Food and drink stories from across Scotland, selected by Lorraine Wilson, Ailsa Sheldon and Paul Trainer. Find your local inspiration. Compiled for the May issue of Best of Scotland magazine. 

HeraldScotland:

1.BUNDITS OF LEITH, Leith

Bundits of Leith have made their steamed hirata buns a weekend staple, often paired with a crisp pint or a cocktail. The braised shiitake mushroom bao is a favourite, with a tangy carrot pickle, crispy onions and a truffle mayonnaise. The Korean-style braised short rib is another popular choice, the tender beef is complemented by pickled red cabbage and barbecue sauce.

There are tasty small plates to snack on, and rice boxes with mapo tofu or katsu curry if you’re hungrier. If you have room, then try a deep-fried ice cream bao sandwich. Bundits is inauthentic but a lot of fusion fun. AS

48-52 Constitution St, Leith, EH6 6RS

bunditsofleith.co.uk

HeraldScotland:

2. TANTRUM DOUGHNUTS, Glasgow

Tantrum were doughnut pioneers when they opened their first shop in 2015, proving that there’s much more to doughnuts than a sticky bag from the supermarket. Tantrum start with a brioche dough, so you know you’re on to something a bit special. Only the best ingredients are used, including Corrie Mains eggs, Shipton Mill flour and Blackthorn salt. The peanut butter and jam is a firm favourite – packed with homemade berry jam and topped with peanut butter ganache and chopped peanuts, the vegan ring doughnuts are perfect for plant-based pals, and the creme brûlée doughnuts are approaching cult status. AS

27 Old Dumbarton Rd, G3 8RD
28 Gordon St, G1 3PU

tantrumdoughnuts.com

HeraldScotland:

3. SALTED CULTURED BUTTER, The Edinburgh Butter Company

Looking at the list of bakeries that work with the Edinburgh Butter Company is like a ‘Who’s Who’ of patisserie. Beloved by top pastry chefs, this cultured butter has also ousted imported French butter from the tables of many of Scotland’s best restaurants and hotels. Cream from a local dairy is made into cultured crème fraîche before being churned into butter, giving a deliciously complex flavour. Happily, you don’t need baking skills to enjoy this butter, just a knife and your favourite fresh bread will do the trick – you won’t believe butter can be this good. Find the distinctive silver logs in delis across Scotland. AS

theedinburghbutterco.co.uk

HeraldScotland:

4. MUSSELS AT CRANNOG, Fort William

Red-roofed Crannog restaurant on the pier at Fort William has been setting the standards for seafood dining in Scotland since the 1980s. This Highland family run restaurant has a light and airy art-filled interior, with big windows for panoramic views of Loch Linnhe. A deep bowl of plump mussels eaten here, overlooking the cool, clear waters where they were grown is always a delight. Go classic with white wine, cream and garlic, or check the specials board for a twist. The Loch Creran Oysters and local langoustine are always incredible too. AS

Town Pier, Fort William, PH33 6DB

crannog.net/restaurant

HeraldScotland:

5. THE LAWN, North Berwick

LET’s be honest, afternoon tea is ridiculous. It’s essentially having cake for lunch. It’s throwing away the normal schedule, what time should you even have it? Nobody really knows. That being said, it’s a pretty enjoyable way to spend an afternoon, and you can’t beat tea and cake. I took my two most discerning critics, my sons, for afternoon tea at the Marine North Berwick to see what they would make of it.

The Marine Hotel reopened last year after a huge refurbishment by new owners Marine & Lawn, now part of a portfolio of exclusive hotels by golf courses including Rusacks St. Andrews and Marine Troon. The much-needed revamp has given this beautiful old seaside hotel a new lease of life, now well polished and bedecked in thick decadent wallpapers and fine art. The restaurants have upped their game. I’ve been for an excellent dinner at The Lawn, so was keen to see what it’s like during the day. In charge of afternoon tea is head pastry chef Sarah Brion, who previously had the same role at the Fife Arms, Braemar so we’re expecting good things.

Tea is served in the bright and spacious hotel lobby, where wraparound windows look over the golf course and Craigleith island. The room has bookcases and stacks of coffee table books by squashy leather couches, then botanical wallpaper, chintzy chairs and potted trees – a Victorian salon crossed with a glasshouse perhaps.

