Martin Wishart's Honours restaurant in Edinburgh marks a more casual approach than the fine dining he made his name with. Kerstin Kühn reports
Martin Wishart is one of Scotland's most celebrated chefs. His eponymous restaurant in Leith gave Edinburgh its first Michelin star in 2001, and last October, he gained a second star at Cameron House at Loch Lomond.
Just over a year ago, Wishart expanded his portfolio with the intention of going a bit more casual and opened the Honours on Edinburgh's North Castle Street. Modelled on a Parisian brasserie, it is "where traditional French cuisine meets the flavours of the Scottish market", according to Wishart. The space is divided into two large areas: a bar and main dining room, featuring marbled walls, tones of gold, stone floors and bare wooden tables. But it's a far cry from a casual French eaterie - the Honours is a grown-up restaurant, exuding an air of formality with the service and menu to match.
The kitchen is overseen by head chef Paul Tamburrini, who worked with Wishart before and joined the business as a partner, having previously spent four years as head chef at Hotel du Vin in Glasgow. "It was a brilliant opportunity for me to come on board as a partner and I've not looked back," he says. "It has been busy right from when we opened the doors, which has given us a lot of confidence, especially in today's tough economic situation."
With 60 seats, the restaurant regularly serves up to 120 diners per service, especially in August when Edinburgh's famous International Festival and Fringe is on.
Focus on seafood
The menu evolves with the seasons and is modified every three to four months but Tamburrini says they are minor tweaks rather than major changes. Naturally, there is a big focus on Scottish seafood, with the menu featuring dedicated sections of shellfish and fish main courses. Starters are also dominated by seafood and among them is a gorgeous, light and fresh sea bream tartare (£7.50). The fresh bream is diced and then prepared to order with Dijon mustard, chopped shallots, chives, crème fraîche, capers and a sweet lemon vinaigrette. Assembled on the plate with a soft boiled quail's egg, a quenelle of crème fraîche, pickled cucumber, toasted sourdough, micro salad and edible flowers, it's as pretty as a picture.
Equally delicate is a razor clam salad (£8.90), which comes in the shell with the finely sliced clams mixed with fennel, black olives, tomato concasse, cucumber and sweet lemon dressing and served with candied lemon confit, croutons and edible flowers.
Main courses include French classics such as rabbit à la moutarde with pommes sautées (£16.50); or veal sweetbreads roasted in buckwheat and bay leaf served with young spinach and roast chicken jus (£17.50). "Both these dishes have been on the menu since day one and they are so popular, we can't take them off," says Tamburrini.
Prime scottish beef
The grill section offers prime cuts of Scottish beef, dry-aged for up to 36 days and cooked over a charcoal grill. Cuts include the Picanha (£17.75 for 200g); rib-eye (£23.75 for 250g); or fillet (£30 for 200g), with the star of the show the châteaubriand for two served with duck fat chips, fried onion rings, green salad and sauce béarnaise (£65).
On to desserts and the daily changing soufflé may be raspberry with fromage frais and lime sorbet; or mango with chocolate sorbet, while the Honours Sundae - with toffee and caramel ice-cream, honeycomb, caramelised banana and pecan nut - brings together classic flavours and modern techniques incorporating "lots of foams and siphons", says Tamburrini.
When the Honours opened last summer, Wishart announced plans to roll out the brand and this is still on the cards. "We don't want to do it for the sake of it but when the time is right, we'd definitely like to open more," says Tamburrini. "We have the team and the infrastructure so we're just waiting for the right moment."
58a North Castle Street Edinburgh EH2 3LU
0131 220 2513
Sample dishes from the menu
Cornish oysters £2.50 each
Orkney scallops à la plancha £4 each
Crab cappuccino, rouille, croutons and Parmesan £7.50
Pickled carrot and feta salad, fried bread £6.75
fish main plates
Whole sea bream baked in salt crust pastry, citrus fennel, new potatoes, herb vinaigrette £16.75
Sautéd fillets of John Dory with leeks, mussels with curry and Sauternes sauce £18.50
meat main plates
Ox cheeks à la bordelaise, pommes purée £17.75
Confit duck leg with orange and pommes sarladaises £16.50
Presa steak of Iberico pork £18.75
Half herb-roasted Saint Brides chicken £22.50
Crème brûlée, marinated wild cherries £7.25
Warm pistachio cake £7.50