It wasn't so long ago that discussing the food of the UK meant lots of cringing. Just like the skies, the operative word was "grey." But in recent decades, Britain has discovered the vegetable, proper cooking and even ingredients from beyond places that it has previously conquered.
Scotland is no different, a fact to which Edinburgh's four Michelin stars can attest. But if you don't want to throw down Michelin money, there are still plenty of places to get a stellar meal in Scotland's capital. Here are our favorites.
Scots like choices. That's why Aizle's success is a surprise. The restaurant's concept is built on a roster of seasonal, and mostly local, ingredients posted on a chalkboard. There are no menus. For £55, diners are brought six courses full of surprises. On a recent Saturday, the meal opened with a trio of snacks: a crispy roll filled with beef tartare and horseradish cream, pomme dauphine with kimchi and Kewpie mayo, and a Parmesan-Jerusalem artichoke chawanmushi. Bread service is a highlight, as are sophisticated non-alcoholic tipples like the freshly squeezed apple juice flavored with Grand Fir.
If you're not a Harry Potter fan, the sign boasting that J.K. Rowling wrote some of her text at this underground restaurant may be enough to turn you away. But don't worry, the modern Scottish fare doesn't suffer due to crowds of fans—in fact, even on a Saturday afternoon, the ambience was pleasantly chill. At lunchtime, go for the prix-fixe for two courses at £12. At dinner, the same is only £16. For a taste of local game, be sure to start with the wild boar and rabbit terrine with Earl Grey jelly and gingerbread.
Michelin-starred restaurateur Martin Wishart focuses his talents on uniquely Scottish food. In the case of this New Town eatery, the main event is locally raised steak. The grass-fed beef is aged between 28 and 36 days, then charcoal grilled at 650 degrees. Meat from Glenarm Estate short horn cattle is aged in chambers of Himalayan salt, resulting in a more pristine dry age. Whichever steak you choose, it's brushed with a scrumptious Madeira glaze, rendering any side sauces you choose unnecessary.
A pair of working farmers from the Scottish borders is behind this multi-location hog roast. Passersby can follow the progress of each pig as it's picked apart into nothing from the window. Once the pig is gone, it really is gone, so it's best to arrive early, especially since diners tend to line up for the addictive pulled pork sandwiches. Guests choose a size, white or brown roll, a stuffing (sage-and-onion or haggis), and sauce (we recommend chunky apple). When they ask if you want a salty, crispy crackling, don't hesitate to be a bit of a hog.
The best meal we had in Edinburgh was at this unassuming West End restaurant. The name translates to "travel" or "journey" but the international aesthetic is only part of what makes the menu so captivating—thoroughly Scottish dishes play their part, too. Take, for example, the truffle-scented raviolo al uovo. Alongside the Italian pasta, mushroom ketchup and vegetarian haggis bonbons add tang and crunch. Don't miss the warm white chocolate mousse, sunken with bits of brownie and sponge candy. Best of all, three courses is only £16 on the Market Menu.