With all the Michelin-stars accumulated by Edinburgh establishments, it’s easy to overlook the revolutions occurring in kitchens around the capital with regards to humble local dishes. Chefs throughout the city are finally coming around to realising the rich potential of Scotland’s larder and waters, and using artistry and panache to transform these ingredients into stunning odes to the national character. We’ve put together a guide to Edinburgh’s 5 best local restaurants.
Since 1990, Stac Polly Restaurant on Dublin Street has been proudly dishing up exciting interpretations of modern and traditional Scottish cuisine, with each plate prepared using the best local produce. The interior is incredibly atmospheric and indicative of the thought and care put into each meal, with its rustic-feeling cellars, flickering candles, linen table cloths, oil paintings and Bute tweed upholstery. Remarkably, some menu items have proved so popular, they have remained there since Stac Polly’s opening, with special props being given to the punchy cranachan. However, one shouldn’t overlook the bold recent additions to the a la carte menu, such as the salad of home cured spiced venison with tomato, chick pea, spring onion, salsa, vodka, cranberry jelly and spring leaves. Diners sticking to a liquid-based diet will also surely approve of the new upstairs wine and gin bar extension to the main restaurant and the impressive array of malt whiskies and craft beers from Orkney Brewery.
29-33 Dublin St, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK, +44 131 556 2231
Unassumingly nestled away on the Royal Mile, exactly halfway between Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood Palace, Dubh Prais is worth a visit from the more inquisitive Old Town tourist. Dubh prais is Gaelic for ‘cooking pot’ and that rustic-seeming, down to earth, complete lack of pretentiousness characterises this modest restaurant’s output. All-natural ingredients, delicately balanced with seasonal herbs grown in the owner’s’ garden, are given room to shine in dishes such as Belhaven smoked salmon, dressed over a cucumber salad and garnished with pickled West Coast scallops.
123B High St, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK, +44 131 557 5732
Restaurant, British, Vegetarian, Vegan, $$$
Peering out from its Museum of Scotland-situated promontory, The Tower is, on paper, one of the most stunningly located restaurants in Edinburgh. This rooftop restaurant is undoubtedly a tourist hotspot, thanks to its proximity to the Royal Mile and the Old Town’s historic attractions, but in no way does that detract from the mouthwatering food concocted by head chef James Thomson. Expect lashings of fresh Scottish oysters, Borders beef and autumn game across signature dishes such as Dingwall haggis with potato espuma and pickled turnip, Isle of Mull scallops and roasted red deer loin. Open all day from breakfast to late dinner, The Tower caters to casual drop-ins and couples on date night alike.
National Museum Of Scotland, Chambers St, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK, +44 131 225 3003
The King’s Wark
From its home overlooking the Water of Leith, The King’s Wark continually champions the finest ingredients sourced from Scotland’s diverse larder. Pub staples are to be found on the a la carte menu, but don’t underestimate the ability of The King’s Wark to subvert pub grub preconceptions – prepare to be dazzled by dishes such as pan fried monkfish cheeks and crevettes in bouillabaisse broth with chips and aioli, or boned and rolled Scottish rabbit saddle stuffed with pigeon breast. Weekends prove just as popular among the eclectic list of regulars – families, couples, students and young professionals – with the Wark’s many brunch options such as the Bigger Breakfast fry-up and the Sunday lunch blade of beef acting as the biggest draws.
36 Shore, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK, +44 131 554 9260
It’s become something of a cliché among Edinburgh food and travel writers to include Masterchef and Saturday Kitchen-star Tom Kitchin’s popular Leith restaurant in lists of the capital’s highlights. Yet, nearly ten years after opening, The Kitchin still remains one of the strongest culinary establishments in the city. The winning formula of The Kitchin has always been twofold; firstly, the former whisky bond warehouse setting is one of the most stylish affairs in Edinburgh. Its wooden furnishings and wallpaper from Scottish designers Timorous Beasties are muted yet inviting. Secondly, the a la carte menu is an unabashed celebration of Scotland’s larder and waters; Kitchin operates a serious ‘from nature to plate philosophy’, whereby seasonal Scottish ingredients are worked over by French techniques resulting in beautiful plates of modern British cuisine.
78 Commercial Quay, Edinburgh EH6 6LX, +44 131 555 1755