Martin Wishart grew up in Edinburgh, and after leaving school knew that he wanted to become a chef. After working locally at places including Cameron House at Loch Lomond until the age of twenty, he landed an initial training job at the famous restaurant of Marc Meneau in Burgundy. After that he worked under chefs including Albert Roux, Charlie Trotter, Michel Roux and Marco Pierre White. His eponymous restaurant opened in 1999 in Leith and was awarded a Michelin star in 2001, which it has retained ever since. Tonight, the restaurant offered a “market menu” of three courses at £105 as well as a tasting menu at £125, with a vegetarian version at the same price. There was also a set lunch menu at £48.50. The dining room has well-spaced tables and is blissfully peaceful due to having sound absorbing carpet rather than the hard surfaces beloved of modern restaurant designers.
The wine list had 193 labels and ranged in price from £40 to £425, with a median price of £85 and an average markup to retail price of 2.9 times, which is less than you would often see in a starred restaurant. Sample references were Montagne Saint-Émilion Château La Courolle 2018 at £50 for a bottle that you can find in the high street for £29, David Reynaud Cornas Rebelle 2016 at £95 compared to its retail price of £61, and Pichler-Krutzler Wachau Riesling 2007 at £120 for a wine that will set you back £62 in the high street. For those with the means there was Marchesi Antinori Tignanello 2010 at £260 compared to its retail price of £221, and Kusuda Estate Pinot Noir 2016 at £280 for a wine whose current market value is £329. There were five wines below their retail price on this list.
We tried the tasting menu as well as the vegetarian version. A selection of canapés began the meal. Beetroot macaron with cheese was lovely, the macaron unusually light and delicate, the beetroot and cheese flavours in good balance. A little bowl of sweetcorn veloute was flavoured with bacon jam and was rich and gorgeous. Crab and langoustine arancini were laced with curry mayonnaise and had a crisp outside and lovely seafood filling, just lifted by the hint of spice. Finally, there was beef tartare garnished with oscietra caviar from top supplier N25. These were superb canapés (easily 18/20). Sourdough bread was from a local baker called Company Bakery and had a good crust.
The first formal course of the tasting menu was ceviche of halibut with a citrus marinade, mango jelly, passion fruit curd, tomato and coriander. This was very well judged, the fish cured with the citrus rather than just having the acidic dressing applied at the last minute, as happens all too often with ceviche (17/20). The vegetarian alternative was salt baked celeriac with balsamic vinegar, which was also excellent.
Orkney scallop was served with hazelnut pesto, Jerusalem artichoke puree and Parmesan veloute. The scallop was sweet and plump, with a nice textural contrast from the hazelnuts, the earthy artichoke purée being an excellent foil for the natural sweetness of the scallop (17/20). The vegetarian alternative was butternut squash with squash purée, hazelnut and cubes of Olorosso sherry, and this was at least as good as the scallop dish.
Next, I had veal sweetbread feuilletine and buttered cabbage with truffle purée, the feuille de brik pastry nicely sandwiching the soft sweetbread, which was sourced from a farm called Buitelaar in Wrexham. This rested in a sauce of the cooking juices. The cabbage provided good balance to the richness of the sweetbread (16/20). The vegetarian alternative was an Emmenthal soufflé with Swiss chard that was gorgeous, and tasted to me even better than the sweetbread dish. Ravioli of partridge came with ceps, purée of cabbage and trompette mushrooms. This was pleasant, the mushrooms having nice flavour, the ravioli good texture and the cabbage being a suitable foil for the partridge (16/20).
Loin and pastille of hare came with red cabbage and beetroot purée, little Dauphine potatoes, the hare dusted with polenta flour with apple and macadamia, and a redcurrant and macadamia crumb. This all rested in a pool of grand veneur (huntsman) sauce, which is made with hare trimmings and blood with a base of poivrade sauce made from cooked mirepoix thickened with flour and combined with vinegar, red wine and plenty of pepper. This was a very enjoyable dish, the hare carefully cooked and the overall effect not too rich (17/20). The vegetarian alternative was a mushroom tart filled with oyster mushrooms, king oyster mushrooms, pied a mouton, girolles, trompette mushrooms, pickled shimeji, turnip purée and Roscoff onion sauce. This was a generous final savoury course with particularly delicate pastry.
Dessert featured a chocolate shell with creme fraiche mousse inside, chocolate surrounding a cherry centre, cherry jelly, macerated cherries, cherry beer sorbet and domes of chocolate cremant. The classic combination of chocolate and cherries worked well here, the different elements each carefully made and combining well, with enough acidity from the fruit to balance the chocolate (17/20).
Coffee was in capsule form and was the Kilimanjaro blend from Nespresso, which is a pleasant coffee. Petit fours comprised pumpkin macarons, blackcurrant pate de fruits, plum tea cakes and dark chocolate bonbons with salted caramel. These were all very good, with the bonbons classy, the macarons delicate and the pate de fruits having good texture. Service was excellent throughout the evening and the bill came to £166 per person. If you ordered the three-course menu and shared a modest bottle of wine then a typical cost per person might be around £150. This was an impressive meal, with some genuinely top-notch cooking technique allied to high quality ingredients. Martin Wishart is one of my favourite UK restaurants and is consistently a joy across the whole dining experience.Book