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SCOTLAND - Need advice for many cities!

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We are visiting Scotland for the first time and have done some research on this board, but found few current references for our culinary interests. We are seeking mid range dining, nothing severely budget minded nor fine dining/Michelin type restaurants, but prefer bistro or trattoria in a casual style. We enjoy many cuisines and also want to sample some of Scotland’s local fare.

We start in Edinburgh, staying at the Glasshouse, so we will need to dine somewhere within walking or a fairly short taxi ride distance from city center. I have found some restaurants that seem interesting:

Valvona & Crolla Centotre
L’Alba D’Oro Iggs & Barioja
Petit Paris Nargile
Santorini Fisher’s in the City
The Mussel Inn Dubh Prais
Dusit

We then travel by car to Aberdeen, will be touring the many castles near Aberdeen, take the coastal drive from Aberdeen to Inverness, visit West Ross-Shire, Loch Ness, the Isle of Skye, Oban, Loch Lomond, then Glasgow. The guidebooks offer little in the way of any special locations to stop for luncheons en route and we know stopping just anywhere can be quite spotty. Any advice on dining destinations along our route would be welcome.

We are staying at the Marcliffe outside Aberdeen, and from what I have read, the dining sounds fine there. In Inverness, we stay at the Rockpool Reserve which also seems to have a good restaurant, and there is also the Rockpool restaurant in town and the Contrast Brasserie near Loch Ness. On the Isle of Skye we will stay at the Three Chimneys in Colbost and I understand this is a dining destination in itself. From Skye to Oban, we want to visit the original Loch Fyne Oyster restaurant, and in Oban, Ee-Usk. In Loch Lomond, we are staying at the Monachyle Moor, another dining/hotel destination. Lastly in Glasgow, we are staying in the city center, but I do not have any recommendations other than the Mussel Inn, Café Gandolfi, and Fratelli Sarti.

Any comment on the above places and restaurants will be greatly appreciated!

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  1. I have spent 4-6 weeks in the Highlands (mostly in Sutherland) for each of the past 4 summers. While the restaurant food is Scotland is getting better, the pickings are still slim, especially for places of note.

    The restaurant reviews in The Herald newspaper are pretty good. You can access their review database at:

    www.theherald.co.uk/goingout/

    Then click on "Going Out Search."

    2 Replies
    1. re: DavidT

      The Glemoriston Hotel in Inverness houses Abstract and Contrast. These restaurants were featured on one of the Gordon Ramsey shows. Contrast offers a 2-course lunch menu for 7 pounds that looks to be very good. I am hoping to go there myself for lunch next month.

      The restaurant at the Rocpool Reserve Hotel in Inverness is also highly regarded (and expensive). I have not been there myself.

      1. re: DavidT

        Thanks, DavidT, I will check out TheHerald.

        I am surprised that the pickings are considered slim as I was looking forward to trying the famed langoustines, king scallops, highland lamb & beef, salmon, etc. Is the issue finding a location that prepares the food well?

        I also saw the GR Kitchen Nightmares and that is what led me to want to try Contrast as Abstract seemed a bit stuffy and the food still overwrought even after the GR treatment.

    2. Check the thread below for ideas and comment on Loch Fyne Oyster Bar

      http://www.chowhound.com/topics/514182

      1. I can only give suggestions in the Loch Lomond area....on the west side of Loch Lomond, near Balloch is Duck Bay Marina. This is a very popular place with the locals. Wonderful view and the food is good. On the east side of the Loch, in Gartoharn, is the Hungry Monk (my uncle has been taking us there for years). The Abbotsford Hotel in Dumbarton (between Balloch and Glasgow) is also highly thought of by people in the area. Members of my family have all special occasions at the Dumbuck Hotel, also in Dumbarton. Keep in mind that dining out in Scotland is not for the faint of wallet. We always get sticker shock when the bill comes.

