Returning the compliment after my guest post, last week, Sarah from Cake Quest: Edinburgh took a little trip to Martin Wishart’s new place, The Honours, earlier today. And boy did she enjoy it! It looks like MJ and I will have to get ourselves along to The Honours pretty soon, to sample from its array of delights. Many thanks, Sarah 🙂
Review: The Honours, North Castle Street
When you live, as I do, in the very centre of the city, you are a bit spoilt for choice when it comes to great eateries. Even raising the notion of a quick bite of lunch can lead to a thirty minute debate on the relative merits of Chez Jules, La P’tite Folie, Dusit and so on. So, I was a bit giddy when I discovered that the esteemed Martin Wishart was opening a new venture approximately a hundred yards from my front door. I made the booking the very instant that I could, gazing longingly at the menu preview .pdf I had acquired and looked forward to it for weeks. The stakes were further raised by the arrival of my sainted mother, fresh from strife-torn Manchester. The pressure was on and my expectation level was high. Suffice to say it was exceeded in every possible aspect.
We arrived at the very start of the lunchtime service (12pm) on the dreichest of days. However, inside the welcome from the staff was warm and professional. We declined the offer of a pre-lunch aperitif in the stylish bar area and proceed straight to the main dining area, as I was keen to crack on. Despite the long, thin layout of the room, the decor gives a great sense of space and was light even on a gloomy day. Although Luke and myself agonised over the menu, changing our minds constantly, my mother homed in on her choices like a laser. The staff (of which there were plenty) were attentive but not intrusive and everything arrived promptly. Despite the place being packed, the layout was such that we never felt hemmed in (often a problem in cramped central Edinburgh establishments).
And, so to the main business. Is the food as good as my fevered imagination had hoped? No. It’s better than that. Every dish was beautifully presented, cooked to perfection and bursting with flavour. I started with a Swiss Cheese Souffle, on a bed of wilted spinach, with a bechamel sauce. It was light and fluffy and did not collapse at the first sign of a fork. The bechamel was velvety but not heavy. My mother’s White Onion Veloute, with rocket and parsley pesto was generous and she polished it off in an instant.
Luke and myself both ordered from the main menu but my mother decided upon the daily set lunch. This is astonishingly good value at £17.50 for three courses. Given that the price of a two course lunch in a mid-range restaurant can range from £10 upwards, to get three courses, with food and service of this quality in such comfort is one of the biggest bargains to be had in the whole of the Edinburgh dining scene (the others include the Bar Napoli lunch for £5 or so and the Tapa £10 Chef’s Selection).
Mains chosen were Fricassee of Chicken Leg (pronounced to be ‘probably the best chicken I’ve ever had’), Halibut with chorizo and spicy lentils and Fillet of Smoked Salmon with citrus fennel and hollandaise. The salmon was mine and it was a real treat, with the hidden bonus of a slightly caramelised underside, meeting the shredded fennel. I’m almost running out of superlatives for the quality of cooking and presentation and the speed of service. Having indulged ourselves with the starter and the main, none of us could handle a large dessert lest we stray into Mr. Creosote territory, so I had some some scoops of creamy coconut ice cream and the others some palate cleansing and pleasingly fruity sorbet. Having perked ourselves up with the excellent coffee, we headed back out into the drizzle towards the end of the lunchtime service. The staff were as charming upon departure as arrival. On the way out, I was pleased to note that you could also eat at the bar, therefore increasing my chances of getting a booking again sometime this century.
The verdict: I know the Lunch Questers employ a complex system of scoring, but let me make this nice and easy for you: it’s all a 10. Service, food, decor – it is all impeccable. Get yourself booked in if and when you can. This Martin Wishart chap could go far.
Cost for three courses for three, including bottled water and six coffees: £111
The Honours is at 58a North Castle Street in the city centre.