To truly uncover the best restaurants in Dundee, Culture Trip spoke to three prominent figures in the city’s culinary scene. Here’s where they recommend for a unique dining experience in this multifaceted Scottish city.
Visitors are often surprised that for a small city, Dundee has the culinary chops to compete with its much larger rivals. But in fact the city’s compactness is a factor in its success – most restaurateurs know each other personally and they can learn from one another to offer a truly incredible dining scene in the city. Experts Alex Patterson, general manager at The Tayberry Restaurant; Ian Murdo Macleod, owner of Rama Thai; and Usman Malik, patron and head chef at Oshibori, share where to find the best food in the city.
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The Tayberry Restaurant caused quite a stir when it opened in 2015, serving unashamedly modern, gourmet food in a city unused to fine dining. Arguably, it was in the vanguard of Dundee’s culinary transformation. “What makes The Tayberry Restaurant special is our attention to detail,” says Patterson. “There’s a lot that goes into the food and service – it’s all Scottish produce.” Diners can enjoy dishes that include fresh seafood, wild game and desserts made from tayberry, the local raspberry-blackberry hybrid that gave the restaurant its name.
Perhaps the greatest endorsement of Rama Thai is that Kengo Kuma, architect of the V&A Dundee, stopped by for dinner on the night of its grand opening. “Thankfully he enjoyed his meal, because he gave us tickets for the opening night!” says Macleod. A true fixture on the Dundee waterfront, Rama serves proudly authentic Thai food. “We have Thai chefs, and regional specialties on the menu such as laab (a minced meat salad) from the northeast of Thailand,” says Macleod. The space itself is beautiful and welcoming, decorated with ornate Thai teak furnishings. “It’s Thai food with a Scottish welcome,” says Macleod.
Located right in front of the Caird Hall, the menu of Italian Grill features all sorts of Mediterranean delights: the inky-black spaghetti nero is loaded with scallops, mussels and king prawns. Vegetarians aren’t left out with a butternut squash risotto, with dolcelatte cheese and walnuts – but in Macleaod’s mind, there’s only one thing to order here. “Pizza. It’s got to be pizza.” The pizza menu is mostly simple and authentic with the occasional seasonal variation (such as a winter festive pizza topped with rosemary and sage stuffing). The bar serves up Italian wines and cocktails, and puts on cocktail making masterclasses ideal for a hen do or work party.
“Gidi Grill on the Victoria Quay is really good,” says Macleod. “It’s a funky wee place – a West African and Caribbean grill house.” The specialty here is spicy marinated meats cooked in the on-site Josper oven – a type of indoor charcoal barbecue that sears food at an average temperature of 300°C, while the closed door ensures that no moisture escapes. The result? Attractively marked steaks cooked to perfect tenderness. The smoked barbecue pork belly ribs are also a popular choice. Despite the quantity and quality of meat on the menu, there’s also an ample vegetarian selection – from tempura vegetables to the asparagus-and-pepper Rasta Pasta.
Dundee’s first dim sum restaurant sits above Matthew’s, the Chinese supermarket. “We always have the same thing – Singapore noodles, wonton soup and roast duck,” says Macleod. “They also do a really nice three roast and rice.” The á la carte menu at The Manchurian is long – over 100 items – but distinguishes itself in its authenticity, offering regional specialties not often found in Chinese restaurants in the UK. Try the stir-fried morning glory or, if you’re feeling brave, the salt and chilli-stuffed pig intestines. The main selling point, however, remains the dim sum – ask the knowledgeable staff for their recommendations.
“I also like to go to Don Michele, the Italian restaurant,” says Macleod. A family-run enterprise, reasonably priced Don Michele has an old-timey Italian ambience (complete with opera soundtrack) that’s perfect for dates. The three-chef team all hail from Italy – in fact, pizza chef Gianmario comes from Naples, the home of pizza, and strictly follows the Neapolitan tradition of pizza-making. Located on the Perth Road, Dundee’s main cultural hub, Don Michele is also a perfect jumping-off point if you want to extend your night to cocktails or live music.
Ask any local when they realised that Dundee’s culinary scene was changing for the better, and they’ll reply: “When we got a sushi restaurant.” Though it may have been the first, Oshibori is no ordinary sushi restaurant. “We use fresh local ingredients and the finest dry imports of Japan – every dish is produced in a very authentic Japanese style in terms of taste, quality and presentation.” Both the interiors and the dishes at Oshibori true works of art, whether you’re ordering a sashimi boat (literally a wooden boat filled with sashimi) or the Wagyu Dragon top-quality cut of marbled, Scottish-raised Wagyu beef.
A prominent symbol of Dundee’s phoenix-like regeneration was the Malmaison hotel group’s move into the former Tay Hotel building, which had lain abandoned and derelict for 20 years. General manager Claire Livingstone said in 2013 that she wanted local people to enjoy the hotel as much as tourists would, and the Chez Mal restaurant has achieved that in style. “I do like a Sunday brunch at Malmaison now and then, it’s decent!” says Malik. The décor – dark, moody, romantic – echoes the hotel’s overall aesthetic, and the seasonal menus are Scottish staples with a twist – think Asian-spiced salmon and crab and scallop risotto.
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