I guess some skeptics among you might have read the title of this article and thought this would be a pamphlet. After all, the British are not particularly well known for their exquisite cuisine. True, but a real foodie will always find some yummy dishes, no matter the damp and rainy country she ends up in. So be ready to be immersed into the food universe I experience during my short weekend stay in Edinurgh. Read about the food I loved, but also the ones that were meh and the places I wouldn´t necessarily try again.
But first, some basics about Scottish cuisine. Scottish cuisine not only shares some common denominators with the English cuisine (*cough, cough* English breakfast is pretty much the same as the Scottish one), but in more modern times (looking at the modern Mary, Queen of Scots) has had quite some influences from Western cuisine, as well as the Middle East and countries such as India or Pakistan. At its very origin though, Scottish food has always been simple, without an abundance of spices, nourishing and long-lasting. The Scots are big on fish, (and no, I don´t just mean fish and chips), seafood, game, but also veggies and fruits. Oh, and they love their porridge, something I´m afraid I won´t be going into in this article, as I personally despise it. Now let´s look into the things I actually enjoyed…
The simplest and most delicious form of breakfast anywhere in the UK must be scones. Whether you´re taking them plain, with fruits, or my personal favourite – with cheese and chives, it doesn´t matter as long as you enjoy them from Mimi´s Bakehouse. Mimi´s has been recommended to me by a friend and fellow blogger (check her out at Olá Daniela), and man was it good. The place is absolutely packed on weekends so make sure to book a table in advance (they´re a chain and there´s a couple of them in Edinburgh), unless you wanna end up eating your scone and sipping your tea by the Leigh Water. You can ask for butter and jam, get a nice tea next to them, and be sure that one of their huge scones will be a hearty breakfast.
If you feel a lone scone won´t do, I´ll suggest a Scottish breakfast (which is essentially an English breakfast but might contain haggis). A hefty dish of sausage, baked beans, fried eggs, black pudding, mushrooms, tomatoes and bacon will essentially knock you down for an hour or so, but once you get up you´ll have enough fuel to last you until dinner. If this is too much for you, just get some poached eggs with smoked salmon (smoked salmon is actually quite typical in Scotland and should always be fresh!). We had our breakfast at Word of Mouth, but I can´t say I was blown away. A cool place for breakfast that I didn´t get to check out though would be The Edinburgh Larder. So maybe check out that one instead!
Since we´re talking about food in the UK I´ll just skip lunch and give you the afternoon tea in exchange. An afternoon tea where no tea at all was served, to be specific. After looking at what felt like a million options, we shortlisted our favourites: afternoon tea at the Signet Library, afternoon tea at the Holyrood Castle, afternoon tea at Harvey Nichols or at The Dome. One hour later, we were actually booking the afternoon tea at Tigerlily. While not our top choice, Tigerlily did seem to be a super animated boutique hotel and popular nighttime spot and we absolutely loved their food and cocktails. The price per person for a cocktail afternoon tea was £25 and we found that super decent compared to our other options. We got toast sandwiches, scones, éclairs, cupcakes, lime tarts, brownies and more, and were absolutely stuffed two hours later. If you go, please try the Momo cocktail – it´s divine!
WHAT´S FOR DINNER?
I hope you won´t be surprised when I tell you fish&chips was for dinner on day one. It´s a simple dish, not much to screw up there, and I really like the way the Brits do it. Now I was not super impressed by it at George IV Bar, where we had it, but I have to say their haggis were a-ma-zing. Even my friend who´s been living in Edinburgh for quite some years, and always thought she preferred vegetarian haggis, admitted these were amazing. It is said haggis might have been brought over by the Norse, and they came in the shape of lower quality meat carried in a sheep or pig´s stomach. Now as unattractive as that sounds, I promise they can be really delicious. So give them a try. And make it at George IV, with a glass of Edinburgh rhubarb and ginger gin. A dish I did not find as yummy, but very beloved by Scots and all Brits, are pickled eggs. More like vinegar in the shape of an egg. Nope. It´s just a big nope from my side. Speaking of pickles, but this time in the best sense possible, day two brought us for dinner at Pickles, a super cozy little wine and cheese bar in Leigh. We took a cheese platter to share, and it was plenty. We tried great wine, listened to good music, and just warmed up to the degree of never wanting to leave again. Definitely recommended.
Some food recommendations for lunch and dinner that I didn´t try but thoroughly regret: pulled pork sandwiches at Oink on Victoria´s Street, cheese and deli food at IJ Mellis and cheap Thai food at Ting Thai. All recommendations courtesy of aforementioned Olá Daniela.
TIME FOR A DRINK
Let it be known that I am not a beer person, but even I had to have a pint at Biddy Mulligans. I just won´t go into recommending you any particular beers cause that´s just not my thing. I would recommend you try an Irish Coffee Martini though. And gin, lots of gin. It seems the Scottish are big on gin and make a pretty fantastic one. My personal favourite was their Edinburgh Gin with Rhubarb and Ginger. I even took one home with me. My second favourite was a Japanese gin called Roku. It might not be local, but I assure you it was damn good. A thing to mention here though is that the Scottish use small measures in their drinks so if you´re used to a normal cocktail in Portugal or Germany let´s say, you´ll want to ask for a double of gin. And then a second glass. And a third…
If you´re not big on alcoholic drinks though, just play it safe and go for their teas. Even if you´re not a fan of the English Breakfast tea, or their Earl Grey, you´ll be surprised to see they serve other popular flavours like fruit, camomile or mint absolutely everywhere. And if you want to take some tea home with you, I thoroughly recommend Whittard´s. I always stock up on their tea and hot chocolate when I´m in the UK. You can find them on Princes Street.
Finally, as per usual, here are some more dishes I didn´t try while in Edinburgh, but about which I am really curious: cullen skink, tatties and herring, solan goose, cranachan, and as crazy as it sounds the Scottish deep fried Mars bar (which sounds absolutely atrocious and yet it makes me sooooo curious!).