What is a seafood restaurant? Some of the best restaurants in Edinburgh offer a seafood tasting menu these days featuring accomplished dishes like langoustine with parsnip and white chocolate, verjus, smoked butter and shrimps. Meanwhile a less formal outfit like the Mussel & Steak Bar with its two branches (Grassmarket and Jeffrey Street) serves up oysters and pots of mussels but it clearly devotes a great deal of its energies to beef (looking for beef? Try Edinburgh's best steak restaurants). Like a number of other decent eateries Sweet Melinda's (Roseneath Street) might have Cajun-spiced salmon on the menu, sea bass with olive mash as a special, but it will also have roast chicken or an Aberdeen Angus burger as well. None of these are really seafood restaurants per se, even though they serve seafood. To qualify, the bulk of the menu choices must be fish or shellfish and it definitely helps if the décor has a maritime theme – or some concession to matters nautical. With that in mind, here are Edinburgh's finest spots for seafood…
Edinburgh seafood restaurants
It's by the sea – Newhaven Harbour is across the street – the interior looks like a well-appointed surf shack and it has ceviche, chowder, lobster, mussels and oysters on the menu. Meanwhile the specials board could bring scallops with black pudding, sea bream with potatoes, samphire and potted shrimp, and other simple, fresh dishes. Given the owners are Thai – and the premises used to house a Thai restaurant – there may be even be some Asian-inflected options at times. Fish haters can resort to burger and fries; desserts might be affogato or fruit crumble.
For more than 20 years this has been one of Edinburgh's primary destinations for seafood, cheek by jowl with Leith Docks. Other esteemed local restaurants have come and gone in that time but Fishers hit a groove, went about its business and quietly expanded – the business now owns the bar-restaurant one door along (The Shore) and has a popular branch in the New Town (Fishers in the City). With busy layout and varnished wood, the Leith original has the appearance of a well-appointed ship's cabin while the menu offers a dependable list of classics (fishcakes, fish soup, mussels, oysters, seafood platter) as well as à la carte choices like Goan monkfish and king prawn curry with basmati or whole plaice with potatoes, brown shrimp and tarragon butter.
Cheerful, bustling, simply decorated with IKEA-style furniture and sitting in the pedestrian precinct of Rose Street, Mussel Inn does no more nor no less than it claims. There are starters like chowder, fishcakes, oysters, scallops or whitebait; mains such as spiced crab pasta, fish stew or sea bass. The speciality of course is mussels in half kilo or kilo pots which you can have completely unadorned, or in classic moules marinière style, they can come with blue cheese, bacon and cream, plus there are more options. It can be fun but when it's seriously busy, don't expect finesse.
Open since 2009 this venue has chic, modern décor, a classy approach and Marine Stewardship Council accreditation for its use of sustainable seafood. It's where to come for starters like beetroot-cured salmon with a pickled oyster, mains like Cornish-landed sea bass with baba ghanoush and roasted aubergine – perhaps a fruits of the sea platter featuring brown crab, langoustine, lobster, mussels, oysters, razor clams and scallops. Deft cooking, good presentation and ingredients of excellent provenance here make for a fine dining experience.
Divided into a bar area and a restaurant area, both parts of this venue have a wholly nautical look with dark wood fixtures and fittings, maritime artefacts and other seagoing decorative touches. Its proximity to Leith Docks adds yet more saltiness. You can come here for breakfast from 9am, the lunch menu kicks in at noon, dinner from 5pm. In the evening you're looking at dishes like lemon sole meunière, chargrilled sea bass with crispy noodles and chilli-ginger stir fry or a seafood paella with chorizo for two. There is also a crustacea and molluscs menu available at lunch and dinner bringing anything from half a dozen oysters to the fruits de mer royale for two or three diners: pretty much everything you could think of on a platter – and chips.