardens has a brilliant view of the castle and there’s plenty to do. I also love walking around Inverleith Park or taking the kids to the Botanics and would of course encourage visitors to visit our award winning gastropub The Scran & Scallie just down the road for a true Scottish pub experience!
For more information and to book
Address: 33-35 Castle Terrace, Edinburgh
Phone: 0131 229 1222