Scotsman Review
Our criteria 
  • Ambience - It's important that a restaurant is inviting. We rate the decor, comfort and atmosphere.
  • Drink - Is the wine or cocktail list as exciting as the food, or does it fall short? Same goes for soft drinks. 
  • Food - We judge dishes on flavour, but also use of produce, cooking skill and presentation
  • Service - The staff and pace of a meal can make or break a meal out.
  • Value - From the food on the plate to service and surroundings, we check that you get what you're paying for.
June 3, 2023

Alby's, Edinburgh, review - the best sandwich shop in the Capital opens a second branch

The pieces are still head-sized on the Southside

Japan has the sando, Vietnam the bánh mi, New Orleans invented the po’ boy, Pret a Manger does the jambon beurre and supermarkets have given us the soggy egg triangle.

There’s a billion interpretations of the sannie across the globe.

In Scotland, there’s the piece, which must never be thrown out of a twenty storey flat, presumably because the pan loaf is so stale that a crust might take someone’s eye out.

Over in Edinburgh, we have Alby’s.

Its owners, Matt Belcher and Natasha Ferguson, invented arguably the best sandwich in the city back in 2019, and opened a shop, named after their wire-haired dachshund.

It is a wonderful place, and all the hungry weans, me included, can testify to that.

The only thing I didn’t like about their original branch, with its retro Seventies decor, is that it’s way down on Portland Street, near Ocean Terminal.

Not my postcode.

Thus, there was much excitement when I heard that they’d be opening on the Southside, just a few doors along from Cult Espresso and Snax.

However, it wasn’t quite as near my gaff as I thought. Cue a very long walk. We rocked up, all sweaty in our jumpsuit pits, like Anneka Rice post challenge, with plummeting blood sugar, and stumbled to the front of the queue.

The Spanish Butcher, Glasgow, review - meat feast in atmospheric city centre restaurant

We could’ve taken our spoils out to the Meadows, where there are semi-grotty public toilets. Unlike the other outlet, there’s no cludgies at this Alby’s for small-bladdered diners like us.

Instead, we commandeered one of their red tables, though there are also window seats, and shared an Old Jamaica Ginger Beer (£2.50) while enjoying the view of all the merch. It’s displayed on up-cycled sideboards and includes caps that have “oozy melty crunchy tangy” written on them and mugs with the legend “sangers as big as your head”, as well as other stuff.

I mostly wanted the erotic-looking teapot, covered in thong-clad Chippendales, but I don’t think it was for sale.

Our first sannie to arrive, wrapped in greaseproof paper, was the fried chicken Caesar (£12.50).

It featured two slabs of their signature Bakery Andante focaccia, each salt-sprinkled door stopper as thick as a copy of Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life. The contents included hot and knobbly buttermilk fried chicken thigh; rich and slick garlic and bacon butter, plus Caesar mayo, gherkins and strips of Cos lettuce. Hail sandwich!

Duthchas, Edinburgh, review - the new Leith restaurant from the Purslane team

This was a compilation of the perfect flavours and textures to make a satisfying piece. There was just no way to eat it and look pretty. I had mayo up near my nostril, and crumbs in my beard. We’d been given napkins, but had to ask for more. 

Luckily, it's been a long time since my dining partner and I had our first date.

We could’ve had the hispi cabbage or sardine melt options, but, for our second sandwich, we’d also gone for the halloumi (£11.50). It was filled with a half dozen battered fingers of the billed ingredient, as well as a smoky slick of baba ganoush and tangy-with-a-bite fermented chilli yoghurt, plus a handful of pomegranate seeds, tiny matchstick chips and a hedge of rocket.

We didn’t really need any sides, but we’ve had the prawn toast (£6) at the other venue, and it’s hard to resist. This time, there were five isosceles of chive and sesame seed dusted and hoisin-splurged deep-fried crunchiness, with golden crusts that glistened with oil.

And we went for a portion of chips (£3.50) - skinny ones, which come dusted in salt and Italian seasoning.

33 Ashton Lane, Glasgow, review - Irish tapas in stylish new restaurant in the west end

We didn’t eat all of this feast, so they had to give us a paper doggy bag, with the sandwich logo on the side. This is when I admit that I’ve never eaten a whole Alby’s in one sitting. Sometimes I take my own plastic containers in anticipation. This time, we swaddled our remains in napkins and took them home for dinner.

To power the uphill schlep home, we left with an excellent flat white (£3) and an even better mocha (£3.50) made with chocolate from Glasgow business Bare Bones.

I’m very happy that Edinburgh’s best sandwich shop is very slightly closer to me.

It’ll be my regular lunch stop, and I’m such a big fan that I’d be happy to wear a cap. (Or use that sexy teapot, if they ever decide to sell it to me).

94 Buccleuch Street



Chicken sandwich

Gaby Soutar is a lifestyle editor at The Scotsman. She has been reviewing restaurants for The Scotsman Magazine since 2007 and edits the weekly food pages.
Copyright ©2024 National World Publishing Ltd
Cookie SettingsTerms and ConditionsPrivacy Policy
crosschevron-down linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram