Restaurants in Edinburgh are amongst the finest in the UK. I guess there are two aspects which really set the Edinburgh restaurant scene apart from the competition…
…the intense variety of international cuisine and the selection of restaurants specialising in Scottish cuisine.
Scottish cuisine you say? What on earth is that? Hideous helpings of raw meat and champagne flutes of pig’s blood?
Think again, my dear friend. Our chefs are highly adept at complementing locally sourced meat produce like Aberdeen Angus or seafood such as salmon with a sortiment of the nation’s favourite vegetables.
Scottish cheese is also a regular feature on Scottish menus alongside fruit sorbets, purees and sauces. An evening at a Scottish restaurant will have diners looking beyond the much-discussed stereotypes.
I will be telling you about the internationally admired Scottish restaurants in Edinburgh of which the locals are proud, such as the internationally-renowned James Thomson trio The Witchery by the Castle, Rhubarb in Prestonfield and The Tower above the Museum of Scotland.
I will also tell you about the much-loved Edinburgh ‘chains’ Stac Polly and Howies.
We do, of course, have an impressive range of international restaurants in Edinburgh, most of which offer extremely high culinary and service standards.
From Rome to Paris to Dehli and beyond…
The extremely popular but often one-dimensional Italian cuisine is given a refreshing make-over at Valvona and Crolla, an Italian delicatessen, wine specialist, cafe and restaurant.
The business was started in 1934 by Alfona Crolla, the present owner’s grandfather as a way to provide Italian immigrants with authentic Italian products sourced from the finest local producers in Italy.
Nowadays the delicatessen has been extended to incorporate a highly successful restaurant. The family also have a bakery and a cafe in the city centre. Specialising in the best wine and cheese Italy has to offer with an admirable family-oriented approach to their work, Valvona and Crolla is more a way-of-life than a business.
If you’re into French cuisine, you shouldn’t really miss the ultra-blue Maison Bleue restaurant, if that’s even possible!
This delightful French, North African and Scottish restaurant comes complete with stone arches and a spiral staircase to feast your eyes upon and is without doubt one of the most colourful restaurants in Edinburgh!
The unique selling point of this restaurant is its cosmopolitan staff. Maison Bleue has chefs and members of staff from France, North Africa and Scotland and this is reflected in the menu.
If you like your food particularly French in style, delve into the snails and fois gras. If you want to try out some Scottish cuisine, I would recommend the haggis balls in beer batter….that is, without doubt, my first choice!
Like things hot and spicy? Me too! Let’s check out a Mexican and an Indian restaurant.
Mariachi is generally considered the best Mexican in Edinburgh. In terms of what a Mexican restaurant really should be, relaxed, entertaining and atmospheric, Mariachi really hits the nail on the head.
Mariachi was voted the best Mexican restaurant in Edinburgh in 2009 by the Edinburgh List Food and Drink Guide. If you’re looking for a restaurant that puts a tickle in your tummy and a smile on your face, you can’t go far wrong at Mariachi.
Mother India’s Cafe coined the term ‘twist on tapas’ back in 2008. You might be thinking…tapas?! India?! The restaurant owners have taken the Spanish concept of tapas and applied it to Indian food to finger-licking effect. It is one of the most successful restaurants in Edinburgh.
It’s a frustratingly simple concept. You usually sit in front of a menu pondering what to take and you know you have to choose something. At Mother India’s Cafe, you don’t. Take as many dishes as you want. Try new things out. There ain’t much to lose.
I say frustrating because they’ve been extremely successful with this concept; so much so, they were voted the Best Indian Restaurant in Scotland. Now, why didn’t I come up with that idea?!
In the running for Best Chinese Restaurant of the Year was Loon Fung, a Cantonese restaurant specialising in seafood.
Loon Fung has been a local favourite for over 40 years and if you can see past the dated decor of the restaurant you will soon realise that the food served to you is up there with the best Chinese food you can get.
As is the case with most Chinese restaurants, the service is efficient, friendly and smiley without being overbearing. Loon Fung is well-known for its excellent seafood, especially the monkfish and its large portions, so be warned! Oh, and their crispy shredded chili beef is actually crispy…
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the concept of Fusion Cuisine, I highly recommend trying out the Calistoga restaurant. The restaurant is a Californian grill which combines a number of different cuisines while also making use of quality Scottish produce.
