|A wee bit of Paris, in Thistle Street Lane.|
We visited Café St Honoré on a freezing spring evening, having been keen to experience this French-influenced exponent of “slow food” for a while. Despite the cold weather, the welcome was immediately warm as we stepped into the restaurant which, if you forget it is hidden just of Edinburgh’s Thistle Street, would be entirely at home in Paris’s Latin Quarter.
Café St Honoré specialises in using seasonal, locally-sourced produce to create bistro-style cuisine, and the passion of it’s chef-director Neil Forbes with this regard has lead to the establishment being rated as Scotland’s most sustainable eatery in 2012. As already mentioned Whilst the ambience of the restaurant is very obviously French, its insistence on using – wherever possible – Scottish ingredients creates an ‘Auld Alliance’ of classic cuisine français in combination with quality Scot’s flavours.
From the several alternatives available, we decided to go with the ‘café classics’ menu which provides diners with a choice from two options for each course and offers great value at £22.50 for starter, main and pudding. My partner opened proceedings with a dish of potato and herb dumplings with Highland Crowdie cheese which were, as anticipated, satisfyingly both herby and cheesy and provided a good balance of flavours. The real star of our first course, however, was my cullen skink which was packed with delicious smoked haddock and potatoes, all bathed in a luxurious creamy sauce that had assumed the smokiness of the fish during cooking.
Our mains were equally good, and whilst I again choose a very palatable fish-based dish of pan-fried coley with sautéed pink fir potatoes and greens, I almost wish I had joined my partner in sampling the venison casserole. This consisted of meltingly tender meat and vegetables cooked in a satisfyingly rich and flavoursome wine sauce.
For pudding we were unanimous in choosing the crème fraiche and sea buckthorn mousse, which was exceptional. The richness of the mousse was beautifully countered by the tartness of the sea buckthorn sauce with which it was topped, and the spring rhubarb jus in which it sat.
Add to the excellent food excellent service – which was extremely friendly, knowledgeable and attentive without being over-bearing – and a good wine list – we chose a very satisfying South American cabernet sauvignon – overall, we had a wonderful dining experience for a very reasonable £70 (excluding gratuity).
So if you are in Edinburgh and crave well cooked, French-inspired food that comes packed with local and seasonal flavours, you would be well advised to seek out Café St Honoré.
Food – 8/10
Atmosphere – 8/10
Value – 8/10
Ambience – Expect a venue with a brasserie, to quality restaurant ambience.
[This review is based on one posted on Tripadvisor in March 2013]