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Restaurant Martin Wishart


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#1 Rian

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Posted 20 September 2006 - 11:54 AM

Spent a long weekend in Edinburgh last week and took the opportunity to drop into Martin Wishart. The restaurant is located about 15 minutes drive away from the city centre, on the shore. It’s a pleasant room done out in greens and browns, but deathly quite when we arrived; we were the youngest diners by a good thirty years.

I’ll have to caveat this review by saying that we ate from the lunch menu, since we’re off to New York in less than 2 weeks and saving for some serious eating.

Having rushed straight from the airport we were late for our table, but FOH made nothing of it and were nothing less than charming throughout. We started with a platter of great canapés – a Roquefort sable topped with Roquefort cream; choux pastry puff filled with béchamel sauce; and a haggis ‘bon-bon’, which in reality was a spherical beignet. All were light and deftly seasoned.

BTW – the bread and butter were fantastic.

There are only 2 choices at each course on the lunch menu, and, Alex having ordered first, I took opposing dishes for the sake of variety.

Pumpkin Veloute with wild mushrooms and poached quails’ eggs

Into the –er months and here comes the pumpkin deluge. This was ok. Decent seasoning, lent depth of sweetness through the use of roasted pumpkin. Eggs were perfectly poached and released their yolks into the main body of the dish. The veloute itself was too grainy – more of a loosened puree than a veloute.

Calves liver, celeriac royal, pommes purees, caper jus

Terrible. All wrong in both conception and execution. First, the execution. Large tranche of liver was horribly overcooked, leaving it dry and tough. Mash was far too tight and dry. Celeriac came in the form of 3 ‘fingers’ atop the liver and added nothing to the dish. Conception: there was nothing but salt here. No sweetness or acidity to stand up to the liver, and the caper jus simply rendered the whole dish a briny mess. I really can’t see where this dish came from.

Plum tart tatin

On the basis of this and the canapés, the pastry chef was performing better than most. A really good dessert – light, crisp pastry indentured with beautifully caramelised plums. Atop this was a spoon of vanilla ice cream which seeped into the tart. I’m a total sucker for hot/cold dessert combinations.

In reality, the opposite half of the menu was better. Alex started with a venison tortellini with cauliflower puree – beautiful puree, ok pasta – I thought it was too thick, but then I have just been reading ‘Heat’. Followed by roast halibut with spaetzle and braised leeks – fish was beautifully cooked, little evidence of advertised mustard sauce.

We had a tour of the kitchen afterwards, and I was stunned. In the context of London kitchens, it was huge. They do 40-50 covers and the kitchen was at least 4 times the size of the Ledbury, which does 90ish. No doubt London chefs would kill for that space. I must admit that it left me even more disappointed with my lunch.

Lunch is priced at £22.50 for 3 courses; ALC is £50 for 3 courses; tasting is £60 for 6 (I think). Easily London 1-star prices, with the quality nowhere near. A shame.

If anyone has recent experience of ALC I’d be interested to hear about it.

#2 Wilfrid1

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Posted 20 September 2006 - 02:15 PM

The very idea of a haggis bon bon cheers me up. :blink:
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#3 g.johnson

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Posted 20 September 2006 - 03:26 PM

More cheering than a Shakira bon bon?
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#4 Wilfrid1

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Posted 20 September 2006 - 03:36 PM

Shakira or haggis? Nice choice to have.
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#5 Sneakeater

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Posted 06 September 2011 - 08:06 PM

When I told my Professional Restaurant Journalist barmate at Hedone that I was planning to eat at Martin Wishart in Edinburgh, he sniffed that it was "just classic French."

Easy for a Londoner to say. We New Yorkers are starved for "just classic French". I enjoyed my meal at Wishart inordinately. Not just the food, either (although I loved the food): the whole experience. Without being over-the-top posh or in any way snooty, this is a grown-up restaurant.

It is a relatively new thing that there are excellent high-end restaurants in Edinburgh. Last time I was there, in the late '80s, the awful Witchery and whatever boring place was then in the Balmoral were the top of the heap. Subsequently, good places started opening in Leith, of all places -- Martin Wishart being one of them. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I started with the now-obligatory pork-and-crustacean appetizer. This was (if I remember right) Scottish langoustines and pig's trotters, the joker being that the pig's trotters were in little potato croustillants. This was all in a creamy Cotes du Layon sauce (again if I remember right). I love stuff like this.

For my main, I went with a special. The waiter breathlessly informed me that this was THE FIRST DAY that the restaurant had gotten ceps from the Border Country. It's hard to get very excited about ceps when you've been eating girolles, but I'm such a sucker that if you tell me it's the first day of the season for ANYTHING I'll probably want it.

So, John Dory with ceps and lots of them -- and summer truffles as well. OF COURSE this was good.

This is the kind of restaurant that you'd expect to have a proper cheese trolley, and it did. I'll forgo my usual rant about cheese service in the United States and just say what a treat this was. (Of course, the cheese was all served at the right temperature and within the window of ripeness -- and without a lot of stupid accompaniments.)

Dessert was something exemplary, but I don't remember it. (As I'll write elsewhere, this was my British Pudding Appreciation Trip, so I didn't get caught up in this nevertheless delicious French stuff.)

The wine list was excellent -- although, even putting unfavorable currency rates aside, I think they had a pretty heavy hand with the mark-ups.

So, sure, "just classic French." I wish I could be dismissive of it. I loved eating grown-up food, in a grown-up room, with grown-up service, in the company of grown-ups.
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#6 g.johnson

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Posted 06 September 2011 - 08:12 PM

Poncey fucking Edinburgh ponces. Dublin bay prawns.
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#7 Sneakeater

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Posted 06 September 2011 - 08:23 PM

Wait till I get around to writing about the place opened in Edinburgh by a chef who came there from Manchester.
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#8 foodie52

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Posted 06 September 2011 - 08:38 PM

That restaurant is along the water in Leith, no windows, right? White building? Passed it on the bus a few times and didn't have the nerve to go in and ask to see the menu....
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#9 Sneakeater

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Posted 06 September 2011 - 08:40 PM

Yes, it's on the canal. The building is beige if not white. There are windows, though.

(Now that I think of it, I'll bet you're thinking of the backside of The Kitchin.)
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#10 Sneakeater

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Posted 06 September 2011 - 08:42 PM

Also, to clarify based on the initial post in this thread, at least now Wishart gives you three lunch options:

There's a cheaper (maybe even set-price) "lunch" menu, with only a couple of options in each category. This seems to be what Rian and balex ate off of.

There's the lunch carte, with lots of options in each category. This is what I ate off of.

And there's the usual multi-course tasting menu.
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#11 foodie52

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Posted 06 September 2011 - 09:36 PM

It's on my list for next summer.
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