Remember in my last post when I said that I carefully researched which restaurants I ate at and therefore rarely eat a crap meal? Well, I'm disheartened to report that Restaurant Martin Wishart in Edinburgh recently tested the limits of this somewhat. To be fair, it was about as far from crap as it’s possible to get, but I didn’t enjoy it nearly half as much as I thought I would, especially when choking on the eye watering bill at the end of the meal.
Here’s how it went down….
The restaurant is located on the harbourside in Leith, Edinburgh’s old port area, with the entrance itself picked out by hot pink glowing lights. I initially thought it might be a brothel. Carefully concealing my extreme disappointment when I realised it was in fact the restaurant I’d booked a table at, I stepped through the front door to be greeted by the French maitre d’.
Now, as you can well imagine, being from the Essex hinterland, I’m a frigging classy dude and I’ve eaten in any number of ‘posh restaurants’ and invariably felt entirely at home. To the manor born (OK, ‘manor’ in the Arthur Daley sense, but still). Martin Wishart was different. I didn’t feel comfortable here. Glancing around the softly lit dining room, I noticed all the other diners, without fail, were extremely dressed up. Evening dresses, suits and ties. Uncomfortably aware of my own, less salubrious attire (tracksuit bottoms tucked into sport socks, deep V t-shirt and novelty tartan cap with attached ginger wig), I couldn’t help but feel underdressed. I may have been slightly more tastefully attired, but you get the point.
This was a temple to fine dining populated by an obviously wealthy clientele and for probably the first time ever eating in a restaurant, I felt slightly on edge.
Maybe things would improve when I got stuck into the food, which in this case was to be the tasting menu at £75
An amuse of beetroot macarons, one with horseradish, and another with carrot and cornichon were an interesting idea, but perhaps a little too subtly flavoured for me.
Another amuse followed, to be eaten, I was informed in an almost impenetrable French accent, in a specific order left to right; courgette, basil, curry oil and espelette pepper which was very nice. Pomme dauphine, crème fraiche and smoked salmon, which was curiously presented sitting on a piece of scrunched up tin foil, still, lovely. Finally a warm chicken parfait, Parmesan veloute and port reduction, also cracking.
Partridge ravioli, cabbage with sage, truffle sauce followed and was absolutely banging. A rich meaty ravioli filling in a creamy and beautifully flavoured truffle sauce. Seriously, what’s not to like?
Next, a glass containing a ceviche of Gigha halibut with mango & passion fruit was obviously much subtler. Again, it was bloody delicious, seriously good. Fresh tasting and light, I could have finished off a pint of this rather than the demure martini glassful I’d had to make do with.
Loch Fyne crab ‘Marie Rose’ consisting of a tartare of rose veal, tomato and crab mayonnaise arrived at the table beautifully presented in an attractive glassware dish with pebbles and shells suspended in a bowl underneath. As with the previous dishes, the food itself was beautifully flavoured. The rose veal tartare, subtle and cool against the silky richness of the crab mayonnaise.
Roasted veal sweetbreads were served sitting on a chestnut puree, surrounded by a moat of potato veloute. A bit beige perhaps, but it had knock out flavours. I have a bit of a thing for both sweetbreads and potatoes, in any form, so it was hard to fault really.
The following dish was the main event, roast loin of Ayrshire hare, pastille of braised leg, red cabbage, port wine, braised turnips and dauphine potato. Technically it was an impressive dish. The tiny pastille of braised leg were elegantly cylindrical, crisp and stuffed full of rich meat. The potato dauphine, deep fried potato mixed with choux pastry were perfectly cooked as was the loin of hare, which was delicious.
As I ate, I ear wigged on my next-door neighbours’ conversation. A pair of solicitors discussing cases of wine they had in their respective cellars and how one of them had once spanked over a grand on lunch, which probably goes some way in exemplifying the majority of my fellow diners. I was tempted to join in with an excessive anecdote of my own concerning the consumption of multiple doner kebabs during a drunken night out in Essex.
Dessert was phenomenal. I’m struggling to describe what exactly it was, the menu description is just ‘salted caramel’ but it was somewhere between a cheesecake and a thick toffee like caramel mousse, partnered with poached Guyot pear, peanuts and a pear sorbet, it really was something special.
Coffee and rather lovely petits fours, consisting of whisky truffles, a majari chocolate macaron, spiced orange and mandarin, coffee ganache and salted caramel, rounded things off.
That, with two glasses of wine and service came to £109. One of the most expensive meals I’ve ever had (no thousand pound lunches here, sadly) and as I said at the beginning of the post, I didn’t enjoy it half as much as I thought I would. The food was superb and hard to fault really. Expensive ingredients, beautifully cooked and prepared, lovely.
The problem I had with Restaurant Martin Wishart was the incredibly stuffy, fine dining vibe, the entire French front of house team, albeit consummately pleasant and professional, were always slightly stand offish and gave out a slightly aloof air. It’s hard to put my finger on what was up, but I’ve eaten in enough ‘posh’ restaurants to know that here, I just didn’t feel comfortable and therefore didn’t really enjoy the experience. For examples of restaurants that get it right, both The Ledbury and The Square manage to strike the perfect balance between a fine dining experience and warm, professional front of house.
This was the most expensive meal I ate on my stay in Edinburgh and I’m sad to say, the one I probably enjoyed the least, despite the food being excellent.
Restaurant Martin Wishart
Telephone: 0131 553 3557