The Shore area in Leith used to be dingy and disreputable. The lisp-inducing enunciation exercise "The Leith Police dismisseth us" probably arose because they were too busy processing prostitutes and disposing of dope-dealers to spare a few moments for the poor speech therapist in question.
A decade of urban renewal has seen off this seedy image, though, and the Shore is now packed to the rafters with trendy loft apartments, restaurants, bars, cafés, and design agencies. Restaurant Martin Wishart sits on the Shore itself, with a view out over the picturesque (and only slightly smelly) Water of Leith. Last Friday a couple of colleagues and I were entertaining a client before an afternoon meeting, and this was the recommended venue.
I was wearing a pair of chinos and a (rather stylish) company polo shirt, but I felt quite underdressed as soon as I walked in the door. The people already seated for their lunches were wearing jackets and ties, or smart dresses. Of the rest of us, only one was wearing a suit, though, so I didn’t feel too bad. We were seated by two French-accented staff, and throughout the rest of the meal I’m sure we were attended by at least three others. It’s a small restaurant, seating about thirty at a push, and I’m a bit confused as to how they managed to squeeze them all in at the same time. As a result, though, the service was excellent, and we were never short of a pair of hands to refill our water glasses. (Yes, water–this was lunch, after all. Surely you don’t think I’d drink during office hours?)
Unfortunately, the food didn’t match up to this standard. I started with a ravioli of salmon, in a light curry and mussel jus and French beans. The jus was indeed light and tangy, and went very well with the mussels (I’ll have to try mixing these flavours myself at some point), but the salmon inside the ravioli was an unrecognisable paste, with hardly any flavour of its own. The homemade white bread on the side was very good, though, and sopped up the just very nicely.
My main course was a daube of beef on a bed of creamed potatoes, with glazed vegetables and a sweet jus. Again, the rich, gamy jus came off best, but the heart of the dish disappointed. The beef was cooked to the point of flakiness but it tasted, well…stewed (if that’s not too much of a tautology) and watery. I don’t think it had been near this, or any other kind of gravy until it hit my plate.
Given the excellent reputation Martin Wishart enjoys, I couldn’t help but feel let down by my meal. Their lunch menu is £13.50 for two courses, £15.50 for three (£1.25 extra for coffee or tea); a three-course dinner with coffee or tea will set you back about £32.50. Their presentation is unquestionably good, and it was a very pleasant location in which to partake of a business lunch. However, given the huge choice of other restaurants nearby, the quality of the food would discourage me from coming back again. Pity.