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Jan 30, 2010 12:36 PM

[Edinburgh] Romantic Valentine's dinner?

My husband and I will be in Scotland for 5 days and 4 nights in mid-February (yes, we know it will be cold). We plan to stay in Edinburgh but might make one day trip and would definitely travel further afield for the right food. Have spotted a few interesting pubs on these boards (too bad we're not going to London this time) to try and will comb the 2008-2009 threads for finer dining, but would appreciate more current recommendations for at least one memorable meal in a romantic setting. I'm looking for someplace that Isabel Dalhousie would like, even if Inspector Rebus might find it overpriced.

We do love pubs and would welcome insider tips for those, too.

Finally, any general advice (including tips on how late most places stay open) to newcomers to Edinburgh would be most appreciated!

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  1. The recently Michelin starred 21212 might do by way of memorable. No experience of Paul Kitching's cooking here and am basing my recc on his previous place, Juniper. His partner, Katie, runs front-of-house in a way that makes an evening glide by in the best possible way.

    1. Tom Kitchin is a well known chef and his restaurant in Leith (area of Edinburgh) has one Michelin. I can't recommend it personally yet, but my cousin who lives there says it's worth a visit.

      7 Replies
      1. re: zuriga1

        And to finish off the Edinburgh trinity, Martin Wishart is excellent as well.

        I think the problem you will have is (a) special menus for Valentines Day and (b) getting in at two weeks notice. So if you can, avoid the day itself.

        1. re: mr_gimlet

          Do you reckon the starred places will be bothered to do special Valentines menu? Perhaps just tweak their tasting menu - if that?

          1. re: Harters

            I remember having a problem at a 1* last year, but don't know how endemic it is. I think it is to take pressure off the kitchen as everyone wants to eat at the same time.

            1. re: mr_gimlet

              Wedgewood and the Grainstore are both meant to be good, neither have a star but might be a little more relaxed and intimate? No 1 at Balmoral is good. If you want to get out of the city and go for a drive into the wilderness Monachyle Mhor in the Trossachs has excellent food and is a good day trip. You can of course stay there but it will end up being expensive. The last bit of road is single track so make sure you go during daylight as on one side there is a Loch and on the other a slope.

              1. re: curiouseater

                I second the Grain Store. Really lovely restaurant, centrally located, all locally sourced food. Posh Scottish. Great wine list, very knowledgeable staff.

                Petit Paris on Grassmarket is an excellent homey French restaurant. Very relaxed atmosphere, perfect for dunking your bread into hearty fish stew.

                More low key, the Dogs is upstairs on Hanover Street and serves British and Scottish food, again, locally sourced.

              2. re: mr_gimlet

                Many thanks to all of you for your excellent advice! We were very fortunate that we got to both 21212 and Martin Wishart on, as mr_gimlet implied, very short notice! The trip was complicated, too, by record snows in Washington -- for a while, I wasn't sure I would have a dinner date at all.

                Katie, et al, at 21212 were very understanding and held our table for us until we were certain we could make it. Paul did indeed do a special Valentine's menu, which was delicious, if a little more foamy -- at least 4 out of 6 courses involved it -- than I would have liked. I'm sorry to say the service, once we made it, left a lot to be desired. Little things that really should not be an issue at that level, like having to ask twice and finally crane to make eye contact with staff in order to refill our water glasses. The restaurant's decor also seemed to clash with Kitching's personal style. While the restaurant's website and promotional materials imply bright primary colors, wood surfaces, geometric shapes . . . the dining room itself is all very upscale, rich browns and light blues, luxurious fabrics, traditional. All of which made the service of our after-dinner coffee in paper cups (reportedly Kitching's preference) the more jarring.

                The wonderful, unanticipated contrast to our planned Valentine's dinner was a last-minute table due to a cancellation at Martin Wishart. I had all but forgotten I made a stand-by request, so was pleased to be offered Thursday our choice of table on Friday evening, again held until my husband's arrival was confirmed. The tasting menu was exquisite, and we were surrounded by staff who were extremely attentive without fawning. Nothing out of place, every detail just so. My only minor complaint is that their signature ceviche with mango (in February, in Edinburgh) belied all claims of emphasis on locally grown and Scottish products.

                Will definitely look into The Grain Store for future trips, of which we hope there will be several!

                In terms of wee drams, very much enjoyed local company at The Oxford Bar on Young Street, and learned a lot from the seemingly over-hyped, well worth it Scotch Whiskey Experience. Also enjoyed Bow Bar on Victoria Street, and Blazer Bar on Spittal Street, but wouldn't necessarily repeat the long trek to The Sheep Heid Inn (east side of Mount Holyrood Park).

                Most memorable menu item? Haggis nachos at the Drop Inn. ;)

                1. re: notthatfoodisimportant

                  Coffee in paper cups sounds like one of Paul's foodie jokes.

                  I also don't like those places which don't leave the water bottle (or jug) or the wine on the table. In fact, it is probably the one thing that is going to get me on full rant. Just leave the sodding things there, I have strength to pour it myself.

        2. I would suggest:

          The Vinter's Room in Leith (loads better than it look on the website).
          Number 1 for romance and space away from other diners
          Martin Wishart

          Further a field:
          The Peat Inn in Fife

          Need to stay:
          3 Chimneys on the Isle of Skye
          Mhor Mannor

          1 Reply
          1. re: Peppermint T

            Do you recommend anything in particular at The Peat Inn? I plan on going there in the summer for dinner.

          2. Another one for a day trip, or one night away is St Monan's in the East Neuk of Fife - beautiful location, and there is a restaurant which gets rave reviews - I think it's just called the Seafood restaurant and it's right on the quay side. gorgeous.