Great Places to Eat in Scotland
- Shaws Bistro & International Tapas Bar, Edinburgh

Shaws Bistro

The Location
Location MapFor city residents or visitors, the Royal Mile could not be more central or convenient. Shaws Bistro is near St. Giles Cathedral and a couple of minute's walk down Old Fishmarket Close, a steep cobbled hill leading off the High Street. While all around are historic, centuries-old buildings, this is a modern property (at #21) featuring offices and apartments with this purpose built bar on the ground floor and the restaurant downstairs. Richard Murphy Architects won a Saltire award for the exceptional design. The name is inspired by a 17th century fish porter named Shaw, who worked in this very street, Old Fishmarket Close.

The Restaurant
Shaws Bistro

Enter from the street into the attractive, modern café bar, stuffed with leather sofas, coffee tables - a cool, spacious environment for a leisurely drink or snack. Down the curving staircase to find a maze of separate sections, mezzanine levels, cosy corners and private dining booths, with tables suitable for couples or large party of friends. The interior design, as upstairs, is all polished blonde wood and dark leather.

The owners and management team behind Shaws is most impressive. Steven Balsillie has most recently worked for Festival Inns, involved in the setting up of the phenomenally successful Edinburgh bar-restaurants, Three Sisters and Beluga. Tony Marino launched and managed the ever popular Italian restaurant Est Est Est in Edinburgh before moving to run the Bar and Grill, Manchester. The Head Chef is Tariq Malik is used to being part of the kitchen brigade in leading 5 star hotels, namely the Balmoral hotel and the Howard, Edinburgh. From there Tariq went on to become head chef at Fitzhenrys where he achieved a Michelin Red M prior to setting up the Dial Restaurant. Travel in France, Austria and Canada has given him wide experience in international cuisine.

The Food
Around the World in 80 Dishes could be the slogan of Shaws Bistro. Specialising in international tapas from across the continents, this is the modern way of eating. Forget a formal menu of starters and main courses from which each person selects their own dish. While there are several Spanish tapas bars around town, Shaws has created a unique global cuisine experience derived from across Europe, Asia, Middle East, Africa, Australia and the Americas. It makes so much easier to dine here with friends if they all want to eat a different kind of food. You prefer Thai while your partner loves Mexican? No problem - it's all served here so everyone is happy.

Shaws BistroWhether dining as a couple or party of six, Shaws has been created for fun eating together. Choose about three or four dishes per person and share around the table. Every dish is starter size and whatever you order, they will be brought to your table as prepared in no particular order. This makes your taste buds work hard. Begin perhaps around the Mediterranean with a couple of succulent, crisp fried Calamari dipped in garlic mayonnaise and a slice of Spanish Tortilla. Head up to the Shetland Isles to sample a few mussels, steamed in classic white wine and garlic cream sauce. Now for something spicy, we fly far east for a plate of Seared Tuna with Asian pesto. The fish was cooked to pink perfection (i.e. undercooked) on a nest of Chinese noodle salad and finely scented with ginger, coriander and spring onion pesto. It was difficult to share this dish with my partner as he wanted it all! Other Asian dishes include tasty Duck pancakes, Thai salmon and prawn fishcakes (a little rubbery on this occasion) and Tempura tiger prawns, fat and juicy, with a sweet chilli dipping sauce.

Shaws is the ideal place for adventurous eating and try something different - you only need to sample a mouthful. What about Kangaroo Fillet, described as Australian venison. Here it is char grilled and served with a port and red current reduction. There's also Ostrich steak - renowned for its low fat, lean quality - and cooked as you prefer. Finally, we cross the Pacific for some real Californian cuisine, such as traditional Clam chowder, spicy chilli chicken wings and a classic Caesar salad. The journey around the culinary world goes on and I haven't had time to mention the lamb kebabs from North Africa and a simple, yet delicious, Middle East appetiser, Salata Moshakai, hummous with pitta bread. And for afters - if you have any room after that feast - are typical British desserts, ice-cream and sticky toffee pudding.

The Bill
Contact the restaurant for current menu and prices.

Shaws Bistro

Just like today's usual dress code, Shaws Bistro is Smart Casual. It's laid back, cool and contemporary. The stylish upstairs bar just makes you want to lounge on the leather sofa with a martini or two to summon the appetite, then wander downstairs for a feast of good food. This may not be gourmet eating - these are simple wee tasty dishes - but dining tapas style is healthy, adventurous and fun. So take a trip around the world and give your taste buds a treat.

Vivien Devlin
February 2006

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