Field (Edinburgh)

quadro(Visited June 2013)

This place is tiny, with tiny tables with a tiny space between them, and it is noisy. The good way of putting it is that it is charming French bistro style. The bad way, that it is tiny and none too comfortable. It depends on your mood.

The bread neither improves nor depresses your mood.

pane

Two starters promised well but they ended up being the best dishes of the meal. A grilled asparagus, poached egg, parmesan crisp and poached shimeji was simple but effective, the asparagus with a pleasantly chargrilled flavour. the poached egg cooked just right, the crisp light and intense (the shimeji were so few that they didn’t add much, but in principle they gave a pleasant acidity). A fresh pea pannacotta, crushed peas and ham hock cromesquis could not be faulted, the cromesqui crisp outside and moist inside, the pannacotta and the peas very very, very, eatable.
Pea pannacotta nad ham hock cromesquis

Pea pannacotta nad ham hock cromesquis
Poached egg and parmesan crisp on asparagus

Poached egg and parmesan crisp on asparagus

The mains were more complex and they failed. A maple glazed duck breast was tough, and the dish was a messy one, with Savoyarde potatoes, a bland duck leg bon bon, and cherries and pistachio that were there just for the name, being in such small quantity (especially the pistachio) that they added nothing to the dish. No jus to speak of.

A hake, while of good quality, was reduced to a rather textureless, mushy consistency: how basic a mistake can this be, steaming a moist chunky fish to death? But this wasn’t the worst of it after all. The piece of fish was floating in an incredible slop of creamed sweetcorn with some chorizo and perfunctory avocado (mostly missing in action), unprepped tomatoes forced by the lava heat to ooze their acidity into the creamy madness. The only saving grace were the chunky chips on the side.

Hake in deranged sweetcorn sauce

Hake in deranged sweetcorn sauce

Duck leg and duck bonbon

Duck leg and duck bonbon

Desserts. A cheesecake of the day was flavoured with coffee and chicory. We learned that this is not the worst combination of flavours, but not the best either, and anyway it was timidly executed, neither sweet nor bitter enough to make an impression. The base was quite thick and more soggy than crumbly.

A coconut milk pannacotta carried only a hint of coconut flavour, probably mostly coming from the flakes on the outside, but was sitting on top of a good roasted coconut, without which it would have been one of the least memorable desserts ever without tasting bad.

caramel and coffee cheesecake

caramel and coffee cheesecake

coconut milk pannacotta

coconut milk pannacotta

Prices are low (both for the lunch/pre-theater menu at £14.50 for 3 courses, and in the a la carte with mains at around £11-13 and starters at £5-6), but this is reflected in the quality and the setting. Service was smiling and friendly, but that won’t be enough for us to return.

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The Ship on the Shore (Leith, Edinburgh): Seafood! Seafood!

Interior

Interior

(Visited: June 2013)

Leith, the shore/harbour part of Edinburgh, glows with the light of two Michelin starred destinations (The Kitchin and Martin Wishart). But there is so much more to life than ‘fayne dining’…

We have a soft spot for seafood (we have a soft spot for many food things, come to think of it), and we wanted to sample this pub a few steps down from Martin Wishart which specialises just on that.

We have in our sight the monster size ‘Royale’ cold seafood platter, which comes with the house champagne option (the lovely NV Ruinart) thrown in at such a bargain price that it would be silly to resist.

So we don’t resist.

amouse bouche!

amouse bouche!

Note the glasses…and the amuse bouche 🙂

As we said, enormity is the name of the game: eight oysters, numerous mussels, large portions of cured salmon and poached (also smoked) salmon, smoked cod, smoked haddock, whole dressed crab (with two extra claws), small and large scallops (coral in), and of course the usual crustaceans, lobster and Dublin bay prawns, all accompanied by thick-cut chips, a salad and three sauces: a Thai-style one, an onion vinaigrette and a very, very nice home-made tartare.

platterpieno

platter2

It was a feast. It took us well over an hour to finish it. Seafood at its freshest and its best, in this genre. Undoubtedly certain items would be best eaten warm (e.g. scallops), but within the logic of a cold platter one could hardly ask for better or for more. Immaculate freshness (oh, that crab!), excellent quality (oh, the plumpness of those mussles!), nice preparation. The smoking of the salmon and other items was strong, peculiar and pleasant. Mr. Crab was dressed with some class (only the white, something we would not expect in a pub). The only minor fault was the cooking of the lobster, which was a wee hard.

chunky chips

chunky chips

salad

salad

This is simple fare, not haute cuisine, but when you think of the combination of quality and (stonking) value for money, you cannot not put this pub at the top of any foodie’s address list. The platter comes at £90 and would be enough for three, and the house champagne (a NV Ruinart) is basically given away at retail cost since it only costs you £35 when you have it with the platter (it comes at £50 on its own). And pricing is very good anyway: some of the competitors in Edinburgh have the Ruinart at £70 at the time of writing.

