Eating Out In Glasgow And Edinburgh (2005)
Most people who enjoy a meal out on a regular basis have an opinion on which are the best places to go. But 'best' can mean different things to different people - ranging from wallet-busting fine dining venues, to places that just ooze character, or simple unadorned eateries. But all have at least one thing in common -- good food.
With its expensive wallpaper, opulent wall hangings, ancient oils, plush fabrics and cushy upholstery, Rhubarb is one of Edinburgh's most elite dining venues. You could be mistaken for thinking this richly decorated and sumptuous restaurant has been here for many a year and the building that houses it in fact has -- since the 17th century. But Rhubarb is a fairly recent venture, set within the new Prestonfield Hotel, recently named Scotland's most romantic hotel and just five minutes drive from the city centre. Quality is everything here, from the food, wine (which is extensive) through the ambience and the good old-fashioned service. The Witchery by the Castle is under the same ownership, James Thomson, and is just as splendid in it's own characterful, gothic way. It's full of deep leather and fabric, ancient wood and four poster beds. This time it's a lavish 16th century building you'll be dining in, complete with a handful of rooms, slap bang next to the Castle itself and an ideal highlight to a walk up the most famous of Edinburgh's streets -- The Royal Mile. Boasting a string of accolades, this is a must if you get the chance, and the light lunches at under a tenner are surprisingly affordable. Like Rhubarb, this place is fastidious in sourcing the best local produce for its Modern Scottish menus.
Vermilion is one quality restaurant that is really hidden away -- in The Scotsman Hotel on North Bridge. This is the ideal succour to relieving the stress of the day and relaxing into another world, rich and warm with very low-key lighting so it feels intimate and quite special. The other not quite as exclusive eatery set within the hotel is the North Bridge Brasserie, which boasts a 360 degree upper walkway dining area where you can look down on other diners and enjoy a bird's eye view of the central bar. A splendid place, located street-side and buzzing with life. Number One is yet another hotel-based restaurant, this time at the Balmoral Hotel, but a special one, part of that very select group that can boast a Michelin star and the only hotel restaurant in Edinburgh to have such a high accolade. Head Chef Jeff Bland has also been named as Drambuie Scottish Chef of the Year in 2003. Hadrians is the more contemporary sister venue at The Balmoral -- a brasserie in fact, but with the menu designed by the one and the same Mr Jeff Bland.
Jacksons is a winner for both food and ambience. Olde worlde but refined and full of character. It's a pleasant little warm and inviting world that you enter into once you've descended the off-street steps and into this 300-year-old building. Tapestry wall hangings, delicate torch lighting, nice greenery and natural warm Edinburgh stone blend charmingly with the warm wood tones, beautifully laid linen and candlelit tables. Two rooms and some nice little recesses too for more intimate dining in traditional, yet vibrant Scottish cuisine style. Olorosso is one for those with a taste for modern cooking in stylish surroundings and it boasts one of the finest views in the city. For an inexpensive alternative try A Room In The Toon where you bring your own bottle of what tickles your fancy.
The Mussel Inn goes down a treat with locals and visitors alike, specialising in its namesake for which you'll pay about a tenner for a kilo. A million miles from home it might sound, but the cutie that is Coconut Grove is homely and serves Mexican and Tex-Mex dishes from their buffet menu, right in the heart of Edinburgh. Valvona & Crolla Caffe Bar is a nice little 1930s-styled Italian, full of charm and ideally located near the theatres. Don't expect a greatly varied menu, just simple wholesome Italian food. Haldanes is a Scottish restaurant of the traditional variety which doesn't disappoint, and offers comfortable surroundings with great taste. Blue has a fine reputation for fine modern food in modern chic surroundings and is the sister restaurant to Atrium (see review) just a floor below and a traverse across the floor in the Traverse Theatre. Both ideally suited for taking advantage of a pre-theatre meal or a relaxing after-performance culinary ramble.
Restaurant Martin Wishart is a Michelin-starred place on the waterfront in Leith where great food and attentive service fit hand in glove with the modern French cuisine. Café Saint Honore is as you'd expect -- French of the true haute café culture variety, where the meals are substantial in both mass and quality, and reflected in the price. The Shore Bar & Restaurant on the waterfront in Leith has appeared in the Which? Food Guide every year since 1992. They are also winners of The Scottish Chef Award 2004 for Casual Dining. The Shore serves a variety of Scottish seafood and game dishes with some vegetarian options and this pleasant and cosy bar/restaurant with its wood panelling, huge mirrors and real fires provides live fiddle-filled entertainment for folk lovers 3 nights a week, and Latin Jazz on Tuesdays and Saturdays. A heated terrace that sits picturesquely overlooking the lapping water's edge of Leith harbour is utilised in the summer months. Tower is quite expectantly positioned right at the top of a high place -- the city museum in fact -- offering another one of those arguably finest views in Edinburgh, An award-winning restaurant, part of the prestigious Witchery Group, the cuisine is modern Scottish seafood and game dishes, with the grill providing the Tower's signature Aberdeen Angus -- "always hung for 21 days" served with potato scone and Portobello mushrooms. It is a venue that many high flyers and celebrities seem to frequent, often launching a film or other here in this fitting space. You can actually get a lunch for under a tenner, so good value it is for the reputation.
