When I was a kid I used to love traveling on planes, it all seemed really exciting, the longer the flight the more excited I got. Now that I have lived overseas for over ten years and travel back to the UK on a regular basis I am no longer a big fan of flying. This year’s flying experience was especially bad, not because of volcanoes or terrorists, but due to adverse weather.
The UK does not usually experience below freezing temperatures and they do not have the infrastructure to deal with lots of snow, hence why we spent 4 hours sitting on the tarmac at Heathrow waiting for our domestic plane to Edinburgh to be de-iced! In the end we lucked out big time. We basically got the last BA flight that left Heathrow to Edinburgh for the next 4 days. Thank goodness we didn’t get stranded in terminal five with all those other unlucky travelers.
While going home is primarily about catching up with friends and family, another major aspect is the food.
Internationally speaking Scotland does not have a reputation for gourmet foods like France or Italy. Most people associate Scotland with lots of deep-fried goodies and of course haggis! While this is true, Scotland also has an abundance of wonderful fresh foods on offer and some fantastic restaurants.
Scottish seafood is absolutely delicious, king scallops from the North Sea are huge and bursting with flavor and Scottish smoked salmon, a staple of Scotland, is internationally renowned. Game meats like venison, grouse and pheasant are also readily available and considered very Scottish. Traditional Scottish cuisine is actually very similar to BC (salmon and venison are very popular/traditional BC dishes).
Going home inevitably means I must eat all those old favorite foods that I pine for whilst living on the other side of the planet (I think most expats can sympathize with this). It’s quite amazing how certain foods remind you of home, for me this means Jaffa Cakes, Heinz spaghetti, roast beef Monster Munch, pork sausages and dry cured bacon (to name just a few).
Edinburgh, Scotland’s picturesque capital city and my hometown, boasts a wide selection of varying restaurants. While I was back home I managed to sample some great food. Eating out in Scotland is typically not as affordable as it is in Vancouver, so you want to make sure you’re going somewhere with decent food (especially if it’s gonna cost a lot)!
Here are some restaurant highlights and recommendations:
Located in the center of town, at 110 Hanover Street, the dogs is serving up good quality comfort food at really affordable prices.
We went for lunch with some good friends and really enjoyed it. None of the items on the lunch menu cost over 6 pounds, which is very cheap for Edinburgh.
The menu specializes in British ‘gastropub’ staples such as fish and chips, meat pies and devilled sausages.
Sam loved his fish and chips with proper crunchy batter, chips and mushy peas. Myself and my dining companions sampled the pies, I went for the seafood one, Leila had the turkey and ham and Sarah tried the steak and kidney. We scoffed them back no problem.
For a more detailed description of our meal check out Leila’s blog post about our lunch (she writes the Edinburgh based blog Leil’Appetit). Our lunch for 5 people, including 2.5 bottles of wine and coffee cost 90 pounds, this is incredibly good value. The day before we had lunch at a restaurant called Browns, our lunch for 3 cost the same and the food was not nearly as good (in fact if your ever in Edinburgh avoid eating at Browns, the food is not worth the price).
I first heard about the Northern Chinese restaurant Chop Chop after it was featured on Gordon Ramsey’s F Word, after being voted one of the UK’s best local restaurants.
Chop Chop has two locations in Edinburgh, we went to the one in Haymarket at 248 Morrison Street.
I must admit coming from Vancouver, where we have an abundance of really good Chinese restaurants, I wasn’t sure how Chop Chop would compare. I was pleasantly surprised.
Chop Chop specializes in dumplings. The pan-fried dumplings (which are traditionally called pot stickers) tasted authentic and flavorful. I especially enjoyed the beef and chilli ones. The highlight of the meal for me was definitely the sweet and sour ribs, the sauce was really tasty and they were those mini style ribs. Yummy!
Some of the menu items are a little strange for Chinese cuisine, the fried chicken and potatoes with black bean sauce was a bit odd and the lamb with cumin seemed a bit out of place for a Chinese restaurant. Perhaps they are trying to add some Scottish/Indian fusion to their food?
Overall it was a fun experience, we opted for the unlimited Xmas banquet. It cost 20 pounds per head, we got 16 different dishes including pork and coriander dumplings, aubergines with garlic, crispy northern beef, chicken wings and fish balls and as long as you finish the first round you can order a second round and so on (we of course managed two rounds no bother)!
Most Chinese restaurants in Scotland serve the same staples, like lemon chicken, BBQ ribs and sweet and sour pork. Chop Chop can be considered more authentic than your typical Scottish Chinese fare, I’d definitely go back.
The fabulous Italian designer, Rosita Missoni, has collaborated with the Rezidor Hotel Group to create the Hotel Missoni. This designer hotel opened in 2009 in the center of Edinburgh on George IV Bridge. This place is seriously funky. We ate dinner at the Cucina restaurant, inside the hotel, this was our one ‘blow out’ meal and although the prices are high, the food was superb.
We started off by having cocktails at the Missoni bar, the decor is amazing. Beautiful textiles hanging on the walls and extremely vibrant colors. The cocktails were exceptionally good. Heading up the stairs to the restaurant, I must say the space is absolutely fantastic. Tactile wall coverings, with fine colored textiles, lots of black and white, check out the design on the plates. This place is extremely unique and a very nice environment to hang out in.
As you may have guessed the food is Italian. I started off with homemade pasta with pork ragu and finished with a whole lemon sole, which came in a fennel cream sauce, with olives and new potatoes. Sam started with a selection of cured meats, then had grilled venison in a red wine demi glaze. We both really enjoyed our food, it was definitely ‘gourmet’!
After watching an episode of Anthony Bourdain’s ‘No Reservations‘, where Bourdain goes to an Edinburgh chip shop and samples a ‘king rib’, Sam has been dying to try one. Chip shops are very popular in Scotland, they are primarily the reason why Scotland has a reputation for deep-fried goodies and perhaps why Scotland has some of the worst cases of heart disease in Europe..!
The Clamshell on the Royal Mile is a standard ‘chippie’, serving up fish and chips, deep-fried sausage, deep-fried pizza, meat pies and the king rib (to name a few classic dishes)! In case you are unaware a king rib is basically a deep-fried pork patty with BBQ sauce (it comes with chips). I must say that is was disgustingly good, check it out…! Although this is not something one should eat on a regular basis.
We spent a couple of days up north in the town of Inverness. Inverness is the largest town in the Scottish Highlands and is surrounded by some stunningly beautiful countryside. Check out Loch Ness and Urquhart Castle.
We ate dinner at the Rocpool restaurant at 1 Ness Walk, Inverness, with a great friend who’s also a local. This is her favorite restaurant in town. Situated right opposite the river, this contemporary style neighborhood bistro is serving up really good Scottish nosh It’s always a good sign when you go on a Monday night and the place is bustling with activity. The food was extremely fresh and tasty and all the ingredients are locally sourced and in season.
I had the most wonderful hand dived king scallops with chorizo sausages, garlic butter & spring onion creme fresh, it was tres delicious! Followed by linguine with mussels, crab, scallops, prawns in a white wine tomato sauce. Sam had chicken liver parfait and finished with roasted loin of venison with parma ham and black pudding.
If you’re ever in Inverness and what some really good Scottish cuisine, Rocpool is the place. For more information check out their website: www.rocpoolrestaurant.com