Scottish snails are slowly –what else? – replacing the French gourmet gastropods so prized by top chefs.

The traditional Gallic delicacy could become the country's next big food export alongside Scottish langoustines, salmon and beef, with the potential for gaining protected geographical status.

From today, Isle of Barra snails, cooked in 'le style francais', will be on the menu at l'Escargot Bleu and l'Escargot Blanc in Edinburgh – the first restaurants ever to have Scottish molluscs on the menu.

"These snails are what we'd call the celebrated Petits Gris in France, where they are a protected species," said chef-patron Fred Berkmiller, who has taken his first delivery of 1000 Barra snails.

He added: "I am expecting these snails to be delicious. They are perfect for slow cooking and indeed the snail is the symbol of the International Slow Food movement."

Mr Berkmiller has not yet tasted the snails, as they are being starved to clear them of any impurities before cooking.

After the starving process they are boiled in salty water for three hours.

They will then be cooked for the first time this morning and they will appear on today's menu in two dishes: slow cooked with butter, garlic and parsley in the classic French style; and as a confit in olive oil with star anise and crushed garlic, served on a tomato concasee with sauce verte (salsa verde).

"My feeling is they're going to be magnificent because of where they are from. They are totally natural, slow growing in the wild, with none of the pesticide residue you might get from agricultural land," said Mr Berkmiller, who was born in Tours in Central France, and who also serves French horsemeat at his Scottish restaurants.

Zoologist Gerard MacDonald, founder of Isle of Barra Oysters said: "I was aware the snails were edible and growing profusely here for quite a while – but it was difficult to find any kind of market for them.

"A friend suggested I try l'Escargot Bleu and Fred was totally up for giving them a try."