Discover the Hidden Delights of Scotland's Incomparable Natural Larder
By Simon Hill
Edinburgh Local Expert
There are many Scottish restaurants in Edinburgh offering high quality, locally-sourced produce, the finest beef, and the freshest seafood around. You will find all kinds of cuisines are well catered for, from Italian to Indian, from Chinese to Mexican, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find authentic Scottish cooking. The country may have a reputation for deep frying everything, and there are plenty of chippies to serve you deep fried treats if that’s what you’re after, but you can also find fine dining and quality gastronomy with a Scottish flavor.
In recent years a number of the Scottish capital’s restaurants have secured coveted Michelin stars such as the wonderful Castle Terrace which offers up a French twist on seasonal Scottish produce in the shadow of Edinburgh’s castle. For those with a more adventurous palate Aizle restaurant with it unconventional approach to dining is an absolute must.
Restaurants like these prove that Edinburgh can compete with any city in the world when it comes to gastronomy. With easy access to the sea, you’ll find the seafood is unsurpassed, and there’s a reason that Angus beef is exported all over the world.
You’ll also find plenty of traditional hearty fare, if that’s what you’re in the mood for. Let’s take a look at the best Scottish restaurants Edinburgh has to offer, from the Water of Leith to the New Town and on beyond the Royal Mile.
Howies is a casual, cafe-style restaurant serving Scottish food. They specialize in dishes made with fresh local produce. You'll find a second branch of Howies at the east end of Princes Street, and the expansion is testament to the success and popularity of the original. If you like good quality, hearty, unfussy food then Howies is the place for you. You can get fixed price lunch menus and early dining deals. Options include real Scottish classics as starters, like Cullen Skink (smoked fish and potato soup), haggis, neeps and tatties, and smoked salmon. The Victoria Street restaurant is just a few minutes' walk from the castle. (0131-225-1721)
In the heart of Edinburgh's historical Old Town, halfway between Edinburgh Castle at the top of the Royal Mile and Holyrood Palace at the bottom, you'll find an unassuming cellar restaurant. This modest establishment attracts tourists and locals alike for a fine traditional Scottish meal. The name is Gaelic for cooking pot, and you'll find a stunning array of traditional Scottish goodies within including, salmon, sole, Aberdeen Angus beef, haggis, pheasant and venison. The natural ingredients are given room to shine; each is cooked simply with seasonal herbs, and they are accompanied by an extensive wine list and a fine range of whisky. (0131-557-5732)
This is a welcoming, family-run restaurant in the center of the city. Rose Street is a popular destination for pub crawls, but if you need something to eat after a drinking session, or you've been shopping on nearby Princes Street, then you'll find great steak and seafood here. The best Aberdeen Angus steak, Scottish lamb, West coast mussels, fresh fish, and delicious local cheeses can all be found on the menu. This is irresistible Scottish food and it's reasonably priced for lunch or dinner. It's a comfortable restaurant with a traditional Scottish feel thanks to exposed stonework and open fires. You'll also find a great selection of whisky. (0131 225 3636)
The Riparian Rooms offers a modern take on Scottish cuisine in a relaxed and welcoming environment. The interior combines vintage wooden tables and over-sized retro light fixtures with plush fabrics and memorabilia which hint at a traditional Scottish hunting lodge. There is also a dimly lit and atmospheric downstairs bar with a distinctly bohemian ambiance. The menu includes many classic Scottish dishes, but with a contemporary twist which is refreshing. Dishes are not fussy, with bold flavors and appealing presentation, letting the ingredients speak for themselves. There is also a very good dessert menu which will delight anyone with a sweet tooth. (0131 556 6102)
Seasonal local produce is the name of the game at The Kitchin. Chef Patron Tom Kitchin is a well-known celebrity chef and he won a Michelin star just six months after opening The Kitchin in 2006. The restaurant has gone from strength to strength since then with a string of prestigious awards. This is the best of British cuisine influenced by French techniques and showcasing the finest Scottish ingredients. The service is nothing short of excellent and you'll find a top notch selection of wine to accompany your food. As you might expect, this is an expensive night out but lunches give you a taste of what it is all about on a lower budget. (0131 555 1755)
Established in 1990, Stac Polly has been serving traditional Scottish fare to tourists and locals alike for almost a quarter of a century. The décor is similarly authentic and inviting with rough stone walls, tweed upholstery, fine linen and flickering candles punctuated by brass framed mirrors and oil paintings. The food is a mix of traditional and contemporary Scottish, and each dish is prepared using the best local produce. Some of the best dishes have been on the menu since the restaurant opened (such as the delicious haggis in filo parcels and the sweet and crunchy cranachan), so this restaurant certainly lays claim to the title of Edinburgh's most traditional restaurant. There is also an impressive array of whisky, craft beers and botanical gins to finish off your meal in style. (0131-556-2231)
Angels with Bagpipes
You'll find plenty of nooks and crannies in this atmospheric Old Town Edinburgh restaurant and bar. The building itself dates back to the sixteenth century and the name derives from an interesting carving in the Thistle Chapel of the St Giles Cathedral. It's a great place to drop in for a coffee or a drink, but you're doing yourself a disservice if you miss out on the fabulous menu. You'll find classic Scottish notes in the menu and the finest ingredients. The seasonal menu is full of delicious options and playful dishes like the Angels with Bagpipes Tunnocks Cake. The presentation is also stunning. (+44 (0) 131 220 1111)
Aizle (named after the old Scots word meaning "spark") is a delightfully unconventional restaurant located in the South side of Edinburgh. Rather than a menu patrons are presented with a list of around twenty ingredients, some familiar, many obscure and intriguing. From this list you discard anything that is not to your taste and you place yourself in the capable hands of the chef and wait with baited breath. A four course meal costs around ?35 (but by the time you add in all of the little extras such as the delicious artisan bread it feels more like a eight course feast) which proves to be very good value for money. The décor is cool, clean and minimalist and the food is immaculately presented and delicious. It is definitely worth stepping outside of your comfort zone to try this experimental approach to Scottish cuisine. (0131 662 9349)
The Table is a popular city center restaurant known for its laid back charm and top notch service. Chef Sean Clark delivers modern European and Scottish cuisine using fresh locally sourced produce and a flair and attention to detail that is sure to impress. However, despite the impeccable quality of the food, the Table manages to retain a comfortable and relaxed ambiance which is often lacking from fine dining establishments. The restaurant has only one table, a beautiful stone counter seating eight people. Diners can watch as their dishes are prepared in the open plan kitchen and chat to the chefs as they work. (0131 281 1689)
This fresh, comfortable, contemporary restaurant sits at the foot of the castle. It is relatively new and opened as the sister restaurant to The Kitchin in the summer of 2010. Under the talented Chef Patron, Dominic Jack, it has already secured a Michelin star. His French training in some of the top kitchens in the world is brought to bear on the best seasonal Scottish produce around. The restaurant has won various plaudits and awards for its innovation and quality. The service is excellent and the pricing is very reasonable particularly on the lunch menu. This is an ideal choice for any occasion and should not be missed. (0131 229 1222)
About Simon Hill
Simon has lived in various corners of Edinburgh over the last 18 years. He fell in love with the city as a small child after visiting the castle and returned to study Scottish History. After leaving Edinburgh University, he worked in the games industry for seven years before embarking on a full-time writing career. He also married and had two children along the way. Simon is a freelance writer with many years of experience. He has covered a wide variety of topics online and in print, including technology, video games, history, movies and travel.
Read more about Simon Hill here.