Restaurants – even good ones – come and go. Many others stick around, but only a few leave a lasting impression. We run down Scotland's best restaurants; places our otherwise been-there, done-that critics would go again and again

Aizle 

Aizle is deep in the heart of Edinburgh’s St Leonard’s Street, a.k.a. student land. Named after an old Scots word meaning ember or spark, the restaurant is run by husband-and-wife team Stuart Ralston and Krystal Goff, who have brought hard-won experience from top New York establishments to Edinburgh. The menu is, literally, something else, and the “neo-bistro”‘s fresh, innovative ingredients have won over the locals.

What we said: “Ralston’s invention, innovation and sheer determination to challenge his diners’ senses, which is reminiscent of 21212’s Paul Kitching, should ensure that a visit to Aizle is a memorable evening out.”

107-109 St Leonard’s Street, Edinburgh
EH8 9QY (0131-662 9349, www.aizle.co.uk)

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The Kitchin

“Our food philosophy is simple, we’re fanatical about seasonal cooking,” so goes The Kitchin’s mantra on its cuisine. In the nine years since opening on the site of a former whisky warehouse, The Kitchin has gained a Michelin star, helped inspire a culinary revolution in Edinburgh’s Leith area, and, most recently, expanded the premises into what was the much-loved Chop Chop restaurant. Overseeing things to this day is Tom Kitchin, whose passion for Scottish cuisine remains undimmed.

What we said: “The new look [restaurant] manages to be luxurious but not straitlaced, classic yet quirky, Scottish but not Brigadoon-y… Lots of food for the eyes, but I could also wax lyrical about the actual edibles.”

78 Commercial Quay, Edinburgh
EH6 6LX (0131-555 1755, www.thekitchin.com)

Craig Millar @ 16 West End

Craig Millar @ 16 West End is a seafood restaurant by the sea – but its credentials for serving the North Sea’s finest produce go beyond proximity (though the view from the dining area, facing the sea, is one of the best you’ll find). After being refurbished and rechristened in 2011, Craig Millar @ 16 West End has consolidated its unique (and picturesque) position as one of Scotland’s foremost seafood eateries.

What we said: “This was an enjoyable meal in comfortable surroundings with peerless views – set in the perfect village for a post-dinner stroll. It is, however, formidably expensive, with just two courses costing 35, which puts it firmly into ‘special occasion’ territory. Is it worth it? With the summer sun setting over the Firth of Forth, definitely.”

16 West End, St Monans, Fife
Ky10 2BX (01333 730327, www.16westend.com)

Ox and Finch

Finnieston, an area of Glasgow once notable for is milieu of hungover students, off-licenses and hard-at-work takeaways, is now at the centre of a fine dining renaissance. The area has always had great restaurants, but Ox and Finch, one of a number of new and exceptional establishments, has turned heads in a way its rivals haven’t. Its continent-hopping small plates pack big, complex flavours, and the open yet intimate interior makes for a terrific atmosphere.

What we said: “The flavours of all the dishes we tried were big, in your face, pow, bam. They’re not shy here, and you’ll find hunger reserves you didn’t know existed when there are such temptations. The food here is carnal, indulgent, satisfying and they don’t seem to care about delicacy. After this sensory overload, I left with an array of new cravings that I know will only be satisfied by a repeat visit.”

920 Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow
G3 7TF (0141 339 8627, www.oxandfinch.com)

Kanpai

Kanpai is the sister restaurant of Sushiya, a much-loved sushi joint on Dalry Road that isn’t much bigger than the sashimi it serves – hence Kanpai, which, since opening in 2011, has established itself, like Sushiya, as one of Edinburgh’s best spots for Japanese cuisine. Situated near the Usher Hall, it’s every bit as sophisticated as its music hall neighbour.

What we said: “The slick minimalism, neutral colours and wood-dominated interior of Kanpai make for a stylish, contemporary and self-consciously calming environment. This is exactly as it should be in an upscale Japanese restaurant… The menu is more pared-down, more traditional, far more sushi-centric [than Sushiya] and with no concessions to people who may know little about sushi.”

8-10 Grindlay Street, Edinburgh
EH3 9AS (0131 228 1602, www.kanpaisushi.co.uk)

 

About The Author

Gaby Soutar

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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