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. If you have a hankering for something special then head to The Kitchin in Leith. You’ll also find a contemporary French twist on seasonal Scottish produce in the shadow of Edinburgh’s castle at Castle Terrace.
For those with a more adventurous palate the newly opened Aizle restaurant with its 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.
10 Blonde Restaurant
Modern Scottish cuisine at its finest is on offer every night at Blonde (it's open for lunch too). The restaurant is compact and very popular which helps to create a real bustling atmosphere. The staff is attentive, friendly, and ready to go the extra mile to make sure you enjoy your meal. The food is consistently delicious without being too expensive. You'll always find a good range of vegetarian options on the menu and a terrific selection of fresh fish, game, and Aberdeen Angus steak. Blonde is comfortable, welcoming, and offers really excellent value for money. You won't find food and service this good at this price anywhere else in Edinburgh. (+44 131 6682917)
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)
8 Wedgwood the Restaurant
An interesting blend of foraged salad leaves and rare herbs is combined with the finest meat and seafood that Scotland has to offer in this fine dining establishment. The restaurant is situated in a prime location on the Royal Mile. The decor is fresh and light, the atmosphere is relaxed, and although this is definitely fine dining there's a lack of pretensions. You can opt for a two course lunch is you don't want to spend too much, but for the full experience you should come at night and go for the "Deciding time" which provides you with a glass of champagne and an amuse bouche selection while you peruse the menu. (0131 558 8737)
7 Dubh Prais
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)
5 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)
4 Stac Polly
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)
3 Castle Terrace
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)
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)
1 The Kitchin
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)
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.