Along with our pots of tea (apparently the first time my offspring have encountered loose leaf tea – the shame), arrives three tiers of treats. The little finger sandwiches are good. Thick slices of smoked salmon, with cucumber and dill cream cheese; tender roast beef and horseradish, duck egg and mustard mayonnaise. The boys’ favourite – the chunky haggis sausage roll with Arran mustard mayonnaise.

Moving up a tier to scones. You can definitely judge a place by their scones and these are perfect. Crispy-bottomed and light, with lashings of clotted cream and homemade strawberry jam. The top tier is where the pastry chefs can have some fun. A lemon macaron has an unexpected ginger and clove filling, it’s tasty but leaves us with yellow lips (and the giggles). The chestnut and mandarin mont blanc, “is a bit too grown up for me” the 11-year-old diplomatically concludes. For me too I’m afraid. I adore the almond praline and orange blossom tart, the sponge half way to frangipane and the orange blossom fragrant but not overpowering, with candied almonds adding a delicious crunch.

A chocolate and caramel rocher is a bigger hit with the youth. I ask the teenager to describe it: “Like a chocolate-caramel punch in the face”. Not quite what the chef was going for I imagine, but I know what he means, the chocolate is dark and intense, levelled out by sweeter caramel. It’s definitely my favourite. I’d take a box (though perhaps not after all the scones).

The verdict? “Pretty swanky” they reckon, and I’d agree. The setting is gorgeous, service friendly and a very pleasant spot to enjoy a bit of Alice in Wonderland style tea. AS

18 Cromwell Rd, North Berwick EH39 4LZ

lawnrestaurant.co.uk

HeraldScotland:

6. SEASGAIR AT INVERLOCHY CASTLE, Torlundy, Fort William

Two-star Michelin chef Michel Roux Jr has introduced an immersive new dining experience to the Highlands, inspired by the culinary history of one of Scotland’s most exclusive country house hotels. 

Seasgair by Michel Roux Jr at five-star Inverlochy Castle is a theatrical affair, with chefs shucking oysters, carving terrines and plating dishes in front of guests before sharing platters and individual courses from the tasting menu are presented on traditional silver or fine bone china. The menu has a hyperlocal focus, predominantly showcasing food from producers neighbouring the castle.

Everything is overseen by Inverlochy Castle’s head chef Coalin Finn, who recently joined the team and has worked closely with Michel Roux Jr to bring the concept to life. The menu will change with the best of what’s available and in season. Expect wild boar charcuterie, Highland venison wellington and Loch Linnhe langoustines.

Michel and his family have had a strong relationship with the Scottish hospitality community over the years. “We’ve always had lots of Scottish chefs working in amongst the Roux restaurants and they have always been super motivated and keen to learn,” Michel says, mentioning his friend Brian Maule from Glasgow’s Chardon d’Or and the late Andrew Fairlie, the first winner of the Roux Scolarship in 1984.

The idea for the menu started with a desire to accentuate the feel of walking into a magnificent private house when you arrive at Inverlochy. 

“What you have got here as a larder is just unbelievable,” Michel says. “Then we have this wonderful castle and the chance to make food part of the experience. We have the opportunity to plan a menu for the week around the fact that a wild boar or a turbot arrives into the kitchen."

The ambition is to lay down a culinary marker for the produce from the area around Fort William. “I’m fed up with having stuff flown in from the other side of the world. We have to realise what’s on our doorstep. I said that to Coalin when I first met him and he immediately fell in love with the whole concept. He was just so enthused, and he still is. He is learning about the neighbouring producers.” Local langoustines have already caught Michel’s attention: “I like them just lightly seared, when the produce is that fresh it’s just wonderful,” he says. “I think Scottish seafood is the envy of the world.”

HeraldScotland:

Coalin Finn grew up in Kilkenny in Ireland before training as a pastry chef. He worked in Dubai, then made a move to London, taking a role for Gordon Ramsay’s group at the Savoy Grill and then at Petrus. He was off to Dubai again, where he met his wife, before they moved to jobs at a hotel in Windsor with Coalin as head chef.

