The Scottish Cafe & Restaurant
Having a single day off when it hasn’t been pouring it down has proved a difficult thing to pull off in 2016. However, Wednesday I was off, my husband was home and the sun was shining, so we headed into town to grab some scran.
Normally, something quick, simple and non-pretentious is our go-to for lunch. However, we’ve not been out in A WHILE, so we opted for something a bit fancier overlooking Princes Street gardens with The Scottish Cafe & Restaurant underneath the National Galleries run by the Contini restaurant group.
We were greeted by a friendly waiter and luckily bagged a choice table outside, bathed in sunlight overlooking the gardens and Waverley bridge.
Inside, the decor is exactly what you would expect from a slightly-posher tourist trap. Enough wood to not appear cheap, and enough wipeable surfaces to speed through the bus loads of tourists and school groups. I should mention that the toilets are lovely – there’s a single hand dryer, fancy soap AND hand cream (I did say we were in a slightly-posher place!).
Of course, I can only speak for the ladies’. Outside, the chairs are comfortable enough, although the tables aren’t up to much, putting the sticky in plasticky. However, in a city like Edinburgh where one can have all four seasons in a day, needs must.
The menus boast a range Scottish dishes and Scottish sourced ingredients – from Lanark Blue yoghurt and Dunlop Dairy goats cheese to Loch Duart smoked salmon and Orkney oatcakes. Sharing platters, high-tea, open sandwiches, salads and butteries are also on offer – and everything is billed as ‘sustainable’, and ‘locally sourced’ or has some Scottish name in front of it – just in case you weren’t sure. Orders are placed electronically and staff were well-practised at both clearing and waiting on tables – essential given the sheer amount of through-traffic this place must receive.
After being presented with sufficient time to peruse the menu and some iced tap water, I ordered the Cullen skink and hubby a mug of soup with an open ham sandwich….. described on the menu as “Ramsay of Carluke smoked ham with Uncle Roy’s peppercorn mustard creme fraiche”.
At this point I have to ask: who is Uncle Roy?? Is he in the basement under the gallery perpetually mixing mustard and pepper into vats of creme fraiche? We may never know….
The Cullen skink was delicious and went straight into my top 5 Cullen skinks of all time – not too fishy, not too creamy, not too runny and not too herby – the best Cullen skink is denoted by the absence of these things. The balance of haddock to potatoes felt more like 1:2 rather than an ideal 1:1.
The leek and courgette soup I’m told was well balanced and flavourful and the open sandwich was exactly that – presented with a side of potato and rocket salad. Uncle Roy did a good job on the creme fraiche – but it could have had a touch more mustard for my taste.
As we ate our very Scottish food from a very Scottish menu in a Scottish restaurant and looked across the Scottish capital, drinking our Scottish tap-water and listening to our Scottish piper above us play Celtic music, I confess, I felt rather Scottish.
The bill was less-Scottish (nae cheap) at £24.75 for a spot of lunch. However, I reminded myself that we were in the very centre of town, my hands were nice and soft from the hand-cream in the toilets, the gallery was free and somehow Contini have to pay for Uncle Roy to live in the basement.
So to sum-up: the Contini branded Scottish Cafe & Restaurant is a great spot on a warm day and well placed if you fancy a wander around the galleries and capital in general. The food is up to standard and good quality and the service is excellent – so worthwhile popping by if you have friends visiting who are feeling touristy. Despite this, I do find it a bit on the pricey side, so would save it for when splashing out on lunch is the plan.
Vicky scores The Scottish Cafe & Restaurant
4/5 for food
4/5 for presentation
4/5 for setting
4.5/5 for service
giving an overall 16.5/20
I ate: cullen skink
Husband ate: Ramsay of Carluke smoked ham with Uncle Roy’s peppercorn mustard creme fraiche
We drank: tap water
I wore: no suncream
Total Bill: £24.75
Address: The Scottish National Gallery, The Mound, Edinburgh