Café St Honoré has been around for donkeys, but still, quite rightly, comes up in conversation as one of the nicest spots for a smart bistro meal in the centre of Edinburgh.
It’s on a cobbled side street behind Thistle Street, and looks like a chic Parisian bistro inside, with heavy linen tablecloths, mirrored walls and monochrome floor tiles. But the French angle got sidelined long ago in favour of locally sourced Scottish produce, cooked expertly, slavishly following the principles of Slow Food.
The chefs clearly take the rules of the international Slow Food movement seriously – if there’s a sublime, but criminally overlooked variety of rhubarb, they’ll track it down and bake it in an almond tart. If there’s a rumour of a place in Peebles making the best hand-squashed apple juice, they’ll put in a phone call. Bog standard tomatoes need not apply, they’ll probably be using a black cherry or tiger stripe tomato from the very well respected Clyde Valley Tomatoes, or whatever sort is the most aromatic at that time of year (ask, and the waiter will almost certainly be able to tell you). Despite the earnest attention to detail, the foodie swottiness doesn’t feel overbearing – it just makes for some outstandingly fresh ingredients, cooked in rich, warming sauces. Gluten, dairy and meat-avoiders are well catered for, and, as well as the reasonably pitched Café Classics menu (three courses of their favourite dishes for £19.50 at lunch, or £23.50 at dinner), there’s now an Express Lunch menu (£18.50 for three courses).
Despite the commitment to the finest solid foods, the liquids – specifically the spirits – don’t always benefit from the same rigorous selection process. Although a glass of kir royale can come with cassis, framboise or elderflower twists, and there are elderberry and strawberry wines repping for Scotland on the wine menu, rum or vodka drinkers will find only Smirnoff or Bacardi. Best to stick to the specialities – in this case, Scottish single malts (there are around 15 from around Speyside, the Lowlands and the Highlands).