The chance arose to work as sous chef for Pierre Gagnaire at three Michelin-starred Sketch in Mayfair, London. He said: “It was amazing. I was there for a year and then lockdown happened. We stayed open doing takeaways and kept the kitchen going. I went to Claridge’s and worked for Davies and Brook, it was one of the best experiences of my live. Dmitri Magi, the head chef there, was a very inspirational person and changed my philosophy on food and team orientation. He’s very interested in what I’m doing here.”

What is Coalin’s approach in the kitchen? “Flavours and ideas generally come from me but the menu is an open canvas for everybody to contribute. It’s a collective and it’s a calm kitchen. With this new concept, I think it’s great for the guest but it also helps with a better work/life balance for the staff."

The menu is led by these new local relationships. “My fish man is Ian Stewart, his shop is about five minutes drive from my house so I come up and we have a look at things that have landed at Lochaber.

“The lobsters are from Mallaig, sometimes a bit further north, the scallops are from the Isle of Mull. My butcher is Stewart MacLachlan from Lochaber Larder. He opened just before the pandemic so he’s had a tough start. We’re buying exclusively from him which feeds back into the local economy. He has connections that go out shooting and they get the venison which is outstanding. He’s a former chef so he knows exactly what I’m looking for.

“Jim Breckenridge is down in Oban and he will get us anything we need in terms of vegetables at short notice. He will tell me the best stuff that we can get our hands on and that’s what we will work with.” PT

Torlundy, Fort William, PH33 6SN

inverlochycastlehotel.com

HeraldScotland:

7. HARRIS GIN, Isle of Harris

There are many great island gins, but Harris has the edge. The gorgeous, swirled glass bottle heralds the perfect G&T. Made in Tarbert in a distillery facing the Minch, you can almost taste the sea spray in the glass. With botanicals including sugar kelp seaweed, coriander seed and orange peel, this is a complex but clean tasting dry gin, particularly with an extra dash of sugar kelp aromatic water and an un-Hebridean twist of red grapefruit. The distillery’s first whisky.‘The Hearach’ will only be bottled “when the whisky is at its best”, no doubt it’ll be worth the wait. AS

Tarbert, Isle of Harris, HS3 3DJ

harrisdistillery.com

HeraldScotland:

8. THE BUT ‘N’ BEN, Arbroath

About three miles north of Arbroath is the beautifully sleepy village of Auchmithie. It’s worth a visit, but try to be hungry and book ahead for But ‘n’ Ben. A whitewashed cottage on the street – the address No 1 Auchmithie – it is a traditional Scottish restaurant for lunch, dinner and high tea.

The menu is big enough for choice but not so big that it bamboozles. The fish comes in daily from Arbroath, the seafood is caught locally and the beef is also sourced close to home.

The talking point is always the Famous But ‘n’ Ben Smokie Pancake, which is flaked Smokie in a double cream sauce served inside a thin savoury pancake.

There are also traditional dishes like Mince, Tatties & Skirlie, but plenty for vegetarians and salad-lovers too.

Just wait for the heaving dessert trolley to appear though. LW

Auchmithie, Arbroath DD11 5SQ

thebutnben.com

HeraldScotland:

9. DINING AT LEFTFIELD, Edinburgh

What makes a perfect restaurant? It’s highly personal but here’s my list: a small menu of interesting and delicious dishes; seasonal and sustainable sourcing; vegetarian choices that don’t taste like an apology; a well-curated and sparky wine list; friendly service and a great atmosphere. Leftfield ticks every box. It also has one of the best views in Edinburgh.

If you can, arrive at Leftfield in time to catch the last of the sun burnish Arthur’s Seat to a glowing rose-gold across Bruntsfield Links. Pull up a stool in the new bijou bar area and order a cocktail. I recommend the punchy mezcal margarita.

Leftfield has recently had a make-over and white walls have been replaced with deep-green panelled walls. The restaurant seats 20 giving an intimate supper-club style feeling, without ever feeling crowded – big windows and mirrors strike the right balance between cosy and sophisticated. To eat at Leftfield is to feel like an invited guest every time. Co-owner Rachel Chisholm is an incredibly warm and gracious host. She leads front of house with her partner and head chef Phil White in the kitchen. The menu leans towards seafood but also features top local meat, and delightful vegetarian dishes. Seafood is sustainably sourced and prepared with real skill and flair.

