A Weekend in Edinburgh

Despite having Scottish heritage I’ve never been north of the border, so with the promise of good food, free accommodation and an enthusiastic guide I hopped on a plane to Edinburgh.
Scottish food has had some terrible press over the years – most people would struggle to get past haggis and deep fried mars bars. But this is a little unfair – Scotland has a wealth of fantastic ingredients: grouse, partridge, wild salmon, fresh shellfish and incredible beef. Top chefs like Tom Kitchin and Martin Wishart are reclaiming Scottish heritage and producing food that presents a local twist on Nouvelle Cuisine. Yum.
My goal over the weekend was to try a little of everything and I think I certainly managed it!

The Arcade
Located on Cockburn street (comically near to Fleshmarket Close) this very affordable little café/bistro is pretty representative of a nice tourist dive. Friendly staff serve hearty food washed down with reasonably priced whisky and wine. What’s not to like?

Starter – Smoked Salmon

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The salmon was obviously wild (just look how lean it is!) and richly flavoured. Deeply smoked with lovely fruit and spice notes I practically inhaled it. Fennel, salmon and balsamic is an interesting combination, but it certainly worked!

Main – Haggis, Neeps and Tatties

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I know it’s cliché, but it had to be done at least once. Haggis is gaining massively in popularity and is popping up on lots of menus – I’ve eaten it in Henley and even served it myself at a dinner party. Here’s it’s served in a neat stack with the traditional swede and potatoes. I prefer to interpret the ‘neeps’ as roast parnsips – to add a bit of textural contrast – but this rendition is lovely and the whisky cream sauce is a keeper!

Arcade on Urbanspoon

The Witchery

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This was a bit of a treat – The Witchery is one of the nicest restaurants in Edinburgh and has a great reputation. Situated off a little alleyway, just beside the castle it serves fantastic food in a wonderfully quirky ‘secret garden’ dining room – it’s very popular with celebrities. It serves a very reasonable lunch menu £30 for three courses and is well worth a visit.

Starter – Roast Partridge with ‘Scotch’ quails egg and black pudding.

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The partridge was lovely and the miniature black pudding delicious, but the real start was the quails egg. I like my yolks runny – but the sausage meat around the outside was incredible. Laden with mace and cinnamon it worked beautifully with the game.

Main – Ayrshire beef cheek on a spelt risotto with a burnt onion mayonnaise and kale.

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The beef cheek was fall apart tender and the spelt risotto perfectly cooked (I am definitely borrowing this for a dinner party). The kale was tasty – though I’d happily swap if for spinach. A lovely dish and perfect for a brisk November lunch.

Dessert – Marmalade Brulee

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A perfectly cooked vanilla brulee with a lovely layer of marmalade on the base – it’s a great combo and I’d love to try it myself. Some orange liqueur would help cut some of the richness too.

The Witchery By the Castle on Urbanspoon

Maxies
Saturday night is busy in Edinburgh. As we discovered – if you haven’t booked you’re out of luck. After traipsing round the streets for a while we headed for this cosy little place just off Grassmarket. Blessedly quiet it serves simple Scottish food and a great selection of wines.

Starter – Oysters

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Scottish seafood is excellent and these oysters were no different. I think my favourites still come from California, but these rank among the best I’ve had in the UK.

Main – Ribeye and Crevettes

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I like steak – and Scotland is certainly known for its Aberdeen Angus (which is completely meaningless is North America). This was perfectly cooked in a lovely whisky cream sauce with two enormous prawns all nestled majestically upon a bed of garlic mash.

Dessert – Apple Pie

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I also have a real thing for Apple pies – this frankly intimidating slab was delicious. Good pastry, nice filling and plenty of cream.

Maxies Bistro on Urbanspoon

Breakfast – World’s End Pub
In need of something substantial – this is a traditional fry-up with the addition of Haggis – a definite plus in the morning.

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Lunch – The Stand

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Now I’ll be honest – The Stand is a comedy club. The improv I saw was fantastic but the show was almost stolen by the nachos. Bought as a quick snack they were utterly phenomenal – the chilli wasn’t made with mince, but big tender chunks of beef in a rich, savoury sauce. We polished off a plate and immediately ordered a second. Beefy heaven!

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