Edinburgh was a fortress city for centuries, growing ever upward because it didn’t dare to expand outward. For this reason there is an intensity about the city even today. Edinburgh has been both the citadel of Scottish kings and a fortress held by English garrisons against the Scots. As such it has learned to hold both cultures simultaneously in its hand. This makes the Scottish capital both a symbol of a nation and Scotland’s international window on the world.
Proximity to the North Sea at Leith gave Edinburgh access to excellent seafood and a lot of contact with France, which led to some fine dining in the city down the centuries. Access to the Scottish lowlands has brought in traditional Scottish dishes, and there are even some Scandinavian influences – Scotland is closer to Norway than it is to London. Immigration has also had an impact on Edinburgh’s cuisine, with the flavours of Italy to be found in the city’s ice cream parlours, cafés and restaurants.
Climate has played its part in the city’s culinary development. Edinburgh sits further north than Copenhagen or Malmö in Sweden. Hot, filling dishes such as porridge and Cock-a-leekie soup, sustaining fish and meat dishes like Cullen skink and haggis, and whisky a drink that means “water of life” in Gaelic – have always kept the population warm and well fed (whisky is so popular now it’s Scotland’s calling card around the world). For all these reasons Edinburgh offers up multiple delights to the travelling gourmand.