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Edinburgh, Scotland: 10 best places to eat and drink in 2016

From smart, seasonal dining to pop-up gin bars and experimental supper clubs, here are 10 of our favourite spots to eat and drink in and around the Scottish capital

1. There’s a real buzz around Norn right now. In a space that was once home to the Michelin-starred Plumed Horse, down in Leith, this restaurant is the city’s latest culinary hotspot.

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Owned by chef Scott Smith (ex-Peat Inn, near St Andrews), his four or seven-course tasting menus don’t just offer the usual local, seasonal produce but are ‘fiercely focused’ on sourcing produce from sustainable, ethical and passionate suppliers. The result? It keeps the chef on his toes and jumping through creative hoops with the ingredients-led constantly changing menu (think hake with Dunbar salt marsh herbs and chicken dashi or roast chicken with mushroom, cavolo nero and lovage). nornrestaurant.com


2. Part restaurant, part supper club, Edinburgh Food Studio is event dining. An exciting space created via crowd-funding to explore and experiment with Scotland’s raw, often overlooked, ingredients.

Three nights a week (Thursday to Saturday) Ben Reade, who was formerly head of research at the Nordic Food Lab in Copenhagen, and his partner, Canadian chef Sashana Souza Zanella (or a handful of guest chefs and foragers depending on the week – check the calendar), create seven-course tasting menus and demos for diners crammed around two cosy, communal tables. It’s a dining adventure – and one of the hottest tickets in town. edinburghfoodstudio.com


3. Over the Forth Bridge, Fife-favourite The Wee Restaurant turned 10 this year, and spawned a little sibling in the heart of the capital. At the sibling kitchen’s helm is Edinburgh-born Michael Innes, fresh from three Michelin-starred El Celler de Can Roca in Girona. In a low-key space, the menu features the likes of white onion and thyme soup, chive cream and white truffle oil; and grilled sea bass, spiced crab and spring onion risotto with baby artichokes, micro fennel and salsa verde. theweerestaurant.co.uk


4. Many places brag about their organic credentials, but there’s now a Soil Association award to prove them: Organic Served Here. And the first UK restaurant to bag it is Cafe St Honoré, the cosy French bistro-style restaurant tucked away down Edinburgh’s tiny, cobbled Thistle Street.

Chef Neil Forbes’ daily changing, seasonally focused, menu notched up three out of five stars for sourcing 50-75 per cent of all its ingredients from certified organic farmers, growers and processors. Classics include grilled Scrabster Gurnard with Clyde valley tomato and cucumber; Gartmorn Farm confit duck leg and lentil salad; and a wild mint crème brulee and shortbread to finish. cafesthonore.com


5. Popular artisan bakery and patisserie, Manna House, is hidden away on Easter Street at the back of Leith Walk. It’s not on the tourist trail but is worth a detour to stock up on picnic provisions for a schlep up Arthur’s Seat.

Making and baking everything they sell, the bakery’s range of daily breads includes rye, pain de campagne sourdough and spelt and honey, while speciality loaves are baked on rotation, from feta and mint to crispy onion and olive and coriander. themannahousebakery.co.uk


6. Festival time is fun – and what could be more fun than a Marvellously Mixed Musical Martini Maker? From now until the end of September you can pitch up at Pickering’s Gin Terrace at One Square for a signature cocktail – or two, (Festival Square Fizz features gin, crème de fraise, fresh lemon and prosecco), a gin tasting or a martini masterclass in the shadow of the castle.

It has to be done, if only to cast an eye over the Pickering’s Gin contraption – designed to stir drinks to the rhythm of 78rpm. onesquareedinburgh.co.uk


7. Great British Menu chef Tony Singh’s Road Trip pop-up restaurant went down so well during the festival last year that he’s back. For a two-year stint, at least, at The Apex Grassmarket hotel where he’s dishing up recipes reflecting his Scottish Asian heritage.

Dishes range from haggis pakora to coriander and lime cured salmon and Filipino fishballs, poached and fried street-food style. The New Town Burger, meanwhile, is from the ‘posh end of Auld Reekie’ made for sharing with Highland Wagyu beef, truffled onions, cheese and millionaire’s dressing. apexhotels.co.uk


8. For a gourmet caffeine hit head to Brew Lab‘s new venue, a former lock up in the West End. While the company’s first speciality coffee shop is in a historic building in the university quarter, the new venue has a stripped back, contemporary look with clean lines and neon lighting.

