Edinburgh's Best Seafood: Fresh Fish and Shellfish from the Scottish Sea
By Simon Hill
Edinburgh Local Expert
The fishing industry has always been important in Scotland. The country is almost completely surrounded by sea and there are countless lochs and rivers with all manner of delicious fresh fish and shellfish lurking within. As the capital, Edinburgh is host to a number of fantastic seafood restaurants with fresh and delicious treats to tempt anyone.
Smoked salmon is a popular export, but you’ll also find outstanding trout, langoustines, lobster, scallops, crab, prawns, kippers, mussels, mackerel, sea bass, and a whole lot more. There are many traditional Scottish dishes that incorporate fish and shellfish, particularly smoked fish.
For the best in fine dining head to Ondine in the Old Town, or for a more laid back experience try the delightful waterfront pub the Ship on the Shore in Leith. There are also bistros, inns, cafes, and even an upscale fish and chip bar. What do they all have in common? They serve up the finest fishy dishes you are ever likely to taste.
If you’re a real seafood fan then Edinburgh can cater for your every whim. You can dine out on the freshest seafood you’ve ever encountered every night of your stay without eating the same thing twice. Without further ado here are the top ten seafood restaurants in Edinburgh.
10 Loch Fyne Edinburgh
This building was once the Newhaven harbor fish market and it dates back to the 1890s. It has been completely gutted and now features a stunning interior of welcoming wooden floors and furniture with maritime images and views of Loch Fyne adorning the walls. Overlooking the harbor, the obvious focus of this restaurant is the finest and freshest seafood Scotland has to offer. From traditional Scottish dishes like Cullen Skink to crayfish, plaice, and mackerel, to the finest Loch Fyne oysters, there are seafood delights to tempt everyone. Scallops, lobster and twice cooked French fries, the menu goes on and on. Most of these delights have come from the West of Scotland where you'll find Loch Fyne. (0131 559 3900)
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)
8 The Mussel and Steak Bar
If you can't agree on whether to go for a seafood meal or get a nice juicy steak then this is the perfect compromise. You'll find a tempting menu for lunch and dinner that includes all manner of seafood, including pots of irresistible mussels, and matured Scotch beef steaks. It's conveniently located in the popular Grassmarket area, which is always bustling and vibrant. The atmosphere is very relaxed and welcoming and this is a family-friendly establishment capable of catering for large families and groups. The menu is updated frequently with daily specials and you can wash them down with a cocktail. (0131 225 5028)
7 Cafe Royal Oyster Bar
This popular bar and restaurant can be found at the east end of Princes Street and it has loads to offer. The first Cafe Royal opened in 1826, but in 1863 it moved across the street to its current location. The building itself is a stylish Parisian mixture of Victorian and Baroque. The stunning interior will take your breath away and there's a large bar and restaurant. You'll find a huge selection of Scottish cask ales and malt whiskies, not to mention wine and champagne. The food is a mixture of traditional Scottish dishes and the finest seafood; in particular the oysters are excellent. (131-556-4124)
6 Sweet Melinda's
If you're passionate about your seafood then you'll love the attitude at Sweet Melinda's. The fish is hand-picked every morning from Eddie's Seafood Market next door and everything is made on the premises, including the organic bread. The seasonal menu offers the finest Scottish seafood with influences from cuisines around the world. It's a really interesting mix of dishes which you simply won't find anywhere else in the city. The service is excellent, and the surroundings are understated and perfect for a chat over a good meal. After dining out in Marchmont you can have a relaxed stroll in the Meadows park. (0131-229-7953)
5 Mussel Inn
The focus here is on tasty, freshly prepared seafood at very affordable prices. The atmosphere is relaxed and welcoming for the whole family. All of the seafood on offer is carefully sourced and the shellfish is cultivated in an environmentally-friendly way in the sea lochs of the West Coast and near the Hebrides, Orkney and Shetland Isles. You'll find some terrific value offers for lunch and pre-theatre dining. The Mussel Inn is also conveniently located on the popular, pedestrianized Rose Street, just behind Princes Street in the city center. If it's sunny outside you can dine al fresco and watch the crowds wandering by. (0131-225-5979)
C-Shack is a new seafood joint at Newhaven Harbour operated by the owners of the popular New Town Thai restaurant Port of Siam. Although some Thai treats do appear on the menu, the meuu is more properly described as Thai-European fusion with an emphasis on fresh, locally sourced seafood. The decor is charming and rustic with crisp blue and white painted boards punctuated by empty creels and retro nautical posters. The basic menu features simple, but tempting dishes such as tempura, fish cakes as well as good quality burgers and a range of vegetarian options. However, it is the daily specials freshly sourced from Newhaven Harbor that are the real draw. (0131 467 8628)
3 Fishers in the City
Fishers in the City is an upscale offshoot of the highly popular Fishers Bistro located in Leith. Set in a converted warehouse in Thistle Street, it aims to bring the same wonderfully fresh seafood dishes to a city center audience. The interior features beautiful dark wood and polished brass with an eye catching bar whose pleasing curved form is reminiscent of the prow of a boat. The atmosphere is warm and relaxed, stylish yet comfortable. The food is the real star here. Whether you are dining on a budget or pushing the boat out you will find a tempting array of fish and shellfish to delight every palate. (0131 225 5109)
2 Ship on the Shore
Smart, understated decor sets the scene for the thoughtfully prepared and well-presented seafood dishes on the menu here. You'll find a wide range of fresh seafood and an extensive champagne and wine list. The reasonable prices and generous portions served from the lunch menu are popular among diners. Vegetarian dishes are available for those who prefer not to indulge in the seafood fare and there are always traditional alternative options like haggis and steak on the menu for carnivores who dislike seafood. Make no mistake, though, the Ship on the Shore aims to prove that Scotland has the best seafood in the world. (0131-555-0409)
This luxury seafood restaurant can be found just off the Royal Mile in the heart of the Old Town. It opened in 2009 with a mission to bring fresh, sustainable, delicious seafood to the Edinburgh restaurant scene and there's no doubt it has accomplished that aim. The Scottish Restaurant of the Year award from the Good Food Guide should give you some idea of how good the food here is. You'll find amazing Scottish produce on offer and there's a restaurant and an oyster bar, so whether you want a full meal or just some champagne and oysters, you won't be sorry you came to Ondine to get it. (0131 226 1888)
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.