The Worms, The Heid and I took a trip up to north the other weekend, to Edinburgh, the magical city of our misspent university days, where – no more scummy student dives for us – our gastro-savvy, Edinburgh-dwelling friends, Tom and Irina, had booked the hottest table in town, at Martin Wishart’s most recently opened restaurant, The Honours.
With two Michelin-starred restaurants – one in Leith and another by Loch Lomond – Martin Wishart is a beloved big wig on the Scottish culinary scene, but if your pockets don’t quite stretch to Michelin status, or you just fancy something a little less, er, fancy, then The Honours, a sophisticated take on the traditional French brasserie, offers a very happy compromise.
Part brasserie, part fine dining, this plush marbled and leather interior with winks of gold is expensive and luxurious, but the atmosphere retains a light, airy feel – not formal or hushed like a Michelin-starred restaurant – and the excellent cocktail bar, open to non-dining guests, helps keep the vibe relaxed.
Being a brasserie, the menu is very French, with ingredients such as espelette pepper and fish cooked á la plancha giving a welcome nod to the Basque region of South-West France where we all know French cooking and ingredients are at their best. But there’s plenty to make the Scots proud too with locally sourced fish, meat and cheese and seasonal Scottish ingredients used wherever possible (my super-fresh Loch Fyne crab marie rose starter being a good case in point).
This a menu to flounder over. Would I have Sea Bream á la Plancha with confit tomato, fennel and balsamic? Rabbit á la Moutarde with pomme sautée? Or Ox-Cheeks á la Bordelaise with pomme purée? In the end, under Tom’s recommendation, I plumped for the Steak of Iberico Acorn-fed Pork, which was a good choice, tasty, tender and more lamb-like and red meaty than normal pork and part of a dream team alongside sides of creamed spinach, parmesan and nutmeg, glazed organic carrots and gratin dauphinoise.
Again, while the dishes here are essentially classic French brasserie food, they are presented in a way that is more classy and refined, edging towards fine dining, but not so much so that they require a delicacy of eating. For pudding, Becca and I shared an encouragingly hearty and just-rustic-enough apple tarte tatin for two with caramel sauce (that came in its own little jug) and cinnamon ice cream, and I honestly don’t think I’ve eaten many better.
Meanwhile, the cocktails were so good that we had one pre-dinner (whisky sour) and another post-dinner (espresso martini) and rolled out feeling so merry, full and satisfied that we clean forgot to feel nostalgic for our student days, or the cheap pizza and ten tequila slammers that would have shaped our evening ten years ago….
58a North Castle Street
Edinburgh EH2 3LU
T: 0131 220 2513
TOP TIP: Book well in advance to secure a table…
* Apologies for the lack of food photos in this post. I didn’t take any and The Honours didn’t have any!