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Edinburgh, Scotland


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It's not exactly a hole in the wall, but The Witchery in Edinburgh is nice - great location (next to Edinburgh Castle), historic building, good food, and not wildly expensive. It doesn't appear to be on the menu at the moment, but their cullen skink (smoked haddock chowder, no reptiles or amphibians involved) was a thing of beauty.

Smaller but still good is Jackson's - it used to be a true hole in the wall with about 8 tables, but they've moved to slightly bigger space since the first time I was there. It's also on the Royal Mile, about halfway between the castle and Holyrood House (and not far from an outpost of Cadenheads whisky bottlers, 172 Canongate.) Like a lot of places, Jackson's does a very reasonably priced set lunch, which is a good chance to try the food without spending an arm and a leg.

As far as pub grub, Rose Street, home of many, many pubs, is a good bet - you can get everything from a ploughman's lunch or shepherd's pie to pizza to Thai food.

In Dublin, Bewley's was generally my go-to lunch stop, but they seem to have redone it so that there are multiple restaurants inside, so I can't speak to the food. Good coffee and tea in a gorgeous building, though, and worth a visit just for the people-watching in Grafton Street. Dublin's changed so much since I lived there that it's hard to know what's still there and what's sprung up in the meantime - hopefully someone with more recent experience will chime in.

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Going to Edinburgh and Dublin for vacation in August.

Any places that I shouldn't miss? looking more for hole in the wall type places with good food as opposed to 5 star dining experiences.

In Edinburgh, try The Reform. Even though it's on the Royal Mile, it's actually at the least-traveled end of that road so it's somewhat off the beaten path. Really innovative, light cooking -- no heavy cream sauces here! I would put it somewhere in the same category as Komi, if one needed a reference point. Definitely worth a visit.

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We're going to Scotland for 10 days at the end of June (Edinburgh, Inverness, Portree, St. Andrews) and are attempting to eat as inexpensively as possible. Any thoughts on cheap eats around the country?

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Oooh. I was all excited to share our find in Edinburgh, but it's definitely not cheap eats...

In my experience, pubs can have wonderful food, and pubs can have awful food -- it's worth looking for pubs with a number of people noshing rather than taking a shot in the dark (though my pub experiences have never been regretfully bad). Indian is v. popular and v. good in the north of England, so perhaps it's spread even farther north? You could always ask on the Fodor's forum -- they get a fair number of folks who live there who are happy to pitch in on such queries.

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We just returned from 10 days in Scotland, including 5 in Edinburgh. Our general impression of dining in Scotland was very positive, and I think that we would be happy to dine again at any of the places outlined below.

We had dinner one night at Stac Polly (the one on Dublin St.) and were quite impressed--the menu was Scottish and interesting--my appetizer was haggis wrapped in a pastry dough, served with a red wine sauce. It was delicious, and a nice easy introduction to haggis for the uninitiated. My entree was a roasted sea bream with spring vegetables. All were perfectly cooked, and the sea bream was flavorful and exactly what I was looking for.

We stayed at the Balmoral, so we had dinner one night in Hadrian's (the more relaxed dining room) and one night in Number One, the 1-Michelin starred basement restaurant at the Balmoral. Both meals were very good, with my late night dinner at Hadrian's composed of cullen skink (a smoked herring cream soup, really excellent) and eggs benedict. At Number One, our meal was four or five courses, and very solid, well prepared. I can't remember all of the courses at this point--blame it on the whiskey and the wine. While Number One certainly has more acclaim, I wouldn't hesitate to return to Hadrian's.

We had dinner one night at Rhubarb, the restaurant in the Prestonfield House, a short drive from the city centre. While it also has been well reviewed, our meal left us a bit unimpressed. The spring pea and mint soup was a great way to begin the evening, but the lamb chops were (in my opinion) overcooked and uninspired. It's an interesting place to walk around, with strangely furnished rooms and an over the top appearance. It may have been a slightly off night in the kitchen, and nothing was bad, it just didn't live up to our expectations.

Finally, we had a simple pub dinner one night at the Advocate, just off of Hunter Square/the Royal Mile. Its one of the Wetherspoon franchise pubs, and the food was just fine, washed down nicely with a Caledonian 80 and a Deuchars IPA.

Breakfast most mornings was the full Scottish deal, with eggs, bacon, black pudding, potato farls, sausages, etc. Wow, the Scots know how to do breakfast. Of course, this didn't leave much space for lunches...

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Bumping because I've just booked a week in Edinburgh at New Year's, which will involve a family reunion of sorts, including a wedding, an introduction to a new baby, and crucially (for the purposes of this thread) a 40th wedding anniversary for which I have (joint) hosting responsibilities.

