Eat your way around Edinburgh and you'll dismiss all the old clichés about Scottish food as you discover a capital city brimming with Michelin-acclaimed eateries and first-rate restaurants
Anyone still harbouring anachronistic images of Scotland as a culinary wasteland swamped in deep fried Mars Bars has not visited Edinburgh recently, as it is undergoing something of a foodie revolution. Scotland boasts some of the world’s best beef and seafood, but the reputation of its chefs and restaurants has often not matched the quality of the local produce. All that has changed of late in the Scottish capital: the city now boasts no fewer than five Michelin-starred eateries and a string of top-notch restaurants that blow all the old clichés about Scottish food out of the water.
Under the expert stewardship of head chef Jeff Bland, Number One (in The Balmoral Hotel) is anything but bland. Delve below ground level for serious destination dining that is definitely not just for guests at the city’s most famous five-star hotel. Try the divine poached beef fillet with turnip slaw, parmentier potato and red wine jus. Serious foodies can opt for the tasting menu, where the likes of foie gras, halibut and lamb are matched with wines for each of the eight courses. Award-winning restaurant manager Gary Quinn completes the impressive picture and makes sure you are caressed from amuse-bouche to digestif.
The old port of Leith has reinvented itself as the city’s culinary hub, with three Michelin-star restaurants. At the heart of the action is Martin Wishart, a serious Francophile with an impressively light touch who is, if anything, even more creative than Bland. For the full experience, opt for the tasting menu, which features the likes of poached quail egg with beetroot puree, black pudding sauce and bacon tuile. Local produce is key, as are more unusual cuts, with braised shin of Ross-shire beef from the Scottish Highlands a prime example.
(54 The Shore, Leith)
The most exciting chef in Scotland at the moment is Tom Kitchin. This effervescent food hero opened his eponymous restaurant in Leith in 2006 and as well as winning a Michelin star, Kitchin himself has become something of a TV personality. Kitchin is en vogue championing seasonality and using less obvious cuts, with the likes of langoustine tails with pig’s head and a crispy ear salad. Then there is the sea urchin bisque to start and, in season, a whole roasted grouse (the famous Scottish game bird), a rare and decadent treat.
(78 Commercial Quay, Leith)
The Plumed Horse
The newest Michelin kid on the Leith block is the Plumed Horse. Here the extravagantly moustached Tony Borthwick conjures up equally extravagant dishes that challenge the palate with combinations you would never have dreamt up. Take his roast free range fillet and slow braised belly pork, which comes laced with smoked paprika, honey mustard and vanilla salt, orange and Gewürztraminer-braised chicory and carrots, and is finished with sherry spiked braising juices.
(50-54 Henderson Street)
Only opened in 2009, the numerically named 21212, has already won its first Michelin star. Paul Kitching decamped from Manchester to join in the Edinburgh revolution and he has created quite an impression already in a city with a growing class of serious gastronomes. 21212 has also won ‘Best New Restaurant’ at Restaurant Magazine’s UK awards in London in 2009. Kitching is an ambitious experimenter interested in the science of food in the mould of uber chef Heston Blumenthal, but he eschews an over reliance on foams and seasoning to create palate challenging, but ultimately satisfying, dishes such as chicken with cheesy chips, bacon, blue cheese, prunes and flapjack, a dish that sounds like it should not work, but which is both brilliantly conceived and executed.
(3 Royal Terrace)