We liked it so much that we were tempted to go back for more just a couple of weeks later. We were not disappointed…

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Michael Neave’s Kitchen and Whisky Bar (Edinburgh)

The bar area upstairs

The bar area upstairs

Downstairs dining room

Downstairs dining room

Visited: April 2013

We will focus on the food and not on the whisky…funnily enough we’re very very hazy about that latter part…

But we do remember well that there’s pretty classical cuisine, with a personal touch, in this hidden little restaurant near the castle.

Of two three course meals, only one dish was decidedly disappointing: ravioli of crab and crayfish which were poorly filled and especially were marred by a lame, watery sauce (we think with peppers – it was advertised as a bisque but it was nothing like).

Crab and crayfish ravioli

Crab and crayfish ravioli

watery bisque

watery bisque

There is a bit of a problem in the sauce department, because also the one accompanying a very nice and perfectly cooked roe deer lacked the depth and intensity to make the dish multidimensional: it was simply good meat, not a great dish (nice carrot puree, though).

Roe deer

Roe deer

But another main of duck breast with orange, caraway, sweet potato and a vegetable ‘pancake’ (it had the texture of giant gnocchi) was on a different level, the sauce integrating with and lifting the excellent duck marvelously. This was a Michelin star level dish.

Roasted duck breast with  orange and caraway sauce, sweet potato and courgette pancake

Roasted duck breast with orange and caraway sauce, sweet potato and courgette pancake

It was preceded by a good starter, scallops (queen, good and precisely cooked) with a celeriac puree and black pudding.

West Coast scallops, black pudding, celeriac puree and caviar butter

West Coast scallops, black pudding, celeriac puree and caviar butter

With the desserts we ended on a high: both a pear tarte tatin with whisky marmalade icecream and a Hazelnut and cranberry caramel tart with Cherry sauce were lovely, non-banal, mixing deeply sweet and sour notes (especially the icecream), and showing finesse of execution in the tarts.

Pear Tarte Tatin with whisky marmalade ice cream

Pear Tarte Tatin

Hazelnut and cranberry caramel tarte and cherry sauce

Hazelnut and cranberry tart

Lovely petit fours as well.

petit fours

petit fours

There was no amuse bouche.

Service is efficient, kind, but perhaps it could be better drilled on the food. The room aims to be sharp and cutting edge, but to us it felt not enough of it and just a bit cold. Prices are kind on the wallet, given the quality (2 three courses with a bottle of very drinkable bubbly at £38 came to £100 before tip). The wine list too offers some well-priced options.

All in all, a good, easygoing dinner with the dishes of a capable chef who may still have ample margin for improvement (he’s very young!). We’re not at the level of accomplishment found, for example and at a similar price point, at the Mulroy. One to try again, but in a while.

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The Mulroy (Edinburgh)

interior2

(Visited: May 2013)

We pass by this basement while walking around Edinburgh’s West End. The menu looks interesting, the name looks interesting, and they offer a lunch or pre-theatre two course menu at £16.50: how not give it a go?

The interior would merit a review on its own.

interior

A unique room that reflects the personality of the owner (and his antique expert wife – and we don’t mean his wife is antique) and stands out amid the many formulaic rooms that litter the restaurant scene. Every detail oozes care and originality, from the furniture, to the decor, to the beautiful Sheffield cutlery.

Quaint cutlery

Quaint cutlery

It feels like being a guest in the graceful house of a wealthy friend with good taste. Not a bad friend to have, thinking of it…

Tap water comes with sliced lemon and lime, made-in-house bread (two varieties, walnuts and black olives) is rustic, pretty good, with a good crust

Walnut bread, black olive bread

Walnut bread, black olive bread

butter is lightly imprinted with a thistle and served too cold.

