Edinburgh has long boasted ample choice when it comes to fine dining establishments, with plenty of high-end spots across its medieval, castle-crowned Old Town and beyond. Now, a string of recent openings led by young restaurateurs and chef-patrons offers the same keen focus on superior Scottish produce as the city’s white tablecloth scene, set amid approachable menus and atmospheres. Here are a few recommendations for exciting, decidedly modern Scottish cuisine.
Edinburgh Food Studio
158 Dalkeith Road, Edinburgh, EH16 5DX
“Keeping food interesting” is the mantra at this hybrid restaurant/food research hub, sitting well away from the city’s tourist-saturated Old Town. Launched by Brazilian-French Canadian chef Sashana Souza Zanella and her partner Ben Reade, a Scot and Noma’s former head of research and development, their mission to uplift Scottish cuisine plays out across multi-course tasting menus by night and a weekend à la carte lunch service. Research into local ingredients and foodways is interpreted on the plate as elegant, minimal dishes such as Scottish mackerel and gem lettuce, charred up on a yakitori grill and paired with lovage sauce, or mussels from Shetland—a family of islands north of Scotland—lapping up a butter of foraged sea kale and dulse seaweed. There’s a strong focus on collaborations, with celebrated international chefs regularly visiting the communal dining space to run one-off events along with head chef James Murray.
7 Commercial Street, Edinburgh, EH6 6JA
The menu at this diner-like pizzeria may be peppered with hallmark Italian ingredients like pesto, nduja and pancetta, but the focus for owner Roland Simpson sits squarely on creating a uniquely Scottish pizza experience. Organic flour milled in England is used to make flavorsome, Neapolitan-style sourdough pizzas using a dough fermented for three days, topped with goods sourced mostly from Scotland—even the mozzarella and cured meats are produced in Edinburgh or the Highlands north of the city. There’s a pie finished with venison salami, caramelized onions, and sharp blue cheese made on the Isle of Mull. There is another that pairs smoked mozzarella with crumbled local nduja, fresh cream, and hefty pieces of fresh red chilli. Sitting close to Edinburgh’s shorefront, this laid-back haunt is a promising spot for the emerging food scene of its waterside and once industrial Leith neighborhood.
27 Sciennes Road, Edinburgh, EH9 1NX
Cookbook author Jess Elliott Dennison worked as a food stylist in Australia and London before heading back to her native Scotland last year to open 27 Elliott’s, and the influence of those places’ robust café cultures shines through in her earthy yet elevated neighborhood spot. Sitting on a quiet residential street a short walk from Edinburgh’s leafy Meadows park, the intimate café serves breakfast with locally roasted coffee right through to evening meals alongside natural wine. A confident menu of daily-changing dishes highlights seasonal Scottish fare through simple home cooking techniques. Think a rustic carpaccio of rare roast beef from the nearby Borders region with mustardy celeriac remoulade and chive flowers; pickled wild garlic and crushed walnuts folded through braised pearl barley; and a velvety house-made rhubarb ice cream using cream from a family-owned, organic dairy in west Scotland. Be sure to pick up a copy of Dennison’s Salad Feasts cookbook on the way out.
36 Broughton Street, Edinburgh, EH1 3SB
Three serene dining rooms filled with natural light,largely unadorned save for fresh white walls and timber tables, recall a clean Nordic aesthetic on the city’s ever-busy, restaurant-packed Broughton Street. Fhior means “true” in Gaelic, echoed in straightforward dishes like an appetizer of cured Loch Etive trout with compressed cucumber and fermented cucumber juice, plus a main of wild garlic, pickled seaweed sauce, and peasemeal (a traditional Scottish flour made from roasted, ground yellow field peas, prepared like polenta) with rare, roasted hogget—like lamb, but from an older animal. Opened mid-2018 by both head chefs Scott and Laura Smith, lunch is a more informal à la carte set-up, while dinner offers very reasonably priced set menus of either four or seven courses.
The Little Chartroom
30 Albert Place, Edinburgh, EH7 5HN
This compact, modern bistro, sitting on the hectic main road leading from Edinburgh’s downtown to its waterfront, is exactly as the name suggests: little. With room for just eighteen covers and a slight cooking space, service is a team effort with both front of house and kitchen staff gracing tables. That includes owners Shaun McCarron and Roberta Hall, who’s also head chef. Three starters, three mains and three desserts is the typical menu offering for lunch and dinner, and there’s also Sunday brunch. Highly seasonal bistro-style dishes with a twist emphasise Scottish produce, in particular local game when available, in the likes of smoked pigeon breast topped with arugula, blood orange and hazelnuts, or grilled asparagus with roasted onion and a fresh cow’s milk cheese made in Scotland’s southwest Ayshire region.
4-6 Dean Street, Edinburgh, EH4 1LW
Dubbed for its owners, brothers Graeme and Rory Sutherland, this is the wine bar we all wish was our local. The charming, cozy space is all heritage details and minimal decor punctuated with ample candlelight, where a constantly evolving wine list spotlights mostly natural and organic makers and refined bar snacks use local fare: scotch fillet tartare with linseed crackers, venison koftas with mint yogurt, and smoked mackerel flaked through green beans and horseradish. A recent revamp of the cocktail menu will see added focus on Scottish ingredients there too, say, in the Rhubarb & Vanilla Sours, which uses a whisky-based amaro made in Edinburgh and garnished with shortbread dust.
50-54 Henderson Street, Edinburgh, EH6 6DE
Opened just a few months ago by Aleksandra and Darren Murray—she runs front of house, he heads up the kitchen—this contemporary bistro is firmly rooted in and inspired by its locale. Named Borough for its location in Leith (the original precinct to come about Edinburgh as the city first grew) and decked out with art created by all-Scottish talent, the concise menu grounds an honest approach to highlighting regional ingredients. Heirloom tomatoes from England’s Isle of Wight come with radish and crowdie, a traditional Scottish farmhouse cheese that’s similar to ricotta, while strawberries from Perthshire—a leading berry-growing area an hour north—are served with a yogurt mousse and salty-sweet oat biscuit. At just £35 for four set courses, it’s filling a sweet spot for ultra-accessible fine dining.