Brew Lab Edinburgh
Brew Lab Edinburgh

You can take your coffee geekery to the next level with barista classes or professional training in the state-of-the-art lab here. Or just sit back and order a cold brew (the bar includes a Cold Brew Coffee tap, so they serve Nitro Cold Brew on draught). brewlabcoffee.co.uk


9. The Witchery is no newcomer. The buildings housing this cluster of sumptuous suites at the top of the Royal Mile date back to the 16th century. As a restaurant with rooms it’s been around since 1979. However, it’s still the benchmark for theatrical, decadent dining with suits of armour in the rooms, ornate antique four poster beds and sumptuous drapes.

The cooking is traditional but comforting (think platters of fruits de mer, whole Dover sole, steaks and roast venison; you can even order haggis, neeps and tatties). But breakfast is the real highlight. The breakfast hamper delivered by your butler to your suite is the ultimate indulgence. thewitchery.com


10. Deli di Rollo has been a Musselburgh institution for over a hundred years, ever since Domenico di Rollo upped sticks from his small Italian village and opened an ice cream parlour in this east coast fishing town.

Last year the family branched out by opening a deli in Edinburgh, selling paninis to go and, more importantly, its famous ice cream (flavours range from lemon sorbet to caramelito and pistachio). dirollos.co.uk


Other restaurants to try in Edinburgh

Hendersons

This legendary restaurant has been serving 100% vegan and vegetarian food since it opened in 1962. General manager Barrie Henderson has seen a huge growth in interest in vegan food, particularly over the past five years. He says: “Many people are switching to more sustainable food sources.”

His bestselling dishes include butternut squash stuffed with herbs and pearl barley, served with garlic-creamed spinach and sautéed cavolo nero, and a vegan Thai crêpe filled with red lentil pâté, bean sprouts, smoked tofu, sugar snap peas and baby corn.

hendersonsofedinburgh.co.uk

Hendersons, Edinburgh

Dishoom

In a nutshell: Serving up food inspired by the Irani cafes of 20th Century Bombay expect all day hospitality in a 1920’s era ‘Grade A listed’ three storey building formerly used as a warehouse for Forsyth’s department store.

What’s the vibe? Old family photos from Bombay adorn the walls as you walk up the stairs which giving off a warm welcoming feel.

Bentwood chairs and ceiling fans, reading lamps, booths, wooden bookcases and partitions, it’s cosy despite the number of tables and customers. The view across St Andrew’s Square from the window seats is lovely should you be lucky enough to get one.

The Permit Room is worth a visit even if you’re not in for one of the fantastic cocktails on offer. Housed in the basement it’s a space dedicated to ‘delicious tipples’ and the decor reflects the rest of the building.

What’s the food like? The Dishoom signature Black Daal simmered for 24 hours to create a rich deeply flavoured dish deserves to be mopped up with a soft Roomali Roti bread, truly delicious.

Prawn Koliwada are the tastiest morsels of crunchy crispy prawns you’ll ever have, and dipped in a tamarind and date chutney provide a great starter dish while awaiting the rest of your dishes.

Vegetable dishes such as the Pau Bhaji, a mash up of vegetables you can pile high on a bun, and Chole Bhatura, a hearty bowl of spiced chickpeas served with fried bread are confidently spiced plates of food and a side dish of Raita is encouraged should you need a spoonful of minty yoghurt to cool your mouth.

And the drinks? In the dining room order tipples, lassis and coolers, sodas or wine and beer from the menu. Dishoom’s specially crafted IPA by Mondo Brewing Company is a great accompaniment at lunch or dinner. All wines on the list are available by the glass and won’t break the bank.

olive says… Dishoom is a ‘mini’ chain but you would never know. What they’ve created in Edinburgh is pretty special.

Click here to read our full review of Dishoom

Prawn and pomelo salad

White Horse Oyster and Seafood Bar

In a nutshell: Opening in one of the oldest inns on the Royal Mile, the White Horse Oyster and Seafood Bar is the latest venture from the team behind the city’s Chop House Bar and Butchery (read our review here).