The extremely talented chefs also run a number of deals at certain times of the day enabling you to sample their works of art for a reasonable price. Wine lovers will also be impressed by their selection of over 100 Californian wines…
For mermaids and rabbits…
With award-winning chef Roy Brett at the helm, seafood specialist Ondine has been a real hit of late. He finally opened his own restaurant last year after working with the country’s top chefs for many years.
The staff at Ondine are clearly passionate about seafood as their menu is adapted to suit the season and guests are invited to watch the chefs at work at the ‘Crustacean Bar’.
Ondine beat off tough competition to be crowned Best Scottish Seafood Restaurant of 2010. Another thing that speaks for this restaurant is their commitment to sourcing local seafood for their wonderful dishes.
Despite our love for all things meaty…we still have time for vegetarians! No, really! Take L’Artichaut for example…
Run by experienced French chef Jean-Michel Gauffre, L’Artichaut uses locally-sourced and imported produce to create fresh and healthy vegetarian meals with one eye on satisfying carnivores at the same time.
When I say that Monsieur Gauffre is experienced, I mean he literally has qualifications and awards coming out of his ears. He opened French restaurant La Garrigue in 2001 to great success and used to be the head chef at the Sheraton Grand Hotel. So it is definitely worth trying some artichokes for dinner!
What’s with the strange name? Well…Stac Polly or in Gaelic ‘Stac Pollaidh’ is a famous mountain in the Northwest Highlands of Scotland. The mountain is particularly well-known for its rocky crest.
This well-respected chain of modern Scottish restaurants with the distinctive name has three restaurants in Edinburgh.
Stac Polly successfully combines exceptional cuisine with a tranquil, informal atmosphere, which makes your dining experience typically Scottish.
You will be pleasantly surprised by the extent of the menu and the variety on offer. Locally sourced meat, seafood and cheese are regular features which are given a slight twist with the creative use of fruit, vegetables and herbs.
Not only will you give Scottish cuisine the thumbs up, you will have learned your first Gaelic words!
The Witchery by the Castle
Once described by Andrew Lloyd Webber as ‘the prettiest restaurant ever’, The Witchery by the Castle can only really be described as legendary.
You have to make an important choice here, dine in the original Witchery in all its baroque glory or take a seat outside in the ‘Secret Garden’. I suppose its like the old Pele/Maradona discussion.
All of the Witchery’s ingredients are sourced from the finest farmers, fishermen, butchers and cheese makers and they are so proud of this fact that they could tell you exactly where your meal originated from down to the name of the farm and farmer.
To say the restaurant is lavishly decorated doesn’t quite do it justice. Built in 1595, the Witchery, which is merely a stone’s throw from Edinburgh Castle, is awash with antiques, carvings, paintings and drapes all set against oak paneling. I’ll stop there…go experience it for yourself.
Creator of the restaurant at the Witchery by the Castle, James Thomson (I say creator because his restaurants are works of art), took on the old Prestonfield Hotel on Priestfield Road in 2003. The hotel’s restaurant, Rhubarb, is similar to the Witchery in terms of extravagance.
This is the kind of restaurant where most mere mortals browse through the menu and think, ‘what is that?’ and then when they hear that the meals are made using local produce, feel a tad silly.
Sophisticated, alluring and flamboyant – Rhubarb is all of these and more. Before or after your culinary delights, you can move from the spacious oval dining area into one of the bar areas to the side to treat yourself to charms of the liquid variety.
Rhubarb is pure self-indulgence and you’ll love every minute of it.
To complete the James Thomson collection we have The Tower, the iconic restaurant and terrace above the Museum of Scotland on Chambers Street.
Imagine tucking into exquisite Scottish cuisine surrounded by Moray sandstone architecture with jaw-dropping views of Edinburgh Castle and the Old Town around you. It would be difficult to find a more Scottish setting!
Extremely popular among celebrities, the Tower, as you might expect, prides itself on its outstanding food made from locally sourced produce. The restaurant is however sleek and elegant in style compared to Thomson’s other exceptional restaurants The Witchery and Rhubarb.
You will notice, while browsing through the menu, that The Tower specialises in seafood and shellfish in particular. However, beef, pork and game are also regular features.
I highly recommend a trip to the Museum of Scotland to learn about the history of our nation and people, topped off with a bite to eat on the top floor!