        1. In Edinburgh, go to Urban Angel, which is exactly in line with your interests (both local Scottish and mid-range bistro). There are now two outposts, one on Hanover Street and a brand new one on Forth Street. Half a block from there on Broughton St., make sure to stop by Artisan Roast for excellent coffee. (Other excellent coffee shops in the city are Kilimanjaro on Nicholson -- which also has quite nice soups -- and Wellingtons on George. Everything else is dreadful).

          The Valvona & Crolla location on Multree Walk is better for dining, the location on Leith Walk is better for browsing wine selection and food.

          For reference, everything in Edinburgh (save Leith, arguably) is a short walk or taxi ride from the city center. Edinburgh is very compact.

          There are NO Edinburgh locals on chowhound (except myself), and you'll be getting mostly advice from other tourists here (this is true of Scotland generally). For insider tips, you need to check http://www.edinburghmenus.com and http://www.list.co.uk . The latter also covers Glasgow.

          10 Replies
          1. re: alopez

            You're correct, alopez. You are the only Edinburgh local. So I-- a poor bastard located in a s%£thole 50-miles away:-- ask you the following:

            Is there any good place for dumplings in Edinburgh? How about Ethiopian food?

            Thanks.

            1. re: Lizard

              Hey, now! I don't mean to diss anyone nearby who's posting on chowhound. I wish there were more -- but I asked a couple of months ago but got no response. I was just advising CiaoCane that if they want advice from locals, they should ask where a lot of locals hang out -- i.e. not here.

              As to your question, I'm not familiar with any Ethiopian places, but I'm a recent transplant so that doesn't mean there aren't any (though, my standards are pretty high, having formerly lived in Washington, DC, a hotbed of Ethiopian restaurants). Will you settle for other North African food? Nile Valley on Chapel Street serves good Sudanese for dinner. Cheap, too.

              For dumplings, I don't have any first-hand info yet. Certainly there are many Chinese places around, and List claims that there are some good ones, but that's all I know.

              1. re: alopez

                Sorry, alopez, I didn't mean to sound testy. I am actually pretty sure you are the only local since I don't have the fortune of living there. Thanks for the tip.

                I know what you mean re: ethiopian as I, too, spent a few years in DC. I'm even more cursed in my present location having also lived in NYC. :)

              2. re: Lizard

                Lizard,

                For dumplings (from which I presume you mean dim sum) I would recommend the Rainbow Arch just off Lothian Road. Its looks like a dive, the toilets are awful and was even closed down for health issues (although promptly re-opened a week later). Please don't let that put you off though as the food is second to none if you order well and I have been many many times. Somethings I would definitly recommend.

                Octopus Cakes with a delicious ginger/chilli vinegar dipping sauce.
                Vietnamese spring rolls (wrap them up in the lettuce leaf)
                Scallop dumplings
                Chilli salt squid
                Har-kow
                Cheun fun (fat rice noodle with assorted interiors)
                Char sui pork bun
                Beef and ginger steamed roll
                Baby satay cuttlefish are nice too.

                Thats what I normally order plus one of the vegetable sides, either gai lan, choy sum or the other chinese vegs available lightly fried in garlic or ginger.
                Plus a side of steamed rice and you are fine.

                Just make sure to ask for the dim sum menu, the euro-chinese isn't that great. They served it til 3 in the morning which makes it a great late
                night snack as well.

                1. re: camerasforeyes

                  Bless you! While my call for dumplings was not necessarily dim sum oriented (in NYC, I've been able to buy dumplings of all kinds from a variety of holes in the wall and have such a yen, especially for XLB), I think this will be a very nice thing to check out.!

                  1. re: Lizard

                    I have been hesitant to respond to this post since the rant about only tourists posting here.... but I loved Rainbow Arch. After 10 days of very wonderful Scottish food, I was dying for something different by our last night in that country. We got dim sum, and the smoked duck. The two of us loved the food. The owner/hostess was abrupt, bordering on rude, just like so many Chinese restaurants here in the States. But who cares? The food was marvelous!

