London was a bit disappointing in terms of food. Other than the food tour we took we just weren’t wowed as much as I had hoped. However, the real culinary gems were ahead of us in Scotland and Ireland. Scotland in particular gave us an opportunity to indulge our sweet tooth, experience gourmet meals and learn that I in fact enjoy scotch whisky.
But believe me when I say that all this good food happened by a fluke. It all began with a Buzzfeed article on the best AirBnBs in Scotland. I clicked the baited link and shockingly found the perfect spot for a honeymooning couple.
Leith is the historic port in Edinburgh and is the oldest part of the city. While many tourists want to stay near the Royal Mile which is the Old Town district, we instead stayed 30-60 minutes walking from here. I fell in love with the AirBnB apartment known as Signal Tower, a 17th century windmill it was later converted to a signal tower during the Napoleonic wars. Certainly one of the best AirBnBs we’ve ever stayed in. And conveniently one of the best situated. Frankly, you can explore Edinburgh in 2 days but you’ll want to branch out from then on. Dean Village, Leith, and the entire country of Scotland awaits to be honest. But in Leith the restaurants and views of the port are lovely to wake up to.
Goodbye Leith! Although it is 2-3 miles and a 30-60 minute walk to the Royal Mile and Edinburgh Castle it is the best place to stay for the food. Each day we relaxed at a nearby top notch restaurant and sipped beer and whisky at the pub downstairs (The Shore). It didn’t hurt that we had this view in a converted signal tower from the 17th century either ?
So let’s start there. The most delicious breakfast.
Full Scottish Breakfast, The Granary in Leith
Around the corner from our apartment is The Granary, a solid choice any time of the day but we preferred its quiet atmosphere in the morning. The breakfast selection is perfect for the peckish or the hungry. I was happy to find porridge, quinoa and watermelon or simple toast and jam for those mornings when you just couldn’t stomach something hearty or fried. But to my chagrin the hearty full Scottish breakfast is the way to go. Sausage, an excellent example of black pudding, the only serving of vegetables you’ll be lucky to see all day, a sunny egg to greet you and a slice of potato scone that I still crave for. This is by far the best and well rounded breakfast we had during our entire trip. Usually you’ll find a sad excuse of black pudding to sour your stomach for the day – it happened to me in Ireland in 2013! But at the Granary they source from local butchers and get only the best.
Cheese & Charcuterie, Edinburgh
You can’t leave the UK without having some good cheese. It was hard to find a bad charcuterie board and their servings are hearty for the price. Here in the Okanagan for example we pay about $25 – $40 CAD for a meat and cheese board(s) and even then they might not be so plentiful. All over the UK we found the average price for a good charcuterie and cheese board to be about £11 – £15 or so which is about $18 – $25 CAD right now.
Café Tartine is another restaurant in the Leith area located next door to The Kitchin, a Michelin star alternative that’ll set you back a few £.
Smoked Haddock & Prawn Risotto/ Cod with Black Pudding, The Shore in Leith
One of the most memorable meals we had was at The Shore. A small restaurant of about 15 tables and an even smaller pub in the entrance; It’s a perfect romantic night out in a dark traditional Scottish pub with five star food. My husband went for the risotto to which he exclaimed was the best risotto he’s ever had! The cod here is a classic with crispy prosciutto, a slab of black pudding hidden beneath the flaky cod. The service and atmosphere are what also complete the evening with friendly staff that’ll learn your name upon your second visit. And believe me you’ll want to return for a meal or a pint at the bar.
Scottish Whisky & Yorkshire Tart, The Shore in Leith
As I said you’ll want to return to The Shore and so we did. This time for a bit of whisky tasting from their extensive and well kept menu. My favourite pairing was the Lagavulin 16 whisky with the rhubarb tart. Lagavulin is a very smoky whisky from the Islay region. Whiskies from here tend to have a fiery component – think of the smell of a bonfire on your clothes and that’s very similar to the smell you’ll have on your breath. The smoky flavour pairs perfectly with a sweet rhubarb or plum tart and vanilla bean ice cream to mellow it out.
Other than restaurants you’ll find plenty of shops to indulge your sweet tooth. Edinburgh is a heaven for fudge and chocolate lovers.
Glengoyne Whisky Distillery, Killearn Village
We came across Glengoyne Distillery, one of Scotland’s oldest whisky distilleries, during a tour with Heart of Scotland’s Wee Red Bus tours. The tour was a little too mellow for my taste but once we reached the distillery we were in good hands with Deidre, a fiery guide at the distillery who’s passion is worn on her sleeve. The distillery provides a chance to taste 2 of their whiskies, the 12 and 18 year old scotch.
It was here my husband and I learned how to properly taste whisky and enjoy it. Normally I cringe as the tepid liquor pokes and prods my tongue with alcohol sending my mouth into a heated frenzy. Instead, Deidre walked us through the sipping process and I do emphasize sipping. With our shot glasses set out on a tray we grabbed ours and sat in Glengoyne’s presentation room. A video and bar at one end of the narrow room and behind us a dock that overlooks the natural waterfall and pool that they use in the distilling process. Once the video was through we could sip our whisky. It is recommended to swirl the whisky both in your glass and around your mouth so that it opens up and reaches all your tastebuds. That familiar hot sensation from the alcohol will probably occur. Sip again and the more you sip the more the burn will lessen. You’ll then be able to taste notes of fruit, tobacco, leather and so on. If needed you can add a dribble of water to your cup in order to smooth out the intensity of the alcohol and open up the oils for a more pleasant sensation on your tongue.
Scottish Game, Café Tartine in Leith
One of the most Scottish meals I had was at Café Tartine. Situated on the port it makes for a romantic spot and a perfect alternative to neighbouring Michelin awarded The Kitchin.
It being our last night in Scotland I wanted something hearty and warm as it was nearing below zero outside. The special, a trio of Scottish smoked game caught my eye. Partridge, quail and mallard with an amazing chive gnocchi and creamed crepe mushroom sauce was the decadent meal I was looking for.
Have you ever been to Scotland?
What did you eat there?