[Edinburgh] Restaurant Martin Wishart
There’s something warm and comforting about high end restaurants like Wishart’s. You have your expectations of what the evening is going to be like and, by and large, expectations are met. There’s a nice room, in a neutral colours sort of way, with comfy seats (and important thing with my bad back). Service is formal. Well, of course, service is always going to be formal when the crew are mainly French . There’s engaging menus. Folk who are fans of tasting menus will love it. There are three to choose from – the normal one, a seafood one and a vegetarian one. And there’s a remarkably short “a la carte” – just three items for starters and the same for mains. That’s what we ordered from but, even with such a limited range of choices, it’s difficult to pick as everything sounds good – in that warm and comforting way that you knew it would.
There was a single canapé offered – a beetroot macaroon, topped with horseradish cream. It was a delight. Then superb sourdough is offered and is kept topped up throughout the meal. And there was a trio of amuse bouche – sliced scallop on marinated vegetables, salsify with a caper mayonnaise and a smoked salmon mousse on a blini.
For a starter, scallops put in another appearance. Three halves, perfectly seared, sitting on a layer of Puy lentils, cooked in a sauce enhanced by pig’s trotter which gave everything a rich savouriness.
As the cuisine is nominally French or, at least, French inspired, it was no real surprise to see flammekuche as a starter. Well, I say it was no surprise but I suppose it was really. I’ve had it before and it’s quite a rustic thin pizza sort of affair. Not what you expect in a Michelin starred restaurant. But then it wasn’t the same as the rustic version. Here was a incredibly thin and crispy pastry base – thinner than the proverbial wafer – topped with sliced new potato and Comte cheese. A scattering of diced ox tongue completed it – the menu said it would be crispy and it would have been even better if it actually had been. But it was damn good anyway.
For the main course, roast leg of Pyrenean lamb comes for two and is carved at the table. This was delicious, succulent young lamb – bang-on for pinkness. There’s boulangere potatoes, perfect discs of cooked spud, artfully arranged overlapping each other. And asparagus, artichokes and morels, providing interesting textures and flavours. A light sauce which hinted at thyme.
Desserts brought a tonka bean brulee, served on a crisp biscuit and topped with a little poached rhubarb which counter-balanced the richness of the brulee.
The other plate was one of the best desserts I’ve had in a goodly while. A sheet of mango jelly, topped with elegant spoonfuls of a chocolate ganache. In perfect balance, a small quenelle of passion fruit sorbet. It was the sort of plate that almost made me wish I was one of those people who take photos of their restaurant food. Yes, it looked that good and it tasted better.
We had a really enjoyable evening. It’s good to be reminded that a great meal can be had without the culinary bells and whistles just by providing three good plates of real food.
As suggested by its German name, the dish comes from Alsace which is one of the regions of France that bounced about between the two countries between the middle of the 19th century and the middle of the 20th. It's more usually just sliced onions, lardons and dollops of creme fraiche.
Worth looking out for! Apart from the Manchester Christmas market, the nearest place I know that serves it is a restaurant in the big shopping mall in Calais.