This review is companion piece to the review on Malmaison, Glasgow, since food and accommodation in the same review would end up too unwieldy. Honours (to which überchef Martin Wishart puts his name) is however the resident dining venue on the same site, and not unnaturally also provides breakfast. Thus on our weekend break, we ate one dinner and two breakfasts in the same location, though each provided a very different experience.
The room itself is quite sizeable, has been fitted out to a high standard, though thankfully with a different colour scheme to the hotel, and feels plush. We both felt the large photographic prints to the right of the door slightly incongruous with the style of the establishment, so I will graciously assume Messrs Malmaison had these two prints and felt an urgent need to locate them somewhere urgently.
While it is attractive and rather beautifully underlit, alas Honours does not have the greatest of acoustics. It is located in close proximity to the hotel bar, which at the time we visited on a Saturday evening was thumping with a loud beat ill matched to the hushed tones of a fine dining room. Thankfully, the beat subsided in due course, by which time the tables around us had filled and the hubbub risen to the point where reasonable conversation was nigh on impossible without semaphore.
It was one of those occasions where a thermostat on the wall to turn down the volume would have been welcome, not that this was the fault of the restaurant. At least tables were not jammed so close together that one found oneself peering inadvertently down one’s neighbour’s dress, though my partner did later relay the conversation from the next table with some glee, it having been conducted in projected voices that could well have filled the Albert Hall. Being slightly hard of hearing, I turned a marginally deaf ear.
Breakfast, by comparison, was accompanied by quiet but pleasant music and was considerably less claustrophobic in intensity. In both cases, the service was spot on – attentive, warm, pleasant, helpful and professional. The same waitress served us both mornings and looked heartbroken to announce that waffles were not available – not that waffles were uppermost on our agenda anyway.
But back to dinner. Our weekend package included the very restrictive 3-course prix fixe or £26.95 towards the carte. The latter was the only option considered, so we ordered accordingly and spent about an extra £15: one plate of endearingly pretty roasted beets with goats cheese and walnuts, also coming with an unannounced selection of tiny edible flowers and small dollops of an unidentified puree. With the variegated beets, including purple and white crisps, it truly looked a picture and tasted sweet and earthy in equal measure, tempered by salty cubes of Saint Maure cheese.
For mains, she chose gorgonzola and walnut gnocchi with butternut squash veloute and sage, while I plumped for veal milanese. The latter came with green peppercorns, lime segments and other greenery but without its customary Italian accompaniment of spaghetti pomorodo, thus allowing or rather forcing me to choose sides at £4 a time, being small portions each of creamed mash and al dente French beans.
However the sauce was on the house, or rather included in the £21-odd price. I went for bearnaise, which was thankfully home made rather than out of a bottle. You will recall that a true bearnaise is tempered with white wine vinegar, but not too much for fear of becoming lip-puckeringly astringent. In this case it veered rather too far towards the latter fate and too watery a consistency rather than creamy.
That apart, my veal escalopes went down well, having been correctly floured, egged and breadcrumbed, fried in butter and relayed in a small stack on my plate with a minimum of fuss and plenty of natural moisture. However, I would respectfully suggest in future they transfer this dish to the mains and provide sympathetic accompaniments within the price.
Her gnocchi were equally home made, plump, tasty and not remotely leaden like little depth charges, as I have eaten elsewhere. The thick yellow sauce, complete with sage leaves, sang of squash, blue cheese and even hints of mellow garlic, which you would possibly not suspect – the sauce, said the lady, was better than the gnocchi. At least she enjoyed, so all was well.
However, the highlight of proceedings at Honours was unquestionably dessert, as we selected tart tatin for two to great approval from the waiting staff. Given a relaxing evening the wait was not uncomfortable, but the result was unquestionably worthwhile. Our waiter cut said tart in two and served it with a small jug of smooth toffee sauce, plus a bowl of perfect cinnamon ice cream that hit the spot. On a disc of perfectly crisp flaky pastry, slices of brown spiced and sugared apple had been built vertically and with such precision that barely a slice fell out of place in the cutting, almost like the construction of a dry stone wall. Not a crumb was left, despite my lady being full to the brim after this, so off we toddled happily back to our room.
So to breakfasts, which I’m assuming were cooked by a different crew. Time was when they were the preserve of the sous chef, though these days many a restaurant and hotel has twigged that breakfast is indeed the most important meal of the day and therefore put more effort into making breakfasts shine. This was standard hotel restaurant methodology, minus the buffet, which meant our cooked breakfasts (a good £2 supplement, given that the continental assortment was pretty minimal) were cooked fresh. There is always a variant on the full English, plus bacon sarnies and whatnot. This being a classy joint, the vogueish benedict family got a look-in, as did omelettes (and not the pre-frozen variety either!) and even kippers, this being Scotland.
Having got the coffee and toast orders out of the way, not that I can understand toast being brought so early on racks that it is stone cold before your breakfast is served, we dipped into the usual cold selections: fruits, yogurts, cereals and suchlike, which I’d have to say were distinctly above average. Particularly praiseworthy was the thick spiced yogurt (homemade?)
In two days she chose omelettes twice, which tells me that they were well-made, although looking rather lost on the plate without any form of garnish or accompaniment. Black mark there though the lady appeared happy with that choice, given that unlimited toast was on hand to fortify her appetite.
On the first morning I went for the all-singing all-dancing plateful, which came with a small bowl of Heinz beans in tow. Given that some establishments recognise that ditching the brands in favour of their own beans pays dividends (as with the Rivington), but the plate looked appetising, well-constructed and well-cooked. If I’m being picky, the streaky bacon rashers proved thin, wispy and insubstantial, where a word with a local butcher would surely get the very best thick-cut Scottish cured pig, but good sausage, black pudding and mushrooms compensated. The half tomato perhaps not up to my Aga-roasted standards, and the eggs were certainly not like my neighbour’s truly local free range cream of the crop, but overall a competent breakfast.
The final morning saw me trying the benedict, which also came with wispy bacon rather than the more traditional smoked ham. Having been cooking smoked gammon with eggs myself lately, I can assure Honours that it really is worth roasting a joint and serving with the benedict. It came with standard muffins, proper burstable poached eggs and a perfectly reasonable hollandaise that managed to be less puckering than the bearnaise.
Overall, Honours is, like Malmaison, better than your average hotel restaurant and pretty fair value for what it offers, even if it isn’t quite to the standards of the Ubiquitous Chip.