Martin Wishart to open new brasserie in Edinburgh city centre
Michelin-starred chef to open premises on North Castle Street
When Martin Wishart’s modest but ambitious restaurant on Leith’s Shore picked up a Michelin star in 2001, Edinburgh breathed a sigh of relief. It had caught up with Glasgow, where Andrew Fairlie’s kitchen at One Devonshire Gardens already had a star and was leading the way in urban fine dining north of the Border.
Ten years on, and five Edinburgh restaurants hold the accolade, while Glasgow has all but given up hoping for one, for now. Restaurant Martin Wishart, along with The Kitchin, located a few hundred yards away in Leith, regularly appears near the top end of polls of national restaurants and in October last year Wishart picked up an AA award as Chef of the Year, voted for by fellow chefs across the UK. Edinburgh, and Scotland, is taken seriously as a fine dining destination.
It’s quite a revolution. But it has been achieved without exuberant cheerleader, as likely to be found on TV or tabloid front pages as behind a stove. Martin Wishart’s demeanour has the steady, assured and determined confidence of a man who doesn’t necessarily eschew celebrity chefdom, but sees it for what it is.
‘I can’t ignore the fact that I’m pleased we were the first in Edinburgh, because it will never happen again. At the time it just seemed like an award that was given to us. I was more focussed on what we were giving the customer, that service, that week, and it just slowly came over me that we’d been awarded a star.’
Since 2001 Wishart has expanded the size of his original restaurant, opened a cook school in Leith, opened a second restaurant under his own name at Cameron House on Loch Lomond, and has announced plans to set up a 75-cover brasserie on North Castle Street in Edinburgh’s city centre in the early summer (the venue has previously been home to Tony’s Table and a Cosmo restaurant).
‘There is a gap in the market in the city. I felt there was a gap in the market when I started here in Leith. Although I didn’t think about it then, I started here on the back of a recession.’
Wishart has brought in chef Paul Tamburrini to head up the kitchen and join the business as a partner. Tamburrini has, most recently, been working at One Devonshire Gardens in Glasgow, but he goes back a long way with Wishart having worked together at Hadrian’s Brasserie at the Balmoral Hotel and then at Restaurant Martin Wishart back in the days when the restaurant first picked up its star.
Front of house will be led by Stephen Spear, son of Three Chimneys chef Shirley Spear and a long-standing member of Wishart’s team.
‘I love working in brasseries,’ admits Wishart. ‘There’s a lot of energy goes through the kitchen and a lot of buzz when they’re full. It allows you to be a little more casual in the style that you’re putting on the plate. Here if you come for a tasting menu there’s a lot of time spent with the waiter or waitress speaking to the customer about the dish. In the brasserie there will be a lot less time spent speaking with the customer, so the communication while the waiter’s at the table has to be very sharp.’
A strong commitment to training has always been a mark of Wishart’s approach, and he is also working on offering a formal apprenticeship scheme between the two restaurants. He’s convinced that well-trained chefs and front-of-house staff are what Scotland needs to take further steps upwards. Although he may not have been able to predict ten years ago where he is now, it’s clear that the future is not a place to daunt Wishart. ‘Cecile [his wife] tells me that I’m not the sort of person who looks backwards,’ he says. ‘I always look forwards.’
Martin Wishart’s new brasserie will open in Edinburgh in late May or early June.