Homage to Scotland?

Homage to Scotland?

Overall things are looking on the up. But for £16.50 we are trying to rein in our expectations. We now know we really shouldn’t have.

The Lamb and wild mushroom pie with the thinly sliced pig trotters is a lush, rich dish, though the ‘pie’ enclosing the meat is a bit too heavy for us. Luckily a hint of asparagus and a chutney lightens and balances the dish considerably. The pig trotter ‘carpaccio’ is lovely.

Border spring lamb and wild mushroom pie, pig trotter carpaccio, quail egg, asparagus salad, lemon chutney

Border spring lamb and wild mushroom pie, pig trotter carpaccio, quail egg, asparagus salad, lemon chutney

However the other starter of Rabbit rillette with chicory, pickled cucumber tartare and walnut vinaigrette, and with a ‘fugasse’ (a type of Provencale bread) on the side, is a show stopper:  sweetness, acidity, intensity, balance, a well thought out and well executed dish. Gosh, this is going to be a good lunch!

Confit French rabbit “rillettes”, onion and thyme “provencale” fougasse, chicory salad, pickled cucumber tartar, walnut viaigrette

Confit French rabbit “rillettes”, onion and thyme “provencale” fougasse, chicory salad, pickled cucumber tartar, walnut viaigrette

The mains were a beef shin and a braised pig cheek. The latter

Braised Border pork cheek and venison sausage, crushed broccoli, tarragon pomme dauphine, wild garlic sauce

Braised Border pork cheek and venison sausage, crushed broccoli, tarragon pomme dauphine, wild garlic sauce

was glorious in the moisture of its fat yet not heavy, just look at the colour of that meat to see that there’s somebody who can cook at the stoves, with inter-species fraternity provided by a tasty venison sausage. We lingered with gusto on the potato ‘dauphine’ with herbs, and the broccoli, and the dark, well made jus.

The shin

Border beef shin, aubergine puree, oregano and polenta croquette, spring carrot, anchovy and black olive sauce

Border beef shin, aubergine puree, oregano and polenta croquette, spring carrot, anchovy and black olive sauce

was also supremely tender and moist, the sauce just lacking a bit of depth in our opinion, but a croquette with polenta and oregano was so lovely that it could have been the central ingredient itself! The aubergine puree’ and spring carrots were not intruders in the long list of ingredients, rather discreet and welcome participants.

We resist the temptations that the dessert list offers, we don’t even look at the cheeses, and jump to the coffee. A good filter coffee, served in fine bone china, of course, coming with a nice coconut bon bon, an acceptable madeleine, a meringue and a pretty intense chocolate ganache.

Coffee and petit fours

Coffee and petit fours

Our four dishes were all packed skill and care, all frighteningly dense with ingredients and flavours, but all superbly well balanced. And for a ‘petit’ menu, at these prices, all this was incredibly generous. Probably more a cue to draw you back, and a successful one at that, than a profit making scheme.

Service on the day was by a pleasantly upbeat, courteous, efficient waiter, and by the owner himself, Clemens Hoss-Estenfeld, judging from the surname obviously coming from a Scottish mining family: a man of charm, discretion, politeness and enthusiasm spilling out as soon as you break the ice.

Of course we had to go back for the full menu…stay tuned!

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Edinburgh’s Larder Bistro

(Visited: April 2013)

beer

Bread: tastes better than it looks

Bread: tastes better than it looks

With 2 courses at £12 and 3 at £15 for the pre-theater menu we worried about the quality of the ingredients. But we shouldn’t have. In fact, care in sourcing is a strong point of this joint (which is associated with the Slow food movement).

Nothing was fancy, everything was good, prepared with care, with simplicity in a good way, with taste, and with a light hand.

Steamed mussels were enhanced by a clever cider sauce,

Mussels with wild leek and Thistly Cross cider

Mussels with wild leek and Thistly Cross cider

in the same way as a white leek soup (with a strong, perhaps TOO strong, potatoey texture) was transformed by the addition of a little Blue Monday cheese.

White leek soup with garlic and Blue Monday cheese

White leek soup with garlic and Blue Monday cheese

For mains, a duck with barley and cabbage was simplicity itself, but when the duck is good and competently cooked, the sauce is light and tasty and the vegetables are good quality, what more can you want at these prices?