I start with today’s special – red mullet with tender gently spiced gochujang aubergine, watercress aioli and house pickled ginger. Every mouthful is a revelation, I’m not sure why these elements go together but they definitely do. I pinch an Islay oyster from my friend’s plate and scan my diary wildly for opportunities to come for more at the bar. With the starters we choose a glass of Alvarinho as suggested, with a gentle sparkle it’s a great pairing. Most wines here are organic and low intervention, all are very carefully chosen.

I opt for the hake with haricot beans, clams and kale. It’s a struggle to bypass the East Coast lobster with its battered tail and claw salsa – I had it last time and it was a dream of a dish. I’m not disappointed though, the hake is beautifully cooked, the beans in a deep and smoky bouillabaisse-like sauce. The little clams are an enjoyable addition and make great little spoons for scooping.

My friend’s octopus with romesco and Hasselback potatoes gets a similarly enthusiastic response. Both are suited nicely to a full-bodied slightly saline Verdejo. For research purposes I also manage a miso caramel tart. It’s dark and cocoa-rich, with chewy caramel and comes dotted with tiny edible flowers and raspberries, a winning finish.

Somehow we’re the last ones in the restaurant, but realise we usually are. It’s a place where time stretches, you can feel at home but also utterly spoiled. As we leave I realise that two older women are actually still at the bar, laughing and chatting over a bottle of something delicious and a pile of oyster shells. AS

12 Barclay Terrace, EH10 4HP

leftfieldedinburgh.co.uk

HeraldScotland:

10. THE BAY FISH & CHIPS, Stonehaven

Calum Richardson could see the opportunity: “When I grew up, this bit of Stonehaven was thriving, it was busy, but people moved away.”

Fish and chips was the idea. He took a chance: “it wasn’t really a gamble, I could see that this would work”. In 2012, The Bay joined the Sustainable Restaurant Association, discovering that a lot of the conversations established restaurants were having were the same ones he was having.

“I won an award in my first year, Raymond Blanc was president and it opened my eyes. I was mixing in different circles after that. It made me realise I needed to elevate what I was doing,” he explains.

Speaking to restaurant owners from other backgrounds spurred him on and made him want to make The Bay the best it could be: “I’m always pushing for other goals, how to get better.”

Calum had been thinking about the service aspect of the shop, the preparation and what they could do better. Shortly before the pandemic he reset the shop, made the place the way he wanted it to be.

He took out the old kitchen and decided to have a click-and-collect window for online orders. It was a big investment but it turned out to be just in time for the way hospitality has changed.

What makes The Bay one of the best fish and chip shops in Scotland? “I don’t think there’s one magic thing that you can do. I think it’s everything put together in the right way. One thing that we have though is that although I’m standing there, I can tell people exactly where the fish has been caught – the fisherman will sometimes send me a picture from the boat!” Calum says. 

Stonehaven is now a tourist destination that’s getting increased attention. “It has moved forward a long way,” Calum explains. “We are right beside the beach and the open air pool. People will walk up to the castle and then come to us for fish and chips. I suppose we’ve always had great local tourism, but over the last few years people have been thinking about us more.”

Fish and chip shops are one of the aspects of Scottish hospitality that is all about a connection with customers. Calum is looking forward to the season ahead: “I love people! Our doors have been shut for two years, so we are only just getting going again. I’ve missed having the public in. The beauty is, it’s an open plan shop, people see everything we are doing. I’ve taken walls down.”

“People ask me questions while I’m cooking and I enjoy that. It becomes personal. The experience is what we are all missing. I can’t wait to get back to that.”

Calum’s Stonehaven shop has won many awards and The Bay’s fame attracted the attention of the production of the television Outlander. “I was invited on set and at the end of the production I got chatting to Sam Heughan. I asked him to sign a bottle of his whisky, The Sassenach. There was an auction and we raised money to support a local charity, Finlay’s Funds, to support a local young man who has cerebal palsy,” Calum explains.

