Nine of the best Scottish restaurants

From exemplary foraged ingredients to mackerel pulled from the depths of Loch Fyne, there’s plenty for diners in Scotland to cheer.

The Harbour Cafe, Fife.

Photograph by Jack Elles
By Audrey Gillan
Published 30 Nov 2021, 09:30 GMT, Updated 6 Dec 2021, 11:00 GMT

When restaurant Cail Bruich ended Glasgow’s wait for a Michelin star back in March, it provided further proof of Scotland’s recent emergence as a fine dining hotspot. Although the pandemic has posed problems, overall the country’s restaurant offering is in rude health, with several exciting new openings adding to a cast of chefs that thumb their noses at the cliched notions of what constitutes their nation’s cooking. The best dishes here showcase the cream of the Scottish larder: langoustines and scallops, venison and Aberdeen Angus beef, foraged roots and fruits; all cooked with skilful technique and a real understanding of what local flavour is and why it should be centre stage.

Roscoff onion, smoked eel, chive, old winchester, king's oscietra caviar.

Smoked eel with Roscoff onion, Old Winchester cheese and King’s oscietra caviar at Cail Bruich.

Photograph by Clair Irwin

1. Cail Bruich, Glasgow

In terms of Michelin stars, Glasgow was a veritable vacuum from 2004 — when Gordon Ramsay's Amaryllis closed its doors for the last time — right up until March this year. That was when Cail Bruich broke the city’s 17-year duck. Lorna McNee, a former protégé of the late Andrew Fairlie, has been head chef at this petit establishment, close to the Botanic Gardens, since August 2020. And, over the course of either five or seven courses, she and her team put on a masterclass of culinary storytelling.

Typical dish: Gigha halibut with Jerusalem artichoke, hazelnut, beurre noisette and dashi.

Unalome, Glasgow Chef's table 

The chef’s table experience at Unalome in Glasgow.

Photograph by Alan Donaldson

2. Unalome, Glasgow

Having already worked at a pair of Michelin-starred Scottish restaurants — Martin Wishart at Loch Lomond and the Isle of Eriska Hotel — Graeme Cheevers will be aiming to head in the same direction with his first solo restaurant, located in the city of his birth. Unalome opened its doors in Glasgow’s Finnieston neighbourhood back in July, serving up modern European dishes packed full of high-quality Scottish ingredients, with some particularly excellent fish and seafood creations on offer.

Typical dish: Roasted Inverurie lamb, Barra cockles, herb cream and golden turnips.

3. Monadh Kitchen, Glasgow

When one considers the quality of the cooking at this restaurant — based in the leafy suburb of Bearsden — the set menu is great value: three courses for £27.95. Husband-and-wife team Martin Thliveros and Sharlene Harvey command the kitchen and dining room, with everything apart from the bread made in-house.

Typical dish: Wild Inverness-shire venison loin, mashed potatoes, pickled red cabbage, roast beetroot, braised nuts and red wine sauce. 

4. The Palmerston, Edinburgh

Opened in July, this all-day bistro and bakery has a daily-changing menu that makes the most of local, seasonal produce. It’s another with value at the heart of its offering, the three-course, set lunch only £19. Owners chef Lloyd Morse and James Snowdon, who previously worked at London’s Spring and The Harwood Arms, respectively, are champions of provenance, sustainability and whole-animal butchery.

Typical dish: Slow-roast hogget, sprouting broccoli, onions and anchovy.

Exterior of Little Chartroom.

Exterior of Little Chartroom.

Photograph by Amelia Claudia

5. The Little Chartroom, Edinburgh

Having recently moved to new premises, a short walk away from its original location, The Little Chartroom is no longer quite as little as it once was. Chef-owner Roberta Hall-McCarron is, however, still pursuing her ‘passion for the best of Scottish produce’, only now with more elbow room for both cooks and customers. The thoughtfully curated menu remains petit, though, with three options for each course guided by what’s available. A smaller sister, wine bar/restaurant Eleanore, is set to open on The Little Chartroom’s former premises this December.

Typical dish: Hare fillet, leg and sausage, Scotch broth, red cabbage, violet mustard.

Gigha halibut, citrus butter & coastal greens, from Inver.

Gigha halibut, citrus butter & coastal greens, from Inver.

Photograph by Alexander Baxter

6. Inver, Argyll and Bute

Inver sits on the shores of Loch Fyne in Strathlachlan, on Scotland’s west coast, offering diners a view of the ruins of Castle Lachlan. In this stunning location, chef Pam Brunton and her partner Rob Latimer, work with the local environment, sourcing fresh, bright produce and bringing it all together with exemplary technique. Mackerel is brought to the kitchen door by the bucketload, a local brewery makes beer to the restaurant’s own recipe and there are bothies and ‘shepherd’s huts’ available on a B&B basis.

Typical dish: Gigha halibut, smoky mussel butter and coast­al greens

7. The Cellar, Fife

At this Michelin-starred restaurant — housed in a former smokehouse and cooperage in the town of Anstruther — chef-owner Billy Boyter showcases his skills with a set lunch menu and a set tasting menu. Once again, the focus here is seasonal Scottish produce, with Boyter — a local boy who knows the hedgerows and beaches like the back of his hand — fond of using ingredients he’s foraged himself, such as rosehips, brambles, elderberries, dabberlocks and pepper dulse (both types of seaweed).

Typical dish: Halibut, Arbroath smokie, jasmine and shellfish-glazed salsify and yuzu.

A table overlooking the ocean at The Harbour Cafe, Fife.

A table overlooking the ocean at The Harbour Cafe, Fife.

Photograph by Jack Elles

8. The Harbour Cafe, Fife

With a menu built around what the local boats bring in, freshly caught, simply prepared seafood is what this cafe is all about. Located in the seaside town of Elie, in the East Neuk of Fife, it’s housed in a large wooden shack with windows that look out across the Forth Estuary. But it’s not just fish — co-owners Amy and Jack Elles also serve homemade chips, sausage rolls, Forfar bridies (meat pies) and soups and stews.

Typical dish: Barbecued half lobster served with patatas aliñas, East Neuk Market Garden salad, aioli, lemon and sourdough. 

A dish from the Hoebridge, Scottish Borders.

The Hoebridge, Gattonside. 

Courtesy The Hoebridge

9. The Hoebridge, Scottish Borders

Expect brief, seasonal menus, changing to highlight each month’s splendour, with the bread, pasta, pastries, pickles and almost everything else crafted by self-taught chef and local lad Hamish Carruthers’ own hand. Having returned from a life of world adventure with his New Yorker husband and now front-of-house maestro Kyle Tidd, it’s fair to say the pair have brought style to the village of Gattonside, near the town of Melrose. There’s also a garden, conservatory and bar.

Typical dish: Venison, celeriac, chanterelles, beetroot crisp, duck-fat-fried sourdough, cavolo nero.

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