Braised Gartmorn Farm duck leg with barley and cabbage

Braised Gartmorn Farm duck leg with barley and cabbage

From the culinary viewpoint, the most interesting dish of the night was a wild garlic and Yukon Gold potato cake with a poached duck egg and cabbage. It was the opposite of stodgy, the duck egg just perfectly cooked adding that touch of lusciousness when broken and running down the cake…

Wild garlic and Yukon gold potato cake with poached duck egg

Wild garlic and Yukon gold potato cake with poached duck egg

Perfectly flowing duck egg

Perfectly flowing duck egg

The ice-cream selection was limited on the night, just green tea ice cream. Man loves it but Woman doesn’t care for it, so the conclusion was obvious: we went for cheeses. One can choose a single type out of three, and we opted for a Brie and a Blue Monday: both were good and in good conditions, but the Blue Monday was served at the right temperature while the Brie was a tad too cold. Also lovely were the accompanying rhubarb chutney and oatmeal biscuits (one again, lightly made).

Blue Monday and Morangie Brie with oatcakes and Rhubarb chutney

Blue Monday and Morangie Brie with oatcakes and Rhubarb chutney

Tap water is spontaneously provided. Service is super-nice and friendly even if not too well briefed on the food. Probably the Chef should communicate more with the front of house…

A return visit is due for the full a la carte menu (which offers also some of the low-cost menu dishes, sometimes with additional ingredients).

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Hadrian’s Brasserie (Edinburgh)

(Visited January 2013)

Lunch here on a January weekday, the room is very quiet, very bright, the menu looks appealing, a promising combination.

Interior

Interior

bread selection

bread selection

A celeriac soup is decent but plain-plain. Textural variations or any interest whatsoever have deserted this dish. And what are these? Oh well: there is a textural variation after all, but not of the welcome sort: some stringy bits from the celeriac have been left in. All this at a price 25% higher than what you can have, for the same or better quality, in any simple brasserie that isn’t attached to a luxury hotel.

Celeriac Soup, Truffle Oil, Chives

Celeriac Soup, Truffle Oil, Chives

A main of grilled pork with lentils is good in flavour and texture. Pity then for another textural variation: the lentils contain stones. Who knows, if we were from the US we might sue, but we aren’t and we don’t.

Pork Loin, Cabbage and Spicy Lentils

Pork Loin, Cabbage and Spicy Lentils

Service was kind but also of the kind that serves pork with the words ‘Here’s your chicken’. There was in general a complete unawareness of food and establishment.

Everyhting at Hadrian’s shouted ‘I can do better than this’, I’m not the distracted and amateurish place you are seeing.  But this is what it looked on this visit, and there’s too much going on in Edinburgh to even think of going back.

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Kyloe at the Rutland (Edinburgh): steaks anyone?

(Visited January 2013)

We were wondering whether there is an equivalent of Ondine for meat and beef in Edinburgh. While repeat visits will be needed for confirmation (life is tough), we may almost have found one.

Airy interior with cow images and cow skins everywhere

Interior
Interior

our server suitably enthusiastic and well drilled, a view on the west end of Princes Street, the seats comfortable, this is the kind of place were it’s easy and quick to settle in and  relax. The only reason for being slightly nervous for us is that we appear to be the oldest in the room, but this is strangely becoming less rare as time goes by. Funny that.

Complimentary aubergine dip and bread are both pleasant and fresh

Aubergine dip and bread

Aubergine dip and bread

We had the ribeye and their trio of perhaps lesser known or less appreciated cuts (feather, onglet and bavette). We were worried about the feather as we’d always had meat from the blade long cooked, but it was in fact very tender as well as of course flavoursome. The onglet was the most interesting piece, with a gamey/offally flavour which we love, while the bavette was slightly more tenacious, still a small cost to pay for its intense flavour.

Steak board: Bavette, Onglet and Marinated Feather Steak.

Steak board: Bavette, Onglet and Marinated Feather Steak.

Eating the ribeye after these ‘strong’ cuts, it tasted  even more buttery and suavely melting than usual for this cut…or maybe it was just really top quality. And good execution (medium rare as asked), honour to the kitchen.

