The menu at The Honours is described on their website to be 'where traditional French cuisine meets the flavours of the Scottish market' and yet looking at the menu, this seems perhaps a touch heavy on marketing spin. A quick glance sees Oysters that are sourced only from Cornwall, Jamon Bellota from Spain, and Caponata, a Scicilian dish no less, which is all fine but Paris meets Scotland? Really?
There is though much that appeals on the menu and for starters, we order the Crab Chowder, and a Swiss cheese souffle. The crab chowder was too smooth to warrant the name we felt and we couldn't help agree with Joanna Blythman's review in The Guardian where she said of the dish 'half crab bisque, half bouillabaisse, it certainly wasn't a hearty textured chowder'.
The Swiss cheese souffle with spinach and bechamel has the potential to be a show stopping dish but here it too falls short. Admittedly, our base line comparison is the height of cheese souffle greatness, that served by Le Gavroche, a souffle offering head spinning indulgence delivered by the remarkable coming together of souffle textures, cheese and cream. Here, they delivered something that was good, but never reaching a peak of brilliance, clear cheese flavours, but never indulgent cheese flavours and a texture that was a little on the heavy side to be considered a great dish.
This too seems like a good place to discuss service. While The Honours has been open almost two months now, much of the service seemed awkward and unsure. We were not offered an aperitif until a good 10-15 minutes after we had been seated. Then, when ordering food, I asked for a glass of white with my starter and a glass of red with my main. The white had failed to arrive by the time the starter was cleared from the table such that I then asked them not to bring it. We were also surprised as we waited for our mains that when the newly arrived table next to us were given their menus, their waiter reeled off a list of the day's specials, since our waitress had failed to mention there were specials period; it would have been nice to know.
The slice of coq au vin provides a variation to the classic, with the chicken taken off the bone, pressed into a terrine and therefore amenable to subsequent slicing. Sadly, the overall effect was a rather dry slab of pressed chicken with an insufficient quantity of a mediocre red wine sauce to help you get through to the end. In fact, I did fail to reach the end and a third of the chicken departed the table for the return journey to the kitchen when the plates were cleared. Great coq au vin plates at Bar Boulud and Coq d'Argent haven proven that this is a dish which can still be a show stopper in its own right when executed brilliantly well, but sadly not here. The additional side of 'golden wonder mash' had the texture of drying cement and reminded me of school dinners. It cried out for butter, preferably a lot of it. All but an exploratory bite of the potato dish was returned to the kitchen.
The lobster faired somewhat better but from lobster tastings this week alone at Ondine, through to The Lobster Shack and then Castle Terrace, the Honour's lobster was never a contender. The macaroni came artfully arranged in stacked parallel tubes though the heterogeneity of macaroni, some straight some curvy, made the presentation look simultaneously pretentious and awkward (a word that just keeps cropping up). The mushroom cream sauce meanwhile appeared to lack cream and the plate seemed generally ill at ease. This macaroni dish is also available as a stand alone main (we ordered a starter size portion as a side), but if this had of been our main course, I can only imagine what a disappointment we would have felt.
The really sad thing is that if this were our first experience of Martin Wishart's food, we would simply strike Restaurant Martin Wishart off our list of restaurants and never visit it, convinced we'd be wasting our money. And that would be a total shame because Restaurant Martin Wishart is simply brilliant; disappointingly, The Honours is not.
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