A guide to some of the best restaurants in Edinburgh
- Edinburgh Guide
- 16 February 2011
The Scottish capital has some of the best restaurants for Scottish cuisine
Scottish cuisine can veer from the improbable to the exquisite. The city is a fantastic place to get a taste of it.
Some visitors may come to Scotland with a sense of dread that they’ll be force-fed salty porridge or be obliged to eat everything deep fried in fat. It’s true that the more adventurous may well encounter food here they’re unlikely to find elsewhere: rich, well-spiced haggis, sweetly smoked fresh haddock called Arbroath smokies or the unique, teeth-tingling bite of tablet, a firmer version of fudge.
The real discovery for any visitor, however, is just how good the natural food of Scotland can be. Beef, lamb and venison come from green glens and craggy mountains and is of a quality renowned throughout the world. The seas off the long wild coastline provide an abundance of lobster, langoustine, scallops and clams. There was a time when these were whisked from Scottish shores to the markets of France and Spain, but now restaurants and fishmongers ensure a share is kept for the home market. The climate and latitude of central Scotland is perfect for soft fruit such as raspberries and strawberries, while remote forests harbour wonderful fungi and other wild foods. Then there’s whisky, one of the world’s most sophisticated and subtly complex drinks, with its golden swirl of peat smoke and barley.
There are now five Michelin-starred restaurants in Edinburgh – more than in any UK city outside London – and each one is motivated by home-grown produce. Martin Wishart and Tom Kitchin may have trained at the shoulder of top chefs in London and Paris, but they’ve come home to bring their finely honed continental techniques to bear on Shetland smoked salmon or razor clams from the West Highlands.
It’s an effect you’ll find resonating through other strata of the city’s dining scene, as bistros, pubs and cafes make a virtue of their local sourcing and the distinctive identity that brings. Mid-range restaurants such as Blue and Urban Angel have led the way in gathering their ingredients from small, high-quality local producers, while cafes will seek out coffee beans roasted in the city and dish out freshly baked scones or butteries (a flaky Aberdeenshire pastry) with a cappuccino. Real ales with Deuchars, Caledonian and Stewart Brewing labels are keeping alive the city’s long history of beer brewing, with pubs ever more likely to serve a pot of Scottish mussels or some cockle-warming potato and meat stovies in place of mass-manufactured staples.
International restaurants are getting in on the act too: around town you might find L’Escargot Bleu replacing poularde de Bresse with a free-range chook from Stirlingshire, Dusit using venison in a Thai red curry or La Favorita making use of Edinburgh-made mozzarella on one of its log-fired pizzas.
A wander around the city will also reveal the shops and stalls that are playing their part in this revitalisation of local food culture, from the farmhouse cheeses piled high in one of IJ Mellis’ three cheesemongers around the city to the imaginative sausages at Crombie’s butchers. Or try the winning combo of takeaway baked potato filled with nutty vegetarian haggis to a hog-roast roll on a Saturday morning beneath the Castle’s crags when food from the fields, creels and kitchens of Edinburgh’s hinterland arrives for the largest, most frequent farmers’ market in Scotland.