Ribeye

Ribeye

The beef (all pedigree Aberdeen) comes with a little green salad and tomato, but if you want more veggies you can order sides for very little. We did so,

Roasted root vegetables and cabbage with bacon

Roasted root vegetables and cabbage with bacon

and as we like vegetables we also had a very decent and colourful starter of organic beetroots:

Roasted beetroot salad and goat cheese quenelles

Roasted beetroot salad and goat cheese quenelles

The only small gripes today were however veg-related: the not perfectly clean greens and the condiments of the beetroots and the veggies which weren’t at the very high level of the rest and for us were too greasy and rich.

Prices are fair: beef costs and top beef costs more (from memory it was £26 for a 300g ribeye and £19 for the dynamic trio of similar weight), sides are £2.50 and the generous bread with the aubergine sauce is also £2.50. Service as we said was extremely sweet and well drilled. Though, and we know the young manager on duty will hate us for saying this, he looked a bit of a spare part today, never approaching the customer (at least us).

On this experience this seems a tightly run place doing straight things and doing them well. We want to go back and increase our cholesterol levels with other beef cuts, and also try the healthier produce they also have (oysters, mussles, game…), as well as the pastry section, which on the basis of the complimentary airy and very short shortbreads looks promising indeed:

Very short shortbreads

Very short shortbreads

Oh, and the espresso was one of the best we’ve had in te UK of late – and you know we don’t say such things lightly. Just look at it:

espresso

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Plumed Horse (Edinburgh): uneven with some highs

(Visited 23/12/2011)

Proceedings started alarmingly in this venue in the Leith “Michelin strip” of Edinburgh (regrettably, the Plumed Horse has just been star-stripped by Michelin, but as you can see we are not deterred by this tragedy). 
We asked what grape varieties were in a Sicilian white wine that had caught our attention. The guy in charge said he had no idea… but he could check on the internet. Um.

Things became even more worrying when he came back and said that the Sicilian white was made out of Sangiovese. Unlikely. To his credit he did come back a little later to say that it was actually a Chardonnay. 

And also to his credit, the guy is really sweet and kind. And we appreciated sooo much the fact that he didn’t put any pressure on us for drinks – we find it hideous when the first thing they ask you is whether you want a glass of champagne (if we do – unlikely – we’ll ask without prompting, thank you very much), which happens far too often.
Two amuse bouches restore our faith. A trio of beetroot terrine with creme fraiche, ballottine of salmon with herbs and smoked caviar, and black pudding fritter 

is only marred by the crazy saltiness of the salmon, while the fritter is delectable and the elegantly sliced beetroot adds that nice earthy vegetable dimension. The second amuse 

is a bold butternut squash soup with chilli oil, very assertive and offering nice contrasts. The palate is now for sure well awake.

Coming to serious eating, two “set piece” starters are visually very attractive and well conceived. Tian of White Crab Meat,Cucumber, Pineapple Salsa, Passion Fruit Dressing  is as zingy, light, fresh as it is vertically ambitious in appearance (only one snotty comment: if you put dots, they’ve got to be all the same size).

And a delicate Terrine of Pheasant, Pistachios, Alsace Bacon, Pickled Pear, Cumberland Sauce, Thyme Brioche offers great balance of flavours and titillates the palate with sweetness from the pears and acidity from the sauce. 

The pistachios do not make any impression – with them it’s either top quality and adequate quantity or nothing. Man finds the terrine a bit dry but is silenced by Woman who says it’s OK. Woman doesn’t care too much for the brioche but is silenced by Man who says it’s great.

One of the mains is the only real letdown of the evening, a Roast Breast of Guinea Fowl; Truffled Ravioli,“Cock-a-Leekie” Garnish.  

Strange first of all that in a broth based dish like this no spoon is supplied. Maybe better this way, because what we can taste is rather bland. The anonymous guinea fowl is dry (overcooked) and this time the couple’s harmony is preserved as there is no disagreement. While the raviolo is fine, something truly unspeakable must have happened to a cardboard truffle with a horrendous chemical flavour. (We don’t know and we don’t want to know)

In the other main, a Roast Fillet of Brill,Saffron Parmentier Potatoes, Creamed Leeks,Scallop Sauce, the not too tasty fish plays second fiddle to the splendid protagonist: the potatoes, soft and creamy on one side of the dish, small roasted cubes on the other (the Parmentier), vibrant with saffron, not to mention the leeks that deserved to appear more prominently. 

This could easily have been a perfect vegetarian dish, without loss had the brill not been there. And the champion of potatoes Parmentier  would have been happy!