What’s the vibe? With exposed stone walls and leather banquettes the restaurant has an upmarket feel akin to its two sister restaurants in Market Street and Leith. Interior-design lovers will love the work that’s gone into the extensive refurb, from the cast iron radiators to the stunning marble green bar top which gives the restaurant a luxurious bistro feel. The vibe is casual, unstuffy and very cool for this part of town.

What’s the food like? The menu contains plenty to lure in seafood fans, from platters (the ‘full house’ is a sumptuous two-tiered affair that includes half a lobster, pickled mussels, clams, king crab legs, oysters, scotch bonnet salmon, tuna tartare and dressed crab) to small tapas-style dishes that offer the likes of monkfish satay, chargrilled octopus, sesame tunacrab scotch eggs, hand-dived scallops and plenty more.

Highlights were the monkfish satay which had just the right amount of bite and the chargrilled octopus, which was surprisingly tender and smoky, straight off the grill.

And the drinks? There’s plenty of choice for fizz by the glass – perfect for those dropping in for an oyster or two – and the bespoke cocktail list is equally exciting. Seaside gin mixes Edinburgh Gin with manzanilla sherry, sea salt, pickled samphire and seaweed mist. It had a salinity which went incredibly well with oysters and shellfish – a must order!

olive says… Staff are super knowledgeable about the produce and the wine list, and are happy to discuss pairings with you if you ask.

Click here to read our full review of White Horse Oyster and Seafood Bar

White Horse Oyster & Seafood Bar

Civerinos Slice

In a nutshell: Civerinos Slice opened in Edinburgh’s Old Town in May 2017. This second city centre destination for the award-winning Civerinos has 80 covers and serves 11 different pizzas by the slice in an informal, New-York-style street food dining room, where eating with your hands is strictly encouraged.

What’s the vibe? Civerinos is big, noisy, and fast paced. Food is served on paper plates, you eat with your hands, and it gets messy. But while the vibe is relaxed, staff are efficient (food comes out quickly) and are passionate about what they’re serving.

What’s the food like? Pizza, by the slice and 20-inchers. There are 11 to choose from but if one of these doesn’t appeal you can create your own. Our recommendation, order a few slices of each to try as much as possible.

Fresh ingredients are key, along with a secret Italian family recipe: a semi-sourdough base is slow proven for 72 hours. Pineapple Controversy with San Marzano tomato sugo (sauce), buffalo mozzarella, glazed smokehouse pork shoulder, charred pineapple and rocket is a Hawaiian seriously updated.

The Capo-cosa, topped with wild boar and fennel salami, artichoke, olives, peppers and a boiled egg, is another great combination.

And the drinks? Civerinos’ slushy cocktails, which include Frozey, (a frozen rosé wine drink), are a great summer accompaniment to your slice. Otherwise, you can opt for Italian wines by the glass or carafe, and a small selection of craft beers.

olive says… A little bit of NYC in Edinburgh’s Old Town.

Click here to read our full review of Civerinos Slice

Civerinos Slice, Edinburgh, Pineapple Controversy

Le Roi Fou

In a nutshell: Le Roi Fou opened its doors in Edinburgh’s New Town in March 2017. Swiss-French chef Jerome Henry, previously of Mosimann’s London, has cooked in some of the best restaurants in the UK and has now set down his roots in Edinburgh where he sources the best Scottish produce available.

What’s the vibe? A beautiful space has been created; muted colours, gold velvet curtains, white linen tablecloths, walnut furniture and walls crying out for some artwork to be hung (which we are led to believe will soon follow).

What’s the food like? Simple and elegant defines the menu at Le Roi Fou. Produce is as fresh as it gets. The restaurant is less than two miles from the sea so expect to see appearances from Isle of Skye scallops, native oysters, spiced fish soup and grilled Scottish monkfish on the menu. Asparagus season was celebrated in style during our visit and was prominent on both starters and mains.Steak tartare was delicious and later, too, seared dry-aged beef fillet.

And the drinks? The wine list is pleasingly short and features mostly French wine with the odd Spanish and Austrian option. The sommelier is on hand to assist with your choices and exudes much enthusiasm in doing so.

olive says… Le Roi Fou is informal fine dining in a part of town that lacks anything similar to the classic cooking and gastronomic expertise that Jerome delivers.

Click here to read our full review of Le Roi Fou

Le Roi Fou, Edinburgh: Spring garden vegetables salad

Words by Lucy Gillmore and Mark Taylor

July 2016


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