Reform is a family run and highly acclaimed restaurant on the Royal Mile serving modern pan-Pacific cuisine at really very good value for money. Off The Wall is a modern European and Scottish mix that provides particularly good value for money dining in comfortable surroundings. It has a reputation on an international status, so one to watch out for, and easily found on the Royal Mile. The Dome houses in splendid form a restaurant serving Scottish and French cuisine of the grill variety at perhaps prices that reflect the building's former incarnation -- a bank. Calistoga is a rare thing, offering Californian cuisine, as distinct from American. Opened in 2004, it's a real nice little find. Don't let the quirky facade put you off, its all about quality and service here. For the view and its modern chic, you have to visit Harvey Nichols' Fourth Floor restaurant which will have you peering down on the ancient town while eating your thoroughly modern dishes, whether that be from inside the thoroughly modern, light and airy restaurant itself or out on the wrap-around balcony. What a treat. They have a formal restaurant and a more informal brasserie, plus bar. Ideal for exotic shoppers. David Lamb is a fairly new venture and a most welcome one to the Edinburgh gastro scene. This is a quality vegetarian restaurant, simply decked out, unfussy and quality throughout. Just down the hill from Pleasance, so ideally placed for all those August theatre-goers of a hungry disposition, come the fest season.
Glasgow can put up its fair share of juicy, quality, gastro experiences that live up to the city's recent past accolade of European City Of Culture. What better way to start than by going back in time to 1930s Glasgow and the fancy, stylish art deco of the period that is authentically preserved in reputedly Glasgow's oldest surviving restaurant -- the elegant and much vaunted Rogano (pictured above). This fish and seafood stalwart celebrated its 70th birthday in 2005, and what better way to commemorate the celebrity status this Glasgow institution has than with a welcome refurbishment. The stucco relief on its walls is being carefully restored, the gold leaf is being reapplied and the lavish marquetry inlaid varnished wood panels are being loving cleaned. The name is said to have come from an amalgamation of the original owners' names - Roger and Anderson -- who set up their original sherry bodega towards the end of the 19th century, for the men of the nearby stock exchange. Apart from the main restaurant, there is private dining and a café and oyster bar, and the outside terrace is used in the summer. Being in theatreland, the walls around Café Rogano downstairs are lined with old black-and-white photographs of actors and other celebrities, with a few famous quotes to view while you quaff your cwoffee or champagne. Here in the café you'll find lighter dishes on the menu, together with vegetarian options. The cocktail cum oyster bar serves sandwiches and the obligatory oysters and seafood throughout the day. Their 100+ wine list is predominantly white, but is extensive. They even have a couple of Lebanese numbers. The cuisine is essentially classic French, and having got 70 years under their belt to get this right, the menu does read like manna from heaven. Head Chef Andrew Cumming has been here nigh on 20 years of that time, and is particularly well versed in serving up chilled assiette of shellfish (for two), lemon sole grilled or meuniere, and their lobster thermidor. Their traditional and ever-so-polite service they do finely dressed, and with aplomb. Rogano is unique, and was always 'the' place to be seen. Certainly it has got to be one of the best restaurants you are going to find in Scotland, and is a lovely step back in time.
48 West Regent St Bistro offers exceptional value for money in a chic basement venue. One of its sister restaurants is Bouzy Rouge, which provides some marvellous combinations of traditional and modern Scottish fayre. It's run by a husband-and-wife team, ably assisted by some good and talented staff. Talented because aside from the arty wood and wrought iron furniture, this place is full of staff-made artwork adorning the walls, oh, and don't forget to notice the crazy mosaic floor. The menu covers char-grill, vegetarian, casual and gourmet. Bouzy Seafood & Grill is perhaps the best looking out of the group, due to it's superb listed tile decoration. People come here just to gawp. Rococo is yet another fine emblem to this group's culinary assets, set in stylish and modern space. Iit offers intimacy, especially out at the back where you ascend some steps to a tiny planted patio that is a little wonderland at night with its fairy lights. The service is exemplary and switched on here in contrast to some cool, laid back music.
78 St Vincent St. is smart, elegant but comfortable and relaxed, with a vibrant atmosphere, ideal for those long business lunches - they also have a comfortable lounge area. This award winning restaurant also has two very stylish private dining rooms. You can even get breakfast here. Dragon-I is a smart, chic place on the southern side of town with beautiful, friendly and efficient service. It's that qualitative Japanese thing that presides here. Camerons is a fine diner in a serious league, thick on atmosphere and seriously good food of the modern Scottish variety. Tiger Tiger is smart and sassy. No. Sixteen is located just minutes from SECC -- the national venue for public events in Scotland -- and is well worth the visit for its award-winning cuisine. Lux Restaurant offers secluded dining in a converted Victorian detached house set in its own gardens for that modern European touch.
Brian Maule was Head Chef at the Michelin-rated Le Gavroche, in London and has now opened his own restaurant in the growing culinary heart of Glasgow -- high on West Regent St. His experience with the Roux brothers counts for much, and it will come as no surprise then that the cuisine is French/Scottish, in the modern style. The atmosphere is serious when you walk in here, greeted by the haughty but exceptionally well mannered French maitre'D. A place to reckon with. La Partenope is another venue not to be missed -- Italian, rustic dishes, supremely well cooked and served with a whole lot of heart and care. This is primarily Neopolitan cuisine that is perhaps a lesson in how food should be prepared and presented, with some great Latin wines which all put together won't have you wandering out to that cash machine for more than you expected. The Head Chef and Owner, Sandro Giovanizzi is enthusiastic and very knowledgeable about both Italian cooking and the Scottish hunting season. Reputedly the foremost Italian restaurant in the whole of Scotland.
Read More Features: Atrium (2005) | Eating Out In Glasgow And Edinburgh (2005)