Scotland’s larder is bountiful, and the country’s natural produce is among the best in the world. There’s delicious fresh seafood — think succulent mussels, oysters and lobster; fine Aberdeen Angus beef; and wild game from the field, to name but a few gourmet delights.
Traditional Scottish food has seen a revival in recent years, and creative chefs have brought imaginative flair to centuries-old dishes, such as cullen skink (a thick smoked-fish soup), cranachan pudding (cream, raspberries, oatmeal and whisky) and, of course, haggis. Scotland also has the dubious honor of being the birthplace of the deep-fried Mars Bar.
Here’s a roundup of the best places in Edinburgh to sample Scotland’s mouth-watering and varied cuisine.
Arcade Haggis & Whisky House
Arcade Haggis & Whisky House stands on Cockburn Street — a historic cobbled street now home to restaurants and quirky boutiques — which winds down from the Royal Mile to Waverley Station. Popular with locals and visitors alike, this welcoming spot celebrates Scotland’s national dish, haggis.
Visitors expect to hate haggis when they learn it’s comprised of innards and oatmeal stuffed into a sheep’s stomach — but almost invariably they love it. Start your day with a full Scottish breakfast featuring haggis and black pudding, or set your taste buds alight with chicken breast stuffed with haggis wrapped in bacon or a juicy haggis and beef burger.
If haggis doesn’t appeal, other options include award-winning pork, stilton and asparagus sausages. Vegetarians are catered for, too; don’t miss the Glasgow potato (or tattie) scones. Looking for the perfect accompaniment to your meal? Take your pick from a selection of more than 100 whiskies.
In an alleyway just off the Royal Mile, twinkling fairy lights signal the entrance to Monteiths. The vibe here is cozy and intimate; tartan décor and comfortable chairs create the feel of an elegant living room. The concept here is cocktails meets cuisine, much of which is locally sourced with a clear farm-to-table provenance.
Stimulate your senses with a fragrant cocktail. Then move on to delicacies such as lobster or oysters. The menu is seasonal and subject to change but includes specialties such as dry-aged steak — sourced from a family-run butcher that dates to the 1800s — Arbroath smokie (smoked haddock) risotto, and venison haggis.
The Witchery by The Castle
The Witchery by The Castle is one of Scotland’s most luxurious and famous restaurants. Housed in a 16th-century building just steps from Edinburgh Castle, this grand eatery offers gourmet dining set against an impressive backdrop of oak-paneling, candlelight and sumptuous fabrics; there’s also an atmospheric secret garden.
The classic menu features refined dishes based on traditional Scottish ingredients, such as seafood, beef, lamb and game, a highlight being the beef steak tartare.
The Café Royal
The Café Royal is an Edinburgh institution. Designed by architect Robert Paterson, this historic watering hole and restaurant opened in 1863. It retains many original features, including a beautiful circular bar, and is now a protected by listed-building status.
Diningwise, the emphasis is on distinctive Scottish cuisine based on ingredients such as aged beef, lobster and venison. There’s also an imaginative oyster menu. Order by the half or dozen with accompaniments such as ice and lemon; spinach and Mornay sauce; or pancetta and balsamic vinegar.
Bounty from Scotland’s chilly northern waters also features prominently: There’s juicy clams, king scallops and langoustine, for example. And of course, you’ll also find classics like haggis and cullen skink on the menu. For the perfect taste of Scotland, finish up with a rich, creamy raspberry cranachan with toasted oats and whisky.
Finally, you can’t leave town without sampling a deep-fried Mars Bar. This culinary curiosity originated in Stonehaven, a fishing town on Scotland’s northeast coast, but you can sample the sweet, battered gooeyness in fish and chip shops around the city. Alternatively, pair it with a pint at the Royal Mile Tavern.