Great Scot! 7 Must-Visit Scotland Restaurants
After my trip to London with VisitBritain, I took the train from King's Cross Station to Edinburgh to explore Scotland! Although my train did not leave from Platform 9 3/4, rumor has it that this very train is the one J.K. Rowling was riding when she got the inspiration to write Harry Potter. (And, of course, there are many cafes in Edinburgh that proudly boast of the days she spent writing in their shops.) It's a beautiful train ride up the coast and a completely different lifestyle from the bustling city of London.
Aside from kilts and whisky, I knew very little about Scotland going into this week. I was absolutely blown away by the beauty of the land, the quality of the food, and the kindness of the Scottish people. I only had the chance to spend a few days in Edinburgh and a few days in the highlands, but I definitely want to return to visit Glasgow and, of course, continue my search for Nessie (the Loch Ness Monster).
1. Eat Walk Tour – I started my time in Edinburgh by taking a food tour! This was the best way to get assimilated in a new city, while learning a bit about Scottish food culture, the history of Edinburgh, and sampling some of the best spots in town. We tried single cask malt whisky at The Scotch Malt Whisky Society, a spritz made with Raspberry Liqueur from Edinburgh Gin (so good), and, of course, haggis - a Scottish speciality made with sheep and calf offals. It sounds gross, but actually tastes good!
2. The Balmoral – I came to to the Whisky Bar at the historic Balmoral Hotel for a glass of Scotch (which was delicious!) and I left with a new friend: the lovely Michael McCuish of VisitScotland. Upon hearing I was traveling alone, Michael insisted I join him and his friends for a night out on the town - a perfect example of the Scotch hospitality I encountered in every city in Scotland.
3. Timberyard - This was my favorite restaurant in Edinburgh! Timberyard is a family affair, a tasting menu-only restaurant serving seasonal dishes with ingredients from local artisan growers. The space is gorgeous - located in an old warehouse that, you guessed it, used to sell timber. Communal tables illuminated by candlelight fill the interior and there's a gorgeous yard with outdoor seating for sunny days. And the food! To start, the bread was served with whipped bone marrow and house-made charcuterie. My tasting menu included mackerel with oyster, kohlrabi, and horseradish; veal sweetbreads with truffle, artichoke, sea purslane, and hazelnut (the first time I've ever loved sweetbreads!); and cod with white asparagus, clams, caper, raisin, and turnip. These were some of the best seafood preparations I've had. For dessert, they served a beautiful plate of rhubarb with yogurt, cream cheese, and biscuit. This is a must-visit in Edinburgh!
4. The Ship on the Shore - I took a quick cab to the hip Leith neighborhood in Edinburgh for lunch on the water at The Ship on the Shore, a seafood and champagne bar. I ordered their "fizz and chips" - a glass of champagne served alongside their signature fish and chips (and a side of mushy peas!). They insisted I save room for their specialty dessert: a warm sticky toffee pudding, served with vanilla ice cream. Drool!
5. Gardener’s Cottage - Although the house of an old Scottish gardener has been transformed into a restaurant, the feeling of home still remains. While sitting at communal tables, former strangers become family over deliciously prepared fresh food from the garden. One look into the open kitchen and you'd almost expect to see grandma inside, but then the beautifully plated dishes arrive at the table and you realize this is not home cooking, it is elevated fare. My tasting menu consisted of a celeriac soup with parsley oil and thyme; Shetland cod with sea purslane and leek; lamb with heritage potato, wild garlic, and smoked ricotta; a selection of British cheese; and Yorkshire rhubarb for dessert.
1. Monachyle Mhor - A couple hours north from Edinburgh and situated between two lochs is the breathtaking Monachyle Mhor hotel, or, as I call it, the Barbie Dreamhouse. I'll talk more about this fantastic hotel in the Scotland activities post, but for now we focus on the food! Incredible female chef Marysia Paszkowski is at the helm of this Michelin-recommended restaurant. Traditional Scottish breakfasts are served to guests every morning, and for dinner there is a choice between a la carte items and a tasting menu. I had the chance to sample two of the tasting menus during my two nights in the highlands, and I was absolutely blown away by the creative use of local ingredients, largely produced on their own farm. Food just tastes better when it's local, when it's fresh, and when it's in the hands of a talented chef. Some highlights for me were the Aberfeldy wood pigeon with white beans and truffle; the garden beetroot ravioli with wild garlic and horseradish foam; and the Macduff Scotch beef with pearl onions and celeriac.
2. Mhor 84 - The more casual little sister to Monachyle Mhor is Mhor 84, a trendy roadside motel, with a hip cafe and restaurant to boot. I tried an incredible salmon special, served with broccoli, mashed potatoes, and bacon (why don't all fish dishes come with a side of bacon?!).