For dessert, a Dark Chcolate Fondant, Hazelnut Ice Cream,Cocoa Nib Crunch 

is really fondant, that is luxuriously melting, the whole ensemble exemplary, and could only be improved by a superior quality of chocolate.

But the stunner of the evening is the second dessert, a Clementine Mousse, Marzipan Ice Cream,Chilli Tuileof superb airiness, like a souffle’ really, intense in the tangy favour, on a classy, also very light, sponge base. And the kick from the tuile, mellowed by the ice cream, creates other layers in this refined, assured dessert (note also the this time precise hand that put the dots on the plate, one of those telling details). 

The service worked well, with some unusual formality for this type of restaurant (white gloves to change cutlery, where are we, at the Ritz?), the only negative being the manager, who shone for the total lack of presence in the room, spending most of the time either in front of the computer, or chatting with the waiters (with four staff for ten customers there was plenty of time), and did not even bother to say goodbye when we left. Indeed we wondered what the point was of having a manager.
There’s evidently sound classical technique behind the dishes at the Plumed Horse, with chef Tony Borthwick, despite some inconsistency, able to pull several strings in the harmony of flavours, from delicate to decisive. If it is true that there was a flop it is also true that there was a memorable dessert. What is missing, we think, is excellence in the main produce, which makes this restaurant a lesser brother of its starred neighbours in Leith. Whether this is compensated by the ten pounds less that three dishes cost here (£55 pounds) is subjective. We feel that the price is too high compared to what, overall, is in the plate. Both in central London and in Fife (here) you can eat luxury ingredients (turbot not brill, pork loin not cheek, etc., all top quality) for that amount or even less. 

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The Honours (Edinburgh)

It looks like Martin Wishart didn’t spare any expenses in his new ‘bistro’ in central Edinburgh, the atmosphere one of very spacious luxury rather than intimately rustic

They clearly need to make it back with the bread, good but only served in three thin slices each, and not replaced if you finish it…

Scottish Nationalists will have an apoplectic attack at the only type of oyster being served in this Scottish restaurant being ‘Cornish assured’

We heard that there was no competition in the blind tasting. Very good they certainly were: the plumpest, sea-infused oysters of our (admittedly limited, but not non-existent) experience. But we are told by reliable sources that you can find equally good ones in Scotland, so….

Woman: Let’s have the lobster Thermidore. Man: Nah, we are having it every week here in Scotland! Woman: Come on! Man: Ok….



It was a good choice: served without the shell, notable for the excellent cooking, the herbs recruited in quantity to add freshness, and the balance and kick of the sauce. In one word: delicious (though we’ve recently had an even better one…stay tuned).


Man: let’s have the tuna tartare. Woman: Nah, this is the tame yellowfin, you know I’m used to the wonderful bluefin Sicilian tuna. Man: you mean, like feckless environmental yobs that don’t give a toss about sustainability? Woman, contrite: Ok, let’s see what chef Paul Tamburrini manages to do with the yellowfin.



It was a good choice: a simple ‘assembly’ dish with very well-defined, fresh, harmonious flavours (avocado cream, ginger and soya butter sauce).


Woman: let’s have the veal sweetbreads. Man: Nah, we can have them in Italy or the lovely ones with Pecorino cheese they do at Latium. Woman: Come on, don’t be chauvinistic! Man: Ok.





It was a good choice. In fact, it was a great choice. Simply resting on a bed of moist spinach and accompanied by a portentous reduction, it was the cooking that made this the dish of the day, having achieved that perfectly light crispiness on the outside and that supreme softness inside.

Man: Let’s have the Presa steak of acorn fed Iberico pork. Woman: Nah, we can have this sort of thing in Spain. Man: Yes we could, however we never do, come on! Woman: Ok.

It was a good choice. They can really cook well here at the Honours, clearly a taut and well-run kitchen. This one felt like it was grilled, let’s see, at about 650 degrees, you know, it had that unmistakable texture…(OK,we read it on the menu, where they feel compelled to give you this information as if many people might change their mind about the order if it was cooked at 600 or 670 instead). We asked for medium rare and we were rewarded with the succulence that comes with it. Iberico pork is in general wonderful, but Man found this one good but not the best Iberico pork, and in terms of flavour he preferred the one at Hedone the previous week. Just for the sake of giving you a full spectrum of opinions, Woman disagreed. They agreed however that the the thick wine sauce was ‘deluscious’, and the tomatoes welcome (though to our taste they could have been cooked quite a little more and acquire that melting deliciousness).