What would he have himself for a fish supper? “If I’ve got fresh langoustines in, I’d have them with chips. Jimmy Buchan had been a big friend of mine for a long time, he’s the man behind the Amity Fish Company and Trawlerman television show. I told him I needed peeled langoustines for my scampi and it’s outstanding. You can taste the difference. My passion comes from the fact that I can tell the story behind what I sell. I take pride in the fact I sell local fish.” PT

Beach Rd, Stonehaven AB39 2RD

thebayfishandchips.co.uk

HeraldScotland:

11. OYSTERS AT ONDINE, Edinburgh

Sitting on a high stool at Ondine’s elegant oyster bar is surely one of Scotland’s top culinary treats. From here you can watch your oysters be expertly shucked and prepared. It’s the perfect way to begin a meal at Ondine, or as an early evening treat – oyster happy hour is from 5.30pm.

Roy Brett has won dozens of awards for his Edinburgh seafood restaurant since he opened it back in 2009, including being awarded ‘Best Restaurant in Scotland’ at the 2021 Estrella Damm National Restaurant Awards.

Order a platter of fresh oysters, perhaps a glass of fizz, and you’ll understand what all the fuss is about. AS

2 George IV Bridge, EH1 1AD

ondinerestaurant.co.uk

HeraldScotland:

12. BAR SNACKS AT THE TULLY GRANDTULLY HOTEL, Perthshire

We would never knock a bowl of chips with a pint, but at The Tully, the bar snacks menu is on another level all together. Think Loch Fyne oysters with buttermilk, cucumber and dill, Great Glen charcuterie with pickles, Hebridean salmon pastrami, and an Isle of Mull crab tart with rarebit and pickled onions. Outstanding.

The bar is gorgeous, with leather banquette seating and a long, elegant serving area, or alternatively grab a courtyard table in the sunshine.

The Tully is also the place for a cracking Negroni (or almost as good Nogroni for the driver), or try a Ballintaggart Foraged G&T. AS

Grandtully, Perthshire, PH9 0PL

ballintaggart.com/grandtully-hotel

HeraldScotland:

13. DUNDEE GIN, Dundee

The city has seen a growth in its distilleries and breweries, with Verdant Spirits and 71 Brewing both start-up successes in the past decade.

Another is the simply named Dundee Gin. It launched with the full-strength marmalade gin, which has now become a gin liqueur. It now has a dry gin but specialises in flavoured gin liqueurs such as Dundee cake, cranachan, summer fruits, and blueberry.

With a conscious decision not to go into supermarkets, there is a list of where to buy in independent shops, hotels, pubs and restaurants on the website.

The flavours are collaborations – with fruits picked locally and the Dundee cake liqueur made in consultation with the city’s bakers. Using local produce, using Dundee workers and giving back to the city through its charitable arm, it’s well named. LW

thedundeegin.com

HeraldScotland:

14. FRESH PASTA FROM ÆMILIA, Portobello

Aemilia was the lockdown project for two furloughed pasta fans that took off like a rocket. Now from their ever so cute Portobello premises this enterprising couple sell out of their beautiful homemade pasta daily (pre-ordering recommended).

The menu changes frequently – recent dishes include ricotta and spinach ravioli, ‘nduja and ricotta agnolotti, and aubergine and scamorza tortelli. Along with your pasta, take home sauces, focaccia and Italian desserts, and enjoy restaurant quality food at home. On a Sunday you can buy ready to eat dishes to enjoy on the prom, and there are regular pasta pop-ups at wine bar Mistral. AS

aemilia.online

HeraldScotland:

15. FISHER & DONALDSON, Cupar, St Andrews and Dundee

Many business have their “signature” product and for Fisher & Donaldson there’s no doubt that it’s the fudge doughnut. Many have tried to imitate but the recipe is clearly as closely guarded as any other iconic treat.

The HQ is Cupar where after the First World War brothers-in-law Willie Fisher and Davie Donaldson, started up the business after returning from the Front. They sold it to nephew Alexander Milne in the 1940s and it has remained in his family.

There are other, less sweet, favourites such as the Dr Floyd bread, packed with healthy seeds and grains and the Fife hand-cut oatcakes.

There are now seven cafes and bakeries across the three locations, which also sell gift boxes of handmade chocolates, preserves and chutneys. LW

fisheranddonaldson.com

HeraldScotland:

16. MACKAYS, Arbroath

Angus is the soft fruit growing heart of Scotland. Mackays certainly advantage of that with an ever-expanding range of preserves, marmalades, chutneys and curds. Now based in Arbroath the company started its life just along the coast in Carnoustie, where the Mackay brothers switched from carrot processing to jams, using the berries in the fields around them.