                    I found this restaurant in the Scottish Best book.

              3. re: alopez

                Thanks, alopez, Urban Angel does seem exactly like what I was looking for and the two links are certainly chock full of reviews and intricate info!

                Since you are the only local, please allow me to inquire: Is L'alba D'oro the best fish & chips? Which is the better seafood in the city, Fishers in the City, Mussel Inn or another (we are not necessarily big on fish, but rather shellfish if this makes a difference). What do you believe to be the best Italian, French, Thai? Is Cafe Royal a tourist trap? If you were to send someone new to Edinburgh out to dine, regardless of price or cuisine, where would you send them for say, 4 lunches and dinners?

                1. re: CiaoCane

                  CiaoCane,

                  I've been to nearly all the places you have listed above. The only one I would hesitate to recommend is Nargile (I presume the one in Aberdeen) as the only turkish place in Aberdeen its ok, but it sounds like you have extensive dining experience and it might be pretty run of the mill.

                  If money is no object in Edinburgh I would recommend:-

                  Number One in the Balmoral
                  Martin Wisharts down at the shore of Leith
                  Tom Kitchin also down Leith

                  I've been to all three and I can't really put one forward more than others. All do very good scottish/french fare. Tom Kitchin focuses a little more on the offal and whole animal approach (like Fergus Hendersons in London). They are all Michelin star level, money no object type places and the fish or shellfish you get there will be miles better than any of those medium range price places you mentioned in your post above. I haven't been to Number One in a while so you might want to check more before going.

                  There isn't any good Thai food in my opinion, the standard of Italian is ok but not as good as you might find in a major metropolis, I've been disappointed with Italian cuisine (outside Italy of course) ever since I ate at Terroni's in Toronto.. Valvona and Corolla is worth the stop though.

                  I would wait for fish and chips until you eat it in a small seaside town, although L'Alba D'Oro does make a mean fried squid which is probably worth it. Cafe Royal is to be avoided you are right it is a tourist trap.

                  If your going to use the List to check out restaurants in Edinburgh and Glasgow I would take its reviews with a pinch of salt. The List has been known not to give the most impartial reviews. I'd use a combination of the List, the Herald, The Scotland the Best guide book as well as the AA website to try and gauge an accurate review.

                  I ate at the Three Chimneys recently and also Monachyle Mohr, both were good but the Mohr was better (although the salads at the Three Chimneys are wonderful). Colbost is a lovely place, just be sure to bring the midge repellent. If your into shellfish there is another place on the Isle of Skye called Loch Bay seafood restaurant which is good, its right on a pier and fish is on par with the Three Chimneys but not done with the same kind of finesse, ingredients or have as quality side dishes but maybe more fun.

                  I've done an extensive post on Aberdeen if your looking for lunch places. You can find it here..

                  http://www.chowhound.com/topics/514561

                  I spent 5 years in Edinburgh at university and still go back frequently. Hopefully i've been able to help.

                  1. re: camerasforeyes

                    CFE, thanks for the additional insight.

                    I had forgotten that I saw The Kitchin featured on Tony Bourdain's No Reservations Edinburgh episode and the cuisine looked remarkable and the ambiance not too stuffy, but casually elegant. I think we will have to splash out and try The Kitchen.

                    We are driving from Edinburgh to Aberdeen, do you have any recommendation for a seafood shack in a small seaside town on the way for fish & chips or seafood?

                    1. re: CiaoCane

                      Bervie chipper in stonehaven is pretty good. Its not much of a detour off the A90 on the way to Aberdeen, only around a mile from the dual carriageway. I presume that's the route you are taking.

                      If you do stop in Stonehaven then I'd suggest going to Dunnotar Wine and Spirits. Its a small independent off license who specializes in whisky and wine. If you are needing information on going to any distilleries or like a nice drink I would recommend speaking to the owner. His name is Sandy (he is a friend so its a bit of a plug but he is one of the most knowledgeable and passionate people about fine drinking).