Just one dessert, to increase our Summer exploration of the classics, another peach Melba, like at Koffmann’s the previous week (yes, we eat out a lot).

The ice-cream (made with a Carpigiani machine, as the very detailed menu says) was as good as one finds even in Italy, and the peach (Italian, so says the once again very detailed menu…) intense – this was yellow, while the Koffmann’s one was white. It is definitely not your classic Peach Melba, but still a very good ending to a very good meal. The presentation is perhaps more bistro that fine dining (compare it with the one at Koffmann’s bistro, but that’s OK.

The service has some key members from the Michelin starred Leith operation, so you get the benefit of a level of service far superior to what you’d expect in a bistro (the other waiters, very nice but displaying inexperience to various extent, looked in fact like they do greatly benefit from their more experienced colleagues – one lovely young lady was literally trembling when taking the dishes away: sweet but painful to watch). A special mention for the manager Steven Spear, a Wishart faithful, whose bright and easy charm (and voice!) cannot fail to strike the customer.


As you can see, we had six good choices out of six, and indeed we have the feeling that we could have chosen anything from the menu and been equally satisfied. This is a very polished operation. Remember, it’s a bistro, so don’t go expecting the intricate dishes of Martin Wishart that probably take six days to prepare, and you won’t be disappointed. The one negative aspect is a certain sense of lack of generosity (no amuse bouche, very little bread, no petit fours, expensive coffee – which we did not have, very little vegetables in most dishes so you need to order side ones), a rather enthusiastic pricing (we spent £111, of which £38 drinks, before a tip – for £120 or so you can fine-dine elsewhere not too far), right on the borderline of what we would consider excessive, bearing in mind what is in the plate, the lack of extras and the basic mise en place. On the other hand they have set lunches on weekdays that look a steal. If you can, you should perhaps focus on those.


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Number One (Edinburgh): classic class

One of those unending Scottish Summer nights…this one above is the Balmoral in Edinburgh, whose basement restaurant tempts us tonight.


We are soon offered some delicious nibbles, including  the often present haggis bon bon (we had the same at Martin Wishart for example) but…what is this? In an otherwise tender and tasty loin of rabbit cylinder Man finds a bone, and a piece of shell will appear in an otherwise perfect amuse bouche of crab with gazpacho and iced melon.


These prep mistakes indicate that something  is not settled in the kitchen, and a confirmation of this will come later, with an unusual delay between first and second course. A young Italian waiter comes to us and apologises, and when, curious, we ask him what the problem is he explains ‘You know, in Michelin starred restaurants like this one it is normal to apologise if a dish arrives late’. You don’t say.


Let us get done with a last complaint: a dish of scallops, while perfectly cooked felt a little ungenerous and somewhat uninspiring, compared to other fantastic scallop dishes we’ve had in Scotland.


Ok, with these minor faults out of the way, we can state the main character of the evening: it was a real feast of super-produce in classical, balanced, striking dishes.


A Nicoise of rabbit

 graciously deconstructed many elements, including a very apt pungent anchovy.


The two mains, a lamb and a beef fillet, could only be commented with screams of pleasure.


The juses do not appear very smooth but they are really elegant and full of flavour, and the depth of the beef and the lamb is memorable. All other components in the dish (sweetbread,…)  exhalt its core. Very classical, focussed, rather straightforwardly presented yet stylish cooking.


The dessert section deserves a special mention. There is a chef patissiere of talent here, because both a Baileys cream, coffee granite, caramelised nuts and chocolate croquant and Slow cooked cherries with goat cheese sorbet and fennel and honey mousse were very articulated, well thought out exemplars of the art and science of pastry making. 

At the end of the meal the Sommelier (a really charming and professional fellow) comes pushing, with some effort, a giant trolley of dessert wines: ‘can I tempt you…’. ‘You can certainly tempt us, but we’ll not yield to the temptation’. And we retire in the bar area to sip our filter coffees (good) with very good petit fours to conclude a relaxed and very pleasant evening. And not even too heavy on your wallet considering the luxury surroundings: three courses at £62 is one the best values in the Michelin starred firmament in Edinburgh. If you enjoy classical French cuisine with a Scottish slant, definitely recommended.



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