Cafe St Honore is a hidden gem tucked away down a cobbled street in the Edinburgh New Town. It has the ambiance of a traditional Parisian bistro, but it serves seasonal local produce under the watchful eye of Chef and Owner Neil Forbes, recent winner of the title of "Scottish Chef of the Year" at the CIS Awards.
The exterior is a deep rich blue, with an understated brass-framed menu each side of the door and colorful hanging baskets. Move inside, and the Art Deco-style dining room transports you to 1920s Paris.
Cafe St Honore — Photo courtesy of Cafe St Honore
The floor is laid with contrasting black and white tiles and the walls lined with ochre stained panels and mirrors framed by swirls of warm dark wood. Crisp white linen encases tables surrounded by simple dark wooden chairs, and warm yellow light emanates from the frosted glass shades.
Behind the bar, the many colored glass bottles of a wide selection of wines and spirits twinkle.
It's perhaps a surprise to see that the French theme is only partially evident in the menu. Although some classic French cuisine is on show (such as the rich deep flavors of boeuf bourguignon and coq au vin, and opulent desserts such as creme brulee) most offerings are distinctly Scottish.
Cured salmon, terrines of ham and cheddar cheese or crowdie with homemade oatcakes sit comfortably alongside cullen skink and oysters.
This is a restaurant that celebrates seasonal Scottish food, with the provenance and credentials of the ingredients proudly recorded. Not for nothing has Cafe St Honore been the recipient of numerous awards from the Sustainable Restaurant Association. They've also been rightly praised for efforts to reduce waste, and they're proponents of the slow food philosophy.
While they make every effort to source produce locally, the drinks menu is a distinctly cosmopolitan affair. They stock a good selection of table wines, which are sold by the glass, but they also have a selection of rather more impressive vintages (grouped by region of production) with significantly higher price tags.
Add to this champagne, dessert wine and grappa, and it's clear that Cafe St Honore takes the love of the grape very seriously.
As well as artisan beers and Suffolk cider, there's a wide range of spirits to choose from, including port, sherry, Armagnac, Calvados and some specially selected malt whiskies. So much choice can make for a difficult decision, but thankfully waiting staff are knowledgeable and very happy to help you choose the perfect tipple to accompany your meal.
With such attention to detail and a high quality of ingredients, Cafe St Honore is not excessively expensive, but it's certainly not a budget dining option, either.
If you want to sample their wares without delving too deep into your wallet, then the Cafe Classics menu is worth a look. They also offer private dining complete with a bespoke set menu or sharing menu for larger parties.