Among the cream of the Edinburgh crop is chef Martin Wishart, whose Restaurant Martin Wishart in Edinburgh’s Port of Leith has been wowing fine dining fans since opening in 1999. With a current Michelin star, four AA rosettes and 8/10 Good Food Guide score, it seems to have made an impression upon the critics too. With experience under kitchen kings such as Albert Roux, Michel Roux Jr, Marco Pierre White, Nick Nairn, John Burton-Race, Marc Meneau and Charlie Trotter, it’s easy to understand why Martin’s cooking is such a hit. Since establishing his Leith restaurant – where he still spends most of his time and is “more than ever involved in what actually goes on in the kitchen” - Martin’s gone on to open a cookery school as well as another restaurant, this one at Cameron House Hotel on Loch Lomond. His latest offering is The Honours, a city centre brasserie in the heart of Edinburgh. And everything about it is gorgeous.
With its name referencing the moment in Scottish history when Sir Walter Scott uncovered the Scottish Crown Jewels, I had the honour of dining here on a recent weekend getaway from London. I’ve always loved eating out in the Scottish capital (a couple of my all-time favourite restaurants are actually located here) but my meal at The Honours exceeded expectations. So impressed and feeling a big fan-boy-ish about the experience, the casual yet refined meal was followed up with a phone conversation with the chef once back home in London.
Said Martin of his brasserie, he wanted to open somewhere with a ‘noisy, lively atmosphere’ offering a ‘faster style of service’ than at his restaurant in nearby Leith where three-hour tasting menu celebrations are the norm. The concept has proven popular. Even a couple of weeks booking in advance yielded only an early evening seating at the bar.
With a focus on seasonality and what’s available on the local market, The Honours takes advantage of as many local ingredients as possible along with a few exceptions where the ‘ingredient itself is of a quality that you can’t find better elsewhere’. On the locally sourced side of things, the brasserie’s fillet of warm smoked Loch Duart salmon with citrus, fennel and hollandaise (£14.50) (pictured above) is delectable, while brought in from further afield, a 200 gram presentation of presa steak acorn-fed Iberico pork cooked medium rare with red wine sauce (£18.75) is a drool-worthy import.
But look at me skipping ahead to the mains! Allow me to back up and shine an appreciated light on the Lock Fyne crab Marie Rose with white radish, espelette pepper and wheat cracker (£9.95) – a delicate starter suggesting just how much attention to detail goes into each dish. Beginning one’s meal with Wishart’s caponata with aubergine, red peppers, tomatoes, capers, pinenuts, raisins (£6.50 as a starter or £12.75 as a main) equally inspires the palate with its melange of flavours. A Black Forest gâteau freshly churned in The Honours’ own Carpigiani machine with artisan vanilla ice cream, chocolate sponge and Griotte cherries finished with a warm Valrhona chocolate sauce (£6.75) ensured fancy-schmancy dining can still be a lot of fun.