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Last night, I dined alone at Martin Wishart, managing to get a reservation just one day in advance during the festival. The room was busy when I arrived and filled up during the evening. I was initially sat at what is probably the only bad table in the smart Petrus-like room (beige table skirts, textured beige and gold wallpaper), right next to a stone pillar near to the main entrance which blocked the view of most of the rest of the dining room. I hate being jammed up alongside walls in restaurants, I find it oppressive and it makes me tense for some reason. When I saw the horrible flowery typeface on the short and quite expensive a la carte, I began to get a bad feeling about the evening ahead of me.

A request to move to a more suitable table was met without rancour and my original table was then given to what appeared to be a couple of regular customers who had no issue whatsoever with it (just me then). I relaxed with a beer and chose a smoked haddock tart and halibut with pig’s trotter and waited to see how the evening would unfold.

Wine was brought swiftly (a Chilean Viognier which was OK for £20.00 from a steeply priced list), very good olive bread appeared, but no butter for about 10 minutes. I was being especially mean and wanted to see how long it would take the many front of house staff who were buzzing around looking terribly busy to notice, so I deliberately said nothing. I’m sure it would have arrived a bit quicker had I asked for it, but it was a useful test of the service.

At approximately 8.10pm, 25 minutes after I sat down, the amuse of a rillett of rabbit “bon-bon”, cone of chicken liver parfait and shot glass of vine tomato presse arrived. The chicken was lovely, the rest simply ok. Fairly soon after, the smoked haddock tartlette arrived and any reservations I was harbouring about just how good the meal was going to be evaporated on the spot.

A light pastry case was filled with spinach, smoked haddock and puy lentils and set on a silky puree of shallot which in turn was encircled by a frothy moat of intensly flavoured lobster sauce. A few salad leaves and a rogue sliver of roasted pepper made a fleeting appearance to no great effect, and despite the pastry being a superfluous element flavour wise, it was a memorable dish. It is quite unusual to find smoked haddock on restaurant menus these days and so made a refreshing change from the more familiar ingredients like foie gras, crab and scallops, all of which featured on other starters that night.

I have had a few fish/meat combo dishes recently, but Wishart’s halibut and pigs trotter has been the most successful of them all. A decent slab of nicely cooked fish sat on a crisp potato galette (rosti really) with a little spinach beneath. On top was some braised endive, clasped in a girdle of fried bacon. Around this were three thin slices of stuffed trotter and a gribiche sauce let down with a jus of some sort.

Atop the trotters were more slivers of roasted pepper. If there had been more of the endive, perhaps replacing the spinach entirely, a little more of the trotter and less of the unimpressive stuffing, and the pepper been done away with completely, this could well have been a 9/10 plate of food. As it was, I was more than happy to settle for 7/10.

Desserts were all fruit based, and I went for a passion fruit souffle served with mango sorbet and a sabayon of some description. This was a poor showing in relation to the food that went before it. The souffle was very eggy, with little of the fruit flavour coming through, and not a patch on Alex Aitken’s definitive version that I enjoyed a few years back at the original Le Poussin restaurant in Brockenhurst.

The bill including 1 beer, 1 bottle of wine, 1 glass of dessert wine, coffee and tap water was £68.00 before service, although I did have the cheapest starter (£8.00) and main course (£20.50).

Overall, a nice room and some really impressive cooking with big flavours was slightly let down by an uneasy mixture of over attentive service in the form of constant wine and water replenishment and some uneven waits for sustenance although the total duration of meal itself at around 2.15 hours was absolutely fine.

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Andy,

As you dined alone did you feel uncomfortable about that in any way. I always feel a bit nobby no-mates when I do that even though I know it's because I'm travelling alone and can't just pick up a companion (well not without a hefty wedge of cash :biggrin: ). Maybe I'm just too sensitive.... :blink:

Gav

"A man tired of London..should move to Essex!"

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No, I've been doing it for years now and couldn't care less really. Oddly enough, the couple at the next table at Wishart started chatting to me and I of course told them about eGullet (they are going to the Three Chimneys this week I think and have promised to log on and send us a report). That is the first time that has happened to me as far as I can remember, so I am usually more than happy just to eat and drink myslef into a pleasant mild stupor.

