Housed in a beautiful old Georgian building, 21212 is one of Edinburgh’s most exciting new restaurants, and was opened in 2009 by Michelin-starred chef Paul Kitching. It gets its name from the fact that dinner in the intimate dining room is a tasting menu with a choice of two starters, then one soup, then two main courses, then one cheese plate, then two desserts. The menu changes practically daily depending on what fresh foods Chef Kitching gets in that day, and recent dishes have included starters like a pink trout and creamy gruyere risotto with cherry tomatoes, button mushrooms, squash, globe artichokes, peanuts and baby figs in a saffron-chive oil with shellfish bisque and tarragon; and a late summer trifle with red berries, peaches, bananas, vanilla sponge, praline, malted milk, cinnamon sauce and Bristol Cream sherry syrup for dessert. The food is complex but accessible, and utterly memorable. Diners can even make a whole evening out of it by staying the night in one of the four guest rooms upstairs.
3 Royal Terrace, Edinburgh EH7 5AB, U.K., +44 (0) 845 222 1212
The Grain Store
The Grain Store has been an Edinburgh landmark for nigh on 20 years now due to its historical, romantic setting of candlelit, vaulted stone ceilings and cozy little alcoves. It's located right off George IV Bridge on Victoria Street as it winds down to the Grassmarket, and the menu there uses the finest Scottish produce in gourmet arrangements like lobster cocktail with slow-cooked tomato, bacon-wrapped venison terrine, wild sea bass with purple broccoli, samphire and chorizo; and panna cotta with rhubarb, strawberry and wild honeycomb.
30 Victoria St., Edinburgh EH1 2JW, U.K., +44 (0)131 225 7635
Oloroso has the best views in town thanks to its location on the fourth floor of a building in New Town, with perfect vistas of Edinburgh Castle—especially for the fireworks at Hogamanay. Chef Tony Singh, an Edinburgh native of Sikh descent, has created a menu that is a delectable blend of Indian and Scottish cuisines. Try the homemade sherry-smoked salmon with brown bread, capers and lemon to start. The lamb confit “stovies” with potatoes and jus; the curry of the day with rice, poppadoms, raita and chutney; or one of the cuts from the menu of premium Scottish beef make for a hearty main, though be sure to save room for the sticky pudding with nuts, dried fruit over custard for dessert.
33 Castle Street, Edinburgh EH2 3DN, U.K., +44 (0)131 226 7614
Ondine, which is right off the Royal Mile in the same building as the Hotel Missoni, is all about seafood. That’s clear even from the name, which is that of a mythological sea sprite. Chef Roy Brett’s menu is a what’s what of fresh local, sustainable Scottish fish and seafood — a major cause Chef Brett supports — and has a beautiful raw bar displaying the best bounty of the northern waters. There is also a horseshoe-shaped main bar where folks pull up stools to enjoy small plates and a glass of wine. The sophisticated menu includes starters such as local oysters on the half-shell; a dressed brown crab salad with walnut toast; and classic lobster thermidor. Fish rule the main course selection, including whole-grilled lemon sole with brown shrimp and capers. No wonder it won the Scottish Restaurant Award for “Seafood Restaurant of the Year.”
2 George IV Bridge, Edinburgh EH1 1AD, U.K., +44 (0)131 226 1888
Wedgwood the Restaurant
Forget local, seasonal cuisine. Chef Paul Wedgwood takes it a step further by going out foraging for some of his menu items, using wild ingredients in many of his dishes, including an ever-changing “Foraged Salad.” The eponymous restaurant he started with his wife Lisa, right on the Royal Mile, has won a plethora of awards, but that doesn’t mean he’s gotten comfortable. His menu is still a whirlwind of remarkable dishes like diver-caught king scallops with parmesan crisps and smoked salmon in a Dijon-anchovy dressing; sole stuffed with spinach and goat cheese with fried chorizo and broccoli puree, drizzled with smoked paprika oil; and wild Scottish deer tenderloin and venison haggis with leeks, mushrooms, beetroot and basil pesto in truffled jus; and triple chocolate brownie with candied fennel, aniseed and orange, and hazelnuts with a sweet cicely sorbet. You can’t forage that for yourself.
267 Canongate, Royal Mile, Edinburgh EH8 8BQ, U.K., +44 (0)131 558 8738
Best of the Rest
We also wanted to mention a couple of places we didn’t quite have time to make it to while in Edinburgh — hey give us a break, we can only eat so much! The first two are owned by the same Michelin-starred chef: Tom Kitchin. His first restaurant, called The Kitchin, is actually in Edinburgh’s gritty port district of Leith — but that didn’t stop it from garnering a Michelin star. Kitchin opened his second restaurant just this past July right next to Edinburgh Castle, and in keeping with his method of obvious naming, called it Castle Terrace, just in case you can’t make it out to Leith. For a dinner that’s equal parts spooky, romantic and gourmet, try the famous Witchery, also near the Castle.
Eric Rosen was a guest of Visit Scotland but all opinions expressed are entirely his own.