Question: Does anyone have experience with party food from Marks & Spencer? We have an apartment rental to host the party and I was thinking of M&S for the food, since it's easy to order advance online. Or other suggestions?

Also, any general recent restaurant recommendations much appreciated!

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Highlights of our recent trip to Edinburgh—we were there for Hogmanay (that’s New Year’s Eve to the uninitiated) and a family wedding. We were staying in a rented apartment just under the castle, so most of our dining trips were centered around the Royal Mile, the grassmarket, and Princes Street. Notes below are in order that we visted them because that’s the easiest way for me to remember them all! I’ll also mention that a lot of these restaurants don’t have websites, but I’ve hyperlinked the ones that do.

We came in on a redeye and started our day with a long nap and then a late lunch at the Deacon’s House Cafe (304 Lawnmarket, at the corner of Bank Street). This is a tearoom where you sit at a table but order from the counter, which is downstairs. At 3pm, the wait in line to order was excrutiatingly long—around 25 minutes. The cafe offers fairly plain pre-prepared sandwiches (in general, sandwiches in the UK are not served with the kinds of standard additions like lettuce, tomato, mustard, mayo, that one might find in the US). A smoked salmon sandwich on brown bread and a decent cup of coffee served the purpose of fueling the body and marginally conquering the jetlag, but the service issues left us feeling out of sorts and not on the whole impressed.

Dinner that evening was at The Outsider (15 George IV Bridge). Would definitely recommend this to folks visiting Edinburgh. The menu has a very modern sensibility but also incorporates traditional Scottish foods, and is heavy on fish dishes. I had a cod dish served in a creamy leek broth—my major critique of this dish is that it’s not quite sure if it’s a soup or not, and needs either to transform into a thicker sauce or to be served letting the soup be a soup, with bread or some other soup-sopping instrumentality on the plate. I also had a fennel and orange salad as I was sharing my main with a child (and there is no kids menu here). Dessert was a chocolate mousse pave with molasses ice cream, and the dessert menu in general had the same creative impetus as the savories—a heavy regional influence on modern trends. The menu also carries a large selection of whiskies at extremely reasonable prices. (Extremely. Lagavulin 16 for about $6 a serve.)

For lunch the next day, we wandered into the Grassmarket, in search of a pub lunch. We unfortunately ran into a difficulty with Scottish licensing laws that was to plague is throughout our visit; namely that there are many many establishments which are not permitted to serve children under 14. After our 3 year old saw us 86’d from a lovely spot at a wide oak table by a fire, we were directed to The Black Bull (12 Grassmarket), which does allow young children and also has a kids’ menu. This pub offers a perfectly standard Scottish pub lunch menu, executed just as one would expect, and so I had a Proustian plate of scampi and chips, which was my go-to pub lunch when we would go out with my grandparents on a Sunday afternoon.

The stand-out meal of this trip was lunch at The Scottish Cafe and Restaurant (http://www.centotre.com/thescottishcafe/lunch/) at the Scotland National Gallery. Tucked in underneath the gallery, and with outdoor seating on Princes Street Gardens (although not in January), the cafe offers traditional Scottish food, perfectly executed, and is an ideal spot for family gatherings, with a children’s menu on hand. They offer breakfast, lunch, and high tea. My starter here was a light and fluffy mackerel pate, followed by delectable and extremely lean wild duck (the menu comes with a disclaimer that game meat may contain buckshot shrapnel).

If you did not grow up in the UK, you probably don't know the sheer unadulterated joy that a knickerbocker glory can bring to a summer afternoon. My favorite version was from Nardini's (http://www.nardinis.co.uk/) in Largs, but I'm sure there are other good versions. The version served by the Scottish Cafe was not, alas, as glorious as it might have been. (Not enough layers! And needs more raspberry sauce!)

Our final restaurant meal was at La Rusticana (http://larusticanauk.com/), a straightforward red sauce Italian spot.This was a family outing with a large party, so we were more focused on the company than the food--however, they DID have a very decent knickerbocker glory, much to the delight of the youngest member of our party, who finished the evening covered in ice cream and clutching a giant lollipop tucked into his hand by a very kind waiter.

Finally--from a native Scot--some things you should try while you are in Scotland. I'm sure your guidebook mentions haggis with tatties and neeps, and cullen skink, and cranachan. But make sure you get yourself some tablet; a buttery fudge candy that crumbles in your mouth. Millionaire's shortbread is a shortbread slice covered in soft caramel with a hard chocolate shell on top. A real Scottish pie is made from ground mutton and comes in a single-serve size, with two-piece circular crust, pinched at the edges with a little hole on top. Oatcakes go well with any kind of cheese and should be more widely known outside of Scotland than they are. And if you drink soda, Irn Bru is a national institution.
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