It was the very strength of their reputation that took us there in the first place for we had been told by more than a few people in the know that it was the place to eat in Edinburgh. Admittedly, we knew little about the restaurant before going but were excited by the prospect. We hoped that the combination of high quality local ingredients and the restaurant's distance from the uber density of Mayfair's Michelin stars would give some fresh perspectives on food. We were also out with friends and looking for a good time so nothing too stuffy.
The restaurant exterior is a modest affair while inside it's on the small side though extensive use of mirrors enhances the sense of space. Service was friendly from the start and while the house style is pressed white table cloths, the atmosphere amongst guests was relaxed. Our first food bites of the evening were haggis bon bons; definitely not London then. Two each, about a centimetre in diameter, they were lighter than you might imagine, lighter in texture that is, but not taste. Already off to a good start.
The restaurant offers four menu options: a la carte, a tasting menu, a vegetarian tasting menu and given the season, a white truffle tasting menu. We elected for the standard tasting menu and asked for an additional truffle dish to be woven in just so we could get a taste of their truffle offering.
A plate of amuse bouche comes first and includes a delightful beetroot macaron that is so light it dissolves in the mouth almost instantly, reminiscent in that respect ofThe Fat Duck'snitro lime mousse but here achieved without going 200 degrees below. A small taste of pig's trotter was also a nice touch. A pumpkin veloute was also served that was so smooth and delicious that everyone around the table felt a need to comment. That registers as a good start.
First from the menu was a crab 'Marie Rose' and veal tartare, white radish and basque pepper. Two islands of the crab and veal tartare arrive on the plate wearing a hat of shaved radish. This dish worked well with the combination of crab, Marie Rose and veal, adding an extra dimension to merely a stand alone crab dish or tartare. Portion sizes are respectable too.
Oysters, scallops, lamb and venison amongst others gave the appropriate due to the restaurant's location and while we love foie gras, it was nice to work through a tasting menu where it was absent for a change. Do too many chefs cling to foie gras, allowing it to do the heavy lifting for them on an expensive tasting menu? Martin Wishart seems to want to move away from the obvious and broadly achieves that as both the oyster and deer course demonstrate.
We'll see in January if the restaurant gets its second star and we hope it does for this is serious food, brilliantly cooked with great taste. It's food that you can really enjoy and have a memorable dinner with friends where everyone leaves happy. While even a single Michelin star is coveted by most restaurants, our own experience is that one star alone can provide a broad range of experience including the downright disappointing. For a tasting menu to be of this quality, one feels that Martin Wishart could never be that and compared to say The Square or Pied a Terre, the extent of any 'gap' is debatable.
Finally, at £65 for the six course tasting menu (not including the delightful amuse bouche and petits fours), this is pretty good value too. Meanwhile, the wine list has many reasonably priced wines listed but if you're in the mood to spend a little more, modest mark ups on the more expensive bottles allow for some great wines at really quite decent prices.
Accordingly, we add our voice to the growing chorus of Martin Wishart fans and believe that anyone who wants a great dining experience while in Edinburgh need look no further.
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