                      There are a few nice places for fish and chips if you take a longer route around St. Andrews but then your drive will go from 2.5 hours to more like 4.

                      The Ashvale in Aberdeen used to have a good reputation but I would avoid as its gone downhill in the last few years.

              4. I'm talking about moving to Inverness (or somewhere nearby) so was taken up there for a long weekend birthday treat by my parents and sister. (It saved me the expense of having to take them up to introduce them to the area) Anyway, on one of our two nights inInverness itself we ate at the Rocpool restaurant (at the hotel) my advice would be, don't. Or perhaps DON'T. Service was atrocious, food was over complicated and suffered (far too many tastes on one plate) and few of them were particularly exciting, some were actually pretty unpleasant. We eventually left without having dessert as we were pretty upset/pissed off. We had far far better meals that were less expensive whilst in the Highlands and if I can save just one person the experience we had I'll be pleased.

                I'll type up some of the pther places we ate when I've calmed down again...

                3 Replies
                1. re: ali patts

                  Ali: I am very pleased that we changed our reservation from the Rocpool to the Dunain Park Hotel! Thanks for the input, so sorry you had such a poor meal.

                  1. re: CiaoCane

                    What was most disappointing about it was that it has possibly the most hyped up reputation of anywhere we ate and was such a bad experience across the board.

                    Anyway, as I was showing my family where I want to go and live I made a point of taking them to places that are known tourist places because they are beautiful/good for food etc. We flew in to Inverness and headed straight across the country to Plockton where we stayed and ate at the Plockton Hotel. The meal we had was delightful and all the fish was wonderfully fresh, crab, halibut, mussels and others, they had no prawns because the boats hadn’t been out (weather had been bad). I would certainly recommend the place to anyone that might listen! We had breakfast too as we were staying there and that was also pretty good, kippers, smoked haddock, really good fresh yoghurt… Then as my sister is a prawn freak we headed to the Applecross Inn for lunch (plus I knew the drive would blow their minds) I had been torn between going there and trying the Kishorn fish bar (?) and a place in Kyle of Lochalsh, Applecross won because of the drive and my friends husband wasn’t wild about the place in Kishorn when he went. I won’t say the bay prawns were the best I’ve ever had (they were a bit overcooked) but they are tasty which is why 5 of our table of 6 had them for lunch! We then drove back to Inverness and ate at the unmentionable place that night. Sunday we skipped lunch (understandable) and just had an Orkney (I think) ice-cream in the afternoon. We ate that night at Boath House, which was truly wonderful, it’s just the other side of Nairn from Inverness, they do a set 5 course dinner for about £50 (I think) which is up there with the best meals I’ve eaten and the owner was a delight. Certainly if I lived in Inverness and wanted to splash out this is where I’d go rather than Rocpool, plus their wine list was great (if pricey – not to say they mark the wines up, but rather that they have a good selection of appropriate age old world wines). We lunched at the Cawdor Tavern, which I’ve taken to visiting before flying back down south as it’s convenient for the airport and the food is good, because of our flight times we rushed it but things like the chicken liver pate and hot smoked salmon salad were just what we needed to get us home and not have to bother too much about dinner that night!

                    I hope you enjoy your stay (can’t wait to move), if I remember the name of the café in Portree I’ll add some more…

                    1. re: ali patts

                      I also second the recommendation for the Plockton Hotel. Lovely place and I splurged out on the prawns (really Scottish langoustine) which were incredible (and only about 3-4 hours out of the water!)

                      Ditto the drive to Applecross, even though it was pretty overcast the day we did it.

                2. Hello, it's been a while since I was last in Edinburgh, but I loved Martin Wishart and also The Grain Store (which is next to a great cheese shop, Ian Mellis). In fact, I liked the latter more, because it's more laid-back and the produce used is local and fresh. I still remember the steak I had there! Your Scotland trip sounds fantastic. You must write about it on Chowhound afterwards...