Even though the ranges have grown to the point where all the ingredients can’t be sourced here, for the more traditional preserves, the strawberries, raspberries and blackcurrants are all from eastern Scotland.

The fig and ginger preserves are a sign of more adventurous palates as are the chutneys, one of which also uses figs along with apple and sits alongside a chili jam.

Perhaps it’s marmalade where Mackays really excel, with 10 varieties in the range including proper heritage Dundee marmalade and even a pink grapefruit. LW

mackays.com

HeraldScotland:

17. BARE BONES CHOCOLATE, Glasgow

Lara Messer was working as a food photographer in London when she was inspired to start her own chocolate business. “I started to look into the process and got so involved in the idea, reading everything I could on the subject. I realised it was quite scientific which seemed perfect as my boyfriend Cameron, now my business partner, is an engineer,” she says.

The couple returned home to Scotland and started Bare Bones, their bean to bar handcrafted chocolate business, based in a workshop under two railway arches close to Glasgow Green. Their range and sales have grown significantly in the last two years, Lara says: “People wanted something special to brighten their day and chocolate is an inexpensive pick-me-up, so we had lots of orders coming in.”

Locally, 287 Bakery use their chocolate in their bakes while Sprigg, Perch and Rest, Morning Glory, and Us v Them are among the neighbourhood cafés serving their fantastic hot chocolate. PT

7/9 Osborne St, G1 5QN

bareboneschocolate.co.uk

HeraldScotland:

18. VISOCCHI’S CAFÉ, Broughty Ferry, Dundee

Visocchi’s Café is that dream seaside location that makes any day trip into a memory that involves “that brilliant ice-cream”.

As its frontage shows, one side of the café is dedicated to the gelateria, with traditional flavours and a changing menu of specials, and now includes vegan options – the ice-cream has been recognised with awards as prestigious as The Golden Cone.

The Broughty Ferry café is run by the Caira family who have been serving up Italian classics and more in the cafe since 1954. The third generation are now involved with brothers Marco Jnr and Roberto running with mum Antonia since dad Marco, passed away in 2017.

The Kirriemuir ice-cream parlour and café, located on the main square, is run by another branch of the family. LW

40 Gray St, Broughty Ferry DD5 2BJ

visocchis.com

HeraldScotland:

19. THE BIG FEED, Glasgow

A family-friendly street food market by the Clyde brings together a collective of traders alongside retro arcade games, a beer garden and kids area with face-painting. Good vibes only at weekend events in Govan with a rotating roster of menus to choose from. Entertainment in the warehouse setting is provided by local musicians and DJs.

Highlights from the street food includes an impressive aromatic duck Turkish flatbread shwarma with Asian slaw, cucumber and hoisin sauce; salt and chili spring rolls – a festival favourite – and Neapolitan pizza with chorizo, black pudding, fresh chillies and hot honey. Churros or Three Sisters Bake hot brownies for dessert.

An incubator for new food ideas, previous traders have included Shrimpwreck, who recently set up a permanent home in Portobello and Julie Lin from Julie’s Kopitiam in Shawlands. PT

249-325 Govan Rd, G51 2SE

big-feed.com

HeraldScotland:

20. HAGGIS AND ART AT THE UBIQUITOUS CHIP, Glasgow

The first dish Ronnie Clydesdale ever served at Glasgow’s Ubiquitous Chip when it opened in 1971 was Mallaig-landed squid with conger eel and bacon. The self-taught chef decided to open a restaurant based around a celebration of Scottish produce, taking over an electrician’s yard in Ruthven Lane before moving to Ashton Lane around five years later. It was an unusual idea at the time.

An unwavering dedication to provenance, continued by Ronnie’s son, Colin and his partner Carol, has lasted across five decades. Famous diners have including Princess Margaret and Mick Jagger.

Artwork by Alasdair Gray on the staircase and the brasserie captures some of the local characters that have added to the atmosphere of the place. Their own venison haggis, served with turnip and potato pureé, is a national treasure. PT

12 Ashton Lane, G12 8SJ

ubiquitouschip.co.uk