From chip vans to Michelin men

Once a country known for its stodge and the infamous deep-fried pizza, Scotland – with its wealth of local produce – is now being recognised for fine cuisine. Sarah Scott went from city to loch to discover a diversity of much-loved local dining haunts.

From chip vans to Michelin men

 

Best for views

The Applecross Inn on the Applecross Peninsula in the Highlands boasts uninterrupted views over to the Isles of Skye and Raasay. The inn is accessible by the notorious Bealach na Ba road which rises to 2,053 ft from sea level in just over 5 miles. It’s not a road for the faint of heart but many a hungry soul has braved the hairpin bends to enjoy the now legendary hospitality of the inn. The remote location adds to its charm and it’s a firm favourite with locals and visitors. However, it’s the quality of the west coast seafood such as the Applecross Bay prawns and local oysters that makes this establishment really stand out. The food, the panoramic views that open up like a picture book, and the elation of surviving the sheer drops you risked just to get there makes a visit here unforgettable.

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Best for kids (of all ages)

Perhaps it’s better to say kids and kidult here as The Monster Mash Café in Edinburgh holds an appeal for kids who are old enough to remember The Beano in its original form. Serving old school classics (the clue’s in the name), this popular, inexpensive café serves sausage and mash in all its guises. The café offers specials of the day (vegetarian options, too) such as venison or pork and black pudding sausages, all sourced from local butchers and all kinds of mash from mustard to ‘Champ’ mash mixed with green spring onions. If that’s not for you then there’s a full range of classic British dishes too such as macaroni cheese, steak pie and chips – think Desperate Dan and haggis, neeps and tatties. Knickerbocker Glory and steamed sponge pudding. For children there are mini versions of most of the main menu and a sweetie necklace or a pile of Black Jacks chews with the bill. Fun for kids and retro heaven for parents.

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Best for value

To survive in business during a recession is impressive enough; to thrive and triple in size is something else. The Dogs in Edinburgh has done just that. Traditional British dishes have been revamped and the quirky décor has proved to be a winning formula. Favourite dishes are braised ox cheek, barley risotto, and lemon thyme posset, all made with ingredients sourced as locally as is possible. With main courses rarely passing the £10 mark and starters for well under £5, The Dogs has been awarded the Good Food Guide 2010 Editors’ Award for Best Value. Unsurprising, then, that booking is essential. With designs on creating a mini empire, Amore Dogs, The Dogs take on Italian food, and basement bar Underdog recently opened.

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Best for locals

The Real Food Café in Tyndrum, Perthshire is situated in the stunning surrounds of Trossachs National Park. As ‘the gateway to the Highlands’ the area is rich in local produce and the café is keen to incorporate as much as possible into their menu. Set on a site previously inhabited by a pre- Heston Blumenthal Little Chef, this friendly place offers fresh fast food made from quality ingredients. With a firm eye on sustainable production and ever-evolving green credentials, even the used oil from the kitchen’s fryers is recycled to become bio-diesel to power vehicles. There’s a real community feel at the café too; suppliers are name- checked and are often to be found just ‘down the glen.’ As well as using local farmers and producers the café also supports community events. With a wholesome ethos and favourites such as home-made soups, quality burgers and fish suppers on offer, this Silver Eat Scotland award-winning café is going from strength to strength.

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Best for local produce

Mhor, set in the impossibly picturesque Trossach National Park has seriously raised the bar in providing locally-sourced food. Mhor consists of the award-winning boutique Monachyle Mhor hotel set on the banks of Loch Voil; Mhorfish, a restaurant, fish and chip shop and fishmongers; Mhortea at the Library Tearoom in Balquhidder; and Mhorbread, a bakery, tearoom and shop in nearby Callendar. The hotel is set in a 2,000 acre estate and the meat served here is reared here; the organic vegetables are grown on the farm; and the bread baked in the bakery, by hand, using flour milled in Scotland. An inspiring family-run business, Mhor offers both luxury – fly in over the loch on a seaplane, if you wish – and a chance to get back to basics by learning the pleasures of making bread, a pat of butter and jam. This special business aims to provide the best of Scottish food and hospitality; anyone who’s visited here would agree that the family have more than surpassed that.

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Best for Michelin stars

Scotland has 12 Michelin star restaurants throughout the country and one Michelin two star. Andrew Fairlie at The Gleneagles Hotel – famously one of the world’s most luxurious 5 star hotels – gained the accolade in 2006, the same year that he was voted AA Chef’s Chef of the Year. Scottish-born Fairlie completed much of his training in France so the restaurant has a distinctive French flavour with a Scottish accent. Sourcing produce from France and Scotland, the cuisine at the restaurant is worthy of a trip to Scotland alone. Fairlie’s divine signature dish of Smoked Lobster: lobster shells smoked for 12 hours over aged whisky barrels, is on par with an establishment of this calibre.

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Best for vegetarians

The sleek David Bann restaurant (pictured) is situated in Edinburgh’s historic Old Town and serves contemporary, sophisticated vegetarian and vegan food that’s celebrated by both veggies and carnivores alike. Forget the hackneyed hippie stereotype of veggie restaurants, as the food here, like the décor, is modern and chic. Drawing on global influences, David Bann offers excellent, innovative dishes such as butternut squash, cashew and kohlrabi curry, Thai fritters, and whisky and vanilla panacotta. Non-vegetarian diners here have said that they forgot there was no meat in the dishes. A mid-priced eaterie that tastes top-end.

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Best for fish and chips

It’s almost impossible to single out the best fish and chips in Scotland. There’s the multi-award winning Anstruther Fish Bar, The Pittenweem Fish and Chip Bar, or the Townhead Café in Biggar to name but three. However, parked at the end of Fishermans’ Pier in the multi-coloured port of Tobermory on the Isle of Mull is The Fish and Chip Van. Run by two local women, it’s an institution with the island’s locals and a tourist attraction in itself. In fact, this chippy so impressed the good people at Les Routier that a special category was created to include it in the guide. Using fresh quality local produce, specialties include – seared as you wait – fresh king scallops that have received the Royal sign of approval – Prince Charles declared them to be “delicious.” One of life’s simple pleasures has to be sitting on the lobster creels on Tobermory’s waterfront eating a meal from the Van.

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