                  Helen Yuet Ling Pang
                  http://worldfoodieguide.wordpress.com

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: foodie guide

                    Yes, if it was the Martin's restaurant I remember in Edinburgh, we adored it -- and especially the cheese course when they showed you the picture of the cow whose milk made the cheese. Who knows if it was true, but it certainly made the meal memorable and, oh yes, the food was fabulous!

                  2. July 26 article in the NY Times on dining in the Highlands:

                    http://travel.nytimes.com/2008/07/27/...

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: DavidT

                      Not sure how it will affect things but the 2 Quail in Dornoch is on the market at the moment, it was still shown as fr sale the last time I looked, but they may have had offers. Just beware, the owners/chef may not be there very much longer.

                      1. re: ali patts

                        The 2 Quail was listed for sale over this past winter. I am not sure how serious the owners were about selling. It was taken off the market in March/April.

                        IMHO, the best restaurant in Dornoch is Luigi's, which is virtually next door to the 2 Quail.

                        1. re: DavidT

                          It's still on the agents website, so I assume still on their books. Certainly, didn't go on to the particular site until after April or I might have done a drive pass last time I was in the Highlands.

                          1. re: ali patts

                            Who is the listing agent?

                            It has not been listed at www.hspc.co.uk for several months now. I was in Dornoch in May and the talk around town was that the 2 Quail was no longer on the market.

                            1. re: DavidT

                              Hmm, whilst I'd be tempted to believe the locals it is still on with Colliers Robert Barry, they are a commercial agent. Funny I never noticed it on the hspc site and I've been doing a fair bit of looking! But then it is on CRB for more than I can afford - but it's always interesting to look! I want to move!

                              1. re: ali patts

                                The Invershin Hotel in Invershin is up for sale! The area can always use another good restaurant or two. Have you been to the Bridge Hotel in Helmsdale? The restaurant there (The Quiet Piggy) used to be very good. It is now the Green Stag. Have not heard anything about it yet.

                    2. Here's an article, A Culinary Journey Through The Scottish Highlands, which you might find interesting, though not sure if your route coincides with the journalist's.

                      http://www.iht.com/articles/2008/07/2...

                      Helen Yuet Ling Pang
                      http://worldfoodieguide.wordpress.com

                      1. I just got back from visiting friends who live in Edinburgh and Glasgow. If you are in Edinburgh, I highly recommend you jump on the 43 bus on Princess St and take a 30 minute bus ride to the Boat House Restaurant.www.theboathouse-sq.co.uk. located at 22 high Street, in South Queensferry. It is definetely off the beaten path, it is in a quaint, historic town with a beautiful view of the water. The freshest fish you will ever eat in Scotland. Believe me, you wont regret. Must call for reservations.
                        In Glasgow, I decided to do Indian, don't have the info on hand but if anyone is interested in delicious South Indian cuisine let me know. Cheers

                        1. Its probably too late to add this now but was back in Edinburgh recently for a week of the festival.

                          Kitchin blew Wisharts right out of the water. Was amazed, portion size was almost too big. Had an ox tongue starter that was to die for. Shared the octopus carpaccio with razor clams because it looked so good and it didn't disappoint either.

                          Tried to go back on the sunday with the in-laws, but knowing my luck it was closed.

                          Definitly recommend.

                          1. I hope I am not too late to chime in.

                            Monachyle is the bomb! Have stayed there twice just for the food. It is a little pricey, however.

                            Near Loch Ness, in the village of Drumnadrochit, Fiddler's is a good choice for mid-priced dining. Try the ginger beer. Simply awesome.

                            In Glasgow, we were very happy with the Barolo Grill. Ate there before seeing a Don Maclean concert.

                            If you happen to be near Perth, I highly recommend Dean's @ Let's Eat. Have been there twice before .... have reservations for October when we are going to Dougie Maclean's Amber Perthshire music festival.

                            Little's Restaurant in Blairgowrie is also a super place for fish.