Weather may not be on Scotland’s side if you are looking for a balmy spot in which to vacation, but its fresh blustery air, rugged green pastures and cold clear waters are ripe for rearing some of the world’s finest meats and fish—fuel to a fiery culinary scene in the nation’s capital. Perhaps best known for its Aberdeen Angus beef and superior salmon, its fields are also home to the sheep whose pluck comprises national dish haggis, and its cool seas spawn oysters, crabs and scallops of fine quality. Additionally, in winter, its highlands and borders foster game including hare, partridge, pheasant and deer. Scotland’s chefs are making the most of these ingredients to the delight of visitors keen to savour more than shortbread, oatcakes and whisky.
Nestled in the quiet streets beneath Edinburgh Castle, this modern British eatery is brought to diners by the team behind renowned Edinburgh restaurant The Kitchin. At Castle Terrace, which has made its home in a smart Georgian townhouse, chef patron Dominic Jack takes the helm, presenting diners with the freshest Scottish produce prepared according to French culinary techniques—Jack previously worked in some of Europe’s finest restaurants. There are delectable twists, too, and presentation is distinctive. The signature tartare of Shetland salmon is served sushi style, accompanied by soy sauce jelly and wasabi ice cream, as dazzling on the plate as it is to taste for the contrasts in colour, texture and flavour. For main courses, an outstanding and flavourful hampe of Scottish beef continues the Asian theme in the inspiration for its sauce while the Scottish borders hare with foie gras is a decadent dish that combines smooth liver, wild, gamey meat and extremely rich jus to melt on the tongue. Dessert is masterful and the perfect way to close a culinary feat combining balance and flair.
33/35 Castle Terrace, Edinburgh, EH1 2EL; +44 131 229 1222; www.castleterracerestaurant.com
2. The Witchery by the Castle
Oysters grown in the clear waters of Argyllshire, scallops from the Isle of Mull, venison from The Cairngorms, duck from Gartmorn and beetroot from Arran, not to mention that Scottish classic, haggis—they all appear on the menu at The Witchery, though it is the rich, atmospheric setting that first appeals to the senses. Like so much of Scotland’s capital there’s a real sense of history to The Witchery, which is set in a sixteenth century merchant’s house. While the fare is well executed with delicious local ingredients, the ambience and setting—both the location on the Royal Mile and the dramatic interiors crowned with ancient tapestries, painted ceilings and antique candlesticks—make a meal here memorable. For diners totally taken by the restaurant there are nine characterful suites available, too, for overnight guests, complete with Baroque glamour and their own gothic charm.
352 Castlehill, The Royal Mile, Edinburgh, EH1 2NF; +44 131 225 5613; www.thewitchery.com
3. Restaurant Mark Greenaway
Award-winning chef Mark Greenaway prides himself on using the finest Scottish produce, sourced as locally as possible, for his eponymous restaurant. Butter, beef, hake, crab, trout, duck and apples all hail from various Scottish locations less than 100 miles away from diners’ tables, while scallops, langoustines, pork and venison are sourced from not more than 250 miles away. In the kitchen these ingredients are treated with utmost respect and expertly deployed in strikingly plated, imaginative dishes that display a mastery of modern cooking techniques. The signature amuse bouche is memorable not just for its presentation in a customised egg box and shell, but for the finesse with which the rich flavours and textures of Loch Fyne salmon tartare, salmon caviar, smoked salmon espuma and dill powder combine. Highlights include the signature Loch Fyne crab cannelloni with smoked cauliflower custard, lemon pearls, herb butter and baby coriander, where the juicy crab shines brighter for its accompaniments. The 40-day dry aged fillet of beef is elevated by BBQ oxtail and bone marrow jus. As Greenaway is also known for his desserts, diners should leave room in particular for the chef's Great British Menu “Knot” chocolate tart, a riot of different textures with flavours that hit the sweet, sour and salty taste buds to impress, like the restaurant, all round.
69 North Castle Street, Edinburgh, EH2 3LJ; +44 131 226 1155; www.markgreenaway.com
A definite highlight of the Edinburgh dining scene, Timberyard is a cool, contemporary restaurant located in a nineteenth century warehouse which was most recently used by a timber supplier. Embracing a nature-to-table ethos, ingredients are sourced not just from Scotland, but from the nation’s small artisan growers, breeders, producers and foragers, while the restaurant has its own vegetable patch for fresh herbs and edible flowers. Similarly, wine has been carefully chosen from small producers across Europe. The venue itself has an industrial feel, yet its warm lighting and natural hues lend it a welcoming, cozy ambience, further enhanced by affable staff. Tasting menus prevail and for dinner four, six or eight courses are available, with pescatarian and vegetarian options, too. We dined on succulent partridge breast that is tender and delicate and paired with rich red vegetables, while trout with oyster, kohlrabi, fennel and lovage is an outstanding dish full of freshness and light. There is a clear Nordic influence to Timberyard’s offering, from the minimalist warehouse chic to the pickled, foraged and cured fare, yet with Scandinavia not so far away the spirit of each combines to triumph.
10 Lady Lawson Street, Edinburgh, EH3 9DS; +44 131 221 1222; www.timberyard.co
5. The Dogs
This quirky eatery located in the heart of Edinburgh is a no-nonsense spot in which to enjoy a relaxed meal accompanied by wine chosen from an ever-changing but always polished list. The down-to-earth setting—with the addition of unusual furnishings that verge on eccentric—is complemented by efficient service and good value for money. Staff and setting alike have a certain Scottish charm. Under the watchful eyes of the dog in a sizeable portrait that hangs above the bar, diners can savour traditional Scottish dishes such as skirlie wellington, made with an oatmeal and onion stuffing, or cock a leekie soup featuring chicken, leeks and bacon as well as the traditional prunes. There are also straightforward lunch specials including devilled ox liver, onions, bacon and mushrooms on toast, or spiced pickled mackerel with potatoes and lemon emulsion—and more indulgent dinner options that again see Scottish-sourced ingredients manifest in high-quality comfort food. Finish with Blue Murder cheese made in the Highlands or Over Langshaw farmhouse ice cream crafted in the Borders to round out a canny Scottish experience.
110 Hanover Street, Edinburgh, EH2 1DR; +44 131 220 1208; www.thedogsonline.co.uk
6. Voyage of Buck
Named for fictitious character William “Buck” Clarence, a polo player and philanthropist who was travel companion to Prince Albert Victor, grandson of Queen Victoria, it is Buck’s journeys around the world that have been the inspiration for the extensive and enticing cocktail menu at this bar in Edinburgh’s West End. With unusual mixes and drinks with a twist, the beverage offering is an interpretation of the flavours, feelings and folk encountered by Buck in some of the many cities he visited. Choose from cocktails that include the sweet tastes of India such as turmeric beer, black cardamom, saffron soda and cold brew Assam tea; the Pastis and Herbs de Provence-infused aperitif wine of France; or go east and sample Japanese-inspired drinks infused with white miso, preserved cucumber, matcha green tea or plum sake. Ingredients have been carefully chosen, and similarly selected produce – much of it locally-sourced – perpetuates a food menu that is sophisticated enough to pair with the drinks yet also well suited to soaking up any overindulgence.
29-31 William Street, Edinburgh, EH3 7NF; +44 131 225 5748; www.thevoyageofbuckedinburgh.co.uk