As the chef says himself, classical French cuisine is “very much the backbone” of his cooking style and is clear in his food that Martin Wishart learnt from the best. Texture, too, is important, and the chef is careful not to overload his dishes with too many flavours. Martin Wishart focuses his dishes around a central ingredient and builds on complementary flavours and garnishes from there – Langoustine ravioli is simply served with braised orange endive and langoustine jus, while Wagyu beef sits on fregola pasta, broad beans and black garlic, dressed with a roast onion sauce. Halibut ceviche with mango and passion fruit is a popular signature at Restaurant Martin Wishart, and the dish is in part a tribute to his Mexican-born wife, Cecile, whom the chef met while working at L’Ortolan under John Burton Race.
Provenance is key, not just in the making of the dish but in the serving of it too – Martin Wishart expects his front of house staff to be able to talk as knowledgeably about the food’s ingredients as an expert sommelier might do about wines. There is plenty to talk about, for the chef sources his ingredients from some of the finest producers in Scotland. The North Sea provides many of Wishart’s cherished ingredients, such as shellfish, monkfish and salmon, and Restaurant Martin Wishart offers a full fish tasting menu along with the standard version (in addition to a highly praised vegetarian menu).
Martin Wishart’s menus change with the seasons in order to make the most of the quality produce that is available, and the chef is known for the instinctive sensitivity with which he treats his ingredients in order to bring out the best of their flavour. Game is a speciality when in season, and the meat is prepared with suitably autumnal accompaniments – think Roast grouse with braised cabbage and sauce Albert, served with a heady celeriac purée.
The chef remains an active part of his local community. Martin Wishart became the first chef in history to receive an honorary degree from the University of Edinburgh in 2012, and regularly contributes a food column to the Sunday Herald’s magazine. He also runs his own cooking school, offering half-day, full-day and three-day masterclasses to eager attendees. The classes book up weeks in advance and it is little wonder, with students hoping to absorb even a little of Martin Wishart’s culinary magic.