Ask someone south of the border for their thoughts on Scottish cuisine and they’ll inevitably offer up thoughts of two Gaelic gastronomic inventions: haggis and deep-fried Mars bars.
Despite the wealth of produce available – and exported – from the country, Scottish fare has struggled to shake its tartan-clad clichés. Take a table in London and you’ll find Orkney scallops, Isle of Mull oysters, highland venison and Outer Hebridean whisky on restaurant menus, while bonnie chefs like Quo Vadis’s charismatic Jeremy Lee and industry darling Adam Handling lead the capital’s kitchens. But in the depths of Braveheart country, the restaurant scene is now freshening up as a bevvy of young chefs make the most of Scotland’s generous natural larder to serve Michelin-worthy meals.
Don’t think this is fine dining of the silent, white tableclothed type, though. Somewhere between the seriousness of the late, lauded Andrew Fairlie’s outposts, and the sweet, toffee-ed ooze of a chippy’s deep-fried offering, the new Scots dining style is fresh, informal and short of pretence.
I wondered why it’s taken so long for the nation’s restaurant scene to shake itself up as I was scooping up delicate slivers of spoot tucked between petit pois and doused in an elderflower jus. The spoots – razor clams to those born behind Hadrian’s Wall – are the first course of 11 on a tasting menu at Heron restaurant in Edinburgh’s Leith neighbourhood. Opened in 2021, this informal dining spot is spearheading the city’s relaxed dining revolution. In March, it tucked a Michelin star under its wing.
Baby-faced youth sit at the heart of this Scottish food reimagining. The chefs behind Heron’s kitchen, Tomás Gormely and Sam Yorke, are 28 and 25 respectively. The spoots are one obvious example of the team’s playful use of Scots produce.