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The best Scottish restaurants of 2021, according to The Scotsman reviews

It’s been a strange year, but we still managed to squeeze in some excellent meals

Published: November 30, 2021
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Another year, another 52 restaurants.

Although 2021 started slowly, with takeaways, the dining out began in earnest just before summer, as restrictions eased.

We made up for lost time and quickly racked up a few of our best ever meals out, see below. Also worth a mention are Edinburgh’s Superico, and Creel Caught (specifically the Arbroath Smokie and chips) at the new Bonnie & Wild food hall at St James Quarter, plus Dean Banks at The Pompadour and Salt cafe.

THE PALMERSTON

(1 Palmerston Place, Edinburgh (0131 220 1794)

We were extremely hyped about the launch of this restaurant, owned by Lloyd Morse and James Snowdon, and it didn’t disappoint. Not only is the food excellent, but so are their cocktails and baked goods, made in house, and including sourdough loaves and Danish pastries.

Score: 18/20

What they’re serving now: Barely a day goes by without us salivating over whatever is being posted to this restaurant’s Instagram account @the_palmerston. Recent menu additions include porchetta and slow cooked fennel or Tamworth and pigeon terrine, cavatelli and hare ragu.

SEN

(41 West Nicolson Street, Edinburgh (0131 374 4120)

A visit to this place, owned by first time restaurateur, Tam Thi Tran, was our first post lockdown sit-in meal, so it’s particularly memorable.

We loved the lantern duck curry, tamarind tofu and grilled prawn mousse on sugarcane, all eaten in a beautiful space hung with yellow lanterns.

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Score: 17/20

What they’re serving now: The menu is happily the same but they’ve extended their opening hours over Christmas and will be serving from December 1-31, apart from Christmas and Boxing Day.

Sen interior

THE GRANDTULLY HOTEL BY BALLINTAGGART 

(01887 447 000, www.ballintaggart.com)

We were rather waylaid when it came to visiting this place, which opened in 2018, though we’re so happy to have made the trip.

It was lovely to sit outside on the terrace, though we imagine it’s equally pleasant indoors, in their restaurant or bar, The Tully, in the colder months.

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Highlights were salted and pepper squid and negroni-cured Gigha halibut, as well as all the ready-mixed cocktails and granola that we took away from their tempting little shop.

Score: 18/20

What they’re serving now: Their sister business, Ballintaggart Farm, has revived its Feast Nights, with the next on December 9 2021. They’re also hosting a Burns Supper with Dewar’s Aberfeldy on January 21 2022. Tickets £55pp for either event.

HERON

(87-91a Henderson Street, Edinburgh (0131 554 1242)

Back in August, we visited a new restaurant, Heron, which is owned by twenty-something cooking wunderkinds, Tomas Gormley and Sam Yorke, who have experience at Restaurant Andrew Fairlie and other top venues.

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It has a prime spot in the former premises of The Raj, and overlooks the Shore.

Their menu of beautiful and vibrant dishes totally won us over. We still remember every bite.

Heron's tomato dish

Score: 18/20

What they’re serving now: They’ve just launched a new snacks menu, which you can have for lunch, dinner or at the bar alongside a glass of Champagne. It includes hand-picked Belhaven crab claw, cucumber and fermented radish or Cumbrae oyster, ponzu, cucumber and wasabi. There’s also a new crispy ox tongue crumpet on the main food list.

SYLVAN

(20 Woodlands Road, Glasgow (0141 332 9310)

We’re still thinking about the smoked tomatoes we ate at this new vegetarian/vegan restaurant, which doubles as a natural wine shop.

Then there were the soft flatbreads and chunky baba ganoush. We didn’t miss meat one iota.

Score: 17/20

What they’re serving now: They’ve just launched a brunch service on weekends from 10am. We’re also hoping to see a return of the pears and fried bread with Lanark Blue cheese custard.

HATCH

(129 South Street, St Andrews (01334 475 557)

Lots of small plates and cocktails are served at this place’s high tables.

We scoffed the beautiful looking miso-cured salmon, Atlantic sole with samphire and brown shrimp, and washed it all down with a minty bellini smash.

We also stayed for a dessert of chocolate and brown butter ganache, since Fisher & Donaldson were sold out of fudge doughnuts.

Score: 16/20

What they’re serving now: We’re intrigued by their take on scampi, with kataifa pastry, preserved lemon, endive and bloody Mary ketchup, as well as the ox cheek with truffle, celeriac, wild rice, chestnut mushroom and pickled shallots.

TACO LIBRE

(3 Shandwick Place, Edinburgh (07946 800 560)

We paid this tiny restaurant a visit back in July and were blown away by their tacos, margaritas, quesadillas and sopes.

Their manifesto is “tacos as they should be - owned by Mexican, cooked by Mexicans”.

Back then, you could sit outside, though it might be a bit chilly now, so get an inside table booked tout suite.

Score: 16/20

What they’re serving now: The menu is the same, so you can try the fish baja or cochinita pibil tacos with pork shoulder, orange and achiote. The perfect antidote to beige winter food.

THE BAY FISH & CHIPS

(Beach Road, Stonehaven (01569 762000)

One of the most memorable moments of 2021 was eating hand-dived scallops from The Ethical Shellfish Company in the car, after we’d visited this fab fish and chip shop.

There was also a white pudding supper and seafood platter, all eaten while the seagulls stared through the windscreen. Roll on another visit in 2022.

Score: 16/20

What they’re serving now: They’re still open from 12-8pm for all your chippy needs.

Salt's egg and asparagus

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.

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