Front of house are sometimes more chatty if you are on your own, but it depends how well the meal is going as to whether or not I want to chat back to them or not.

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I would guess that was true of Wishart, they were very attentive on the service front (a little too attentive in fact) and seemed very interested to know if I had enjoyed the food or not (luckily they didn't enquire about the dessert).

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:biggrin: But what if they did???

I'm a big believer in that inspectors should get the same as everyone else, otherwise whats the point? If i knew when the inpector calls, and put all the kitchens efforts into one table, hell even i might get a 4 in the GFG :laugh:

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  • 2 months later...

I think that I sat at your table on Friday lunchtime Andy, and agree that it is not a great spot. When you are sitting on your own, which I was, you need as much to look at as possible. Fortunately I had spent a very comfortable hour in The Cooks Bookshop and had arrived laden with a broken carrier bag full of books. That definitely got the front of house running round. With water changes every two minutes, not only was I peeing like a goldfish (?), I also felt that I had to keep on saying 'thank you'. Thank you is an easy phrase to tack onto the end of a conversation with a supper chum, but when you are eating alone, it can become irksomely exhausting.

The room was rather drab, and it was a quiet lunch with perhaps five other tables: a mixture of suits, local grandmothers and a couple of French tourists. None of this seemed to matter with champagne in hand, and food on its way. To start I had a puy lentil soup with langoustine. It was absolutely delicious, perfectly seasoned and modestly presented. A choice of four different types of bread - I opted for a walnut and raisin - and some good salted butter.

For my main course I had a roasted breast of guinea fowl that was again beautifully presented - served with savoy cabbage, some potatoes and a buttery tarragon jus. Very straightforward, no messing around, excellent food. I finished with a plum tart.

My bill was £40 including service, a glass of champagne, a coffee (£3.50 for a single espresso seemed steep) and a set lunch (£18.50). I left feeling (a) gastronomically content and (b) like I had had something of a bargain. The restaurant is located in Leith, which, as far as I am concerned, is a bit rank, but Martin Wishart must not be missed.

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I think not. I have not eaten trotters since a Victorian day at primary school when I was ten. How has Wishart served them in the past? More interestingly I hope than Bob Godfrey's Mum who boiled them in the washing machine and served them with a garnich of carrot leaves.

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Superfluous question really Andy, but why did you choose one straight bottle of white rather than 2 or 3 glasses of wine that respectively complimented what you were eating? (Assuming they serve some decent stuff by the glass).

I'm not very good with these things but would have probably opted for an iced vodka with the amuse, an Alsace Pinot Blanc with the smoked haddock or Champagne for the lobster sauce and either a glass of good Chablis/white Burgundy for the Halibut or a good Beaujolais (Morgan or Chiroubles) which would go well with both the fish and the trotter (it is a French dish after all?).

And what dessert wine did you have? I always prefer Champagne with souffles and might have stuck with Champagne all the way through if I'd been confined to one bottle only. Mind you, saying that, I would've had to have a glass of light red for the main course before going back to the fizzy.

Anyway, like I say, a rubbish question really; just interested to know your thoughts.

Hookster

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Superfluous question really Andy, but why did you choose one straight bottle of white rather than 2 or 3 glasses of wine that respectively complimented what you were eating? (Assuming they serve some decent stuff by the glass).

Sheer greed really. I am often on a budget when I eat at these places and like to know that I will have enough booze to see me through the meal after a long and boring days auditing. Frankly, 2 or 3 glasses would not usually be enough. I enjoy good wine, but find that I can appreciate good food with a reasonable bottle, rather than worry too much about matching each dish to the appropriate wine.

That said, a recent meal of game at Putney Bridge was accompanied by wines chosen by the sommelier which did raise the level of enjoyment significantly.

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How about two half bottles? Might be a good compromise.

Besides, I guess I'm just looking at it from a different angle. The wine for me is almost equally as important as the food where as Spam, for example, is seemingly not bothered by wine at all (I think).

And, with regard to your comment about your meal at Putney Bridge, I think chosen wines are great but inevitably, I end up walking out completely stuffed and pretty arseholed! :wacko: There must be a middle ground.

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  • 4 years later...

It’s been a while since I visited Leith and I was struck by the newly gentrified waterfront with its multiplying bars and restaurants. Chief among these is restaurant Martin Wishart. The locals hold it in very high regard and speak warmly of the place; we were looking forward to it.

The new tram system that is being embedded into Edinburgh’s streets means the haul down the hill from the centre takes longer than usual, but it’s very much worth the journey - this is highly accomplished food with smooth service from the many staff scurrying around; there’s a decent buzz in the room too. We both opted for the tasting menu which was:

 Canapés (with special mention to the Haggis bonbon and a ‘crisply risotto, tomato fondue’ - essentially rice crispies in a tomato sauce – great fun)

 Chilled sweet corn soup, basil sorbet, crispy veal sweetbreads, salted almonds

 Pressé of foie gras and smoked pheasant, rhubarb curd [a happy combination, plus one substitute of a good parmesan soufflé from the very laudable vegetarian tasting menu]

 Sautéed baby squid, vivaldi new potatoes, truffle, malt and pumpernickel sand and asparagus - [an interesting assemblage of textures and flavours]

 Cerviche of halibut - [with passion fruit and mango, a bold and excellent dish]

 Braised shin of Ross-shire Beef, mushroom ravioli, pumpkin puree - [a beautiful, melting piece of beef]

 Apple and calvados soufflé, apply sauce and lollipops - [a jaunty take on toffee apples]

This was very refined, precise, classy cooking with a whole range of tastes and textures. For me the stand-out courses were the halibut cerviche which tasted stunning, and the beef, which was one of the best mouthfuls in ages… but here’s the (pretty minor) rub: this was a very small disc of beef, no more than a mouthful. Elsewhere I enjoyed just three tiny pieces of baby squid, while the cerviche would struggle to equal a heaped table-spoonful. In fairness, the parmesan soufflé was sizeable, but a couple of dishes were so unusually Lilliputian (with subtle plating to disguise this) that, unless nibbled, they wouldn’t last more than a few seconds.

My mother-in-law is from Glasgow and, as befits someone steeped in the old rivalry between these cities, she describes Edinburgh in a vaguely risqué phrase that approximates to ‘all style and no substance’. Wishart’s is certainly stylish, but a little more substance (nay, sustenance) wouldn’t go amiss at times. That sorted, though, and they’d offer pretty much the full package. This place is well worth your time.

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"All fur coat and nae knickers", in her humble opinion!  :huh:

Never quite understood this saying, as the weegies seem to think they're the ones with all the style (well, the conspicuous consumption designer clothes anyway).

Back to Martin Wishart: the recurring theme I've heard from many diners there is that the food's very good, but you come away unsatisfied (ie still hungry). I originally put that down to them being the standard Brit "big portions = good meal" punters, but the more read/hear it, the more I suspect there may be an issue here. Ah well, I suppose the answer is to get down there and try it out for myself (while ensuring I've got some bread in for a post-meal round of toast when I get home :raz: ).

PS

Edinburgh

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  • 4 weeks later...

We went two weekends ago.

Three significant changes from Kropotkin's tasting menu. Instead of the sweet corn soup, we had scallops in a roast garlic veloute (the veloute was one of the highlights of the meal, unctuous and flavoursome--I could have eaten a whole dish of it alone--though we thought the scallops were slightly overdone). There was also a truly gutting change in the meat dish from the beef shin to loin and civet of hare, both of which were toothsome, if tiny, morsels. The dish was certainly a triumph compared to the one that preceded it: mackerel with, as I recall, coffee honeycomb and pistachio puree. It was the first night the dish had been on the menu, and it was a disaster. The coffee complemented the pistachio; the pistachio went fine with the mackerel fillet; but the coffee simply overwhelmed the mackerel, leaving a bitter, oily slick in the mouth that could be dislodged only with three swigs of water and two mouthfuls of our Auxey-Duresses. A lot more tweaking needed in this dish, I fear.

There was also quite a bit of free bread, which made up for the rather paltry dishes and just about stopped us from getting a sausage supper on the way home.

Spanky

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