Great Places to Eat in Scotland
- Stac Polly

The Location
There are in fact three Stac Polly restaurants around Edinburgh, all serving a similar menu of quality and contemporary Scottish cuisine. It is now 21 years - raise a glass! - since Roger Coulthard the energetic and passionate-about-food entrepreneur, (then aged only 25), opened his first Stac Polly restaurant on Dublin Street in the New Town of Edinburgh. A second restaurant opened a few years later on Grindlay Street, beside the city's concert hall and theatres.

More recently, this tiny, quirky Bistro opened on St. Mary's Street, in the heart of the Old Town, two minutes walk from the Royal Mile (seen here), half way down the attractive tourist trail between Castle and Palace.

The Restaurant

The name Stac Polly comes from the spectacular, craggy, towering mountain Stac Pollaidh, (2,009 ft) north of Ullapool in the North West Highlands. The name means "peak of the peat moss" and it's a must-visit trek for enthusiastic hill walkers. Roger admits he is not a hill climber himself, but loves to go marathon cycle rides for relaxation, even after finishing work the night before at midnight!

You don't have to trek far to visit Stac Polly Bistro on St. Mary's Street, an easy walk down the High Street or along the Cowgate. Roger himself is often the Chef in the kitchen. The layout design is divided into two separate rooms (with the kitchen in between), one wee space right inside the door, and another bright and sunny room with patio door overlooking a courtyard. This is "intimate" dining with neatly-spaced, scrubbed country pine tables and chairs, decorated with landscapes paintings and green plants.

The Food
The tag line for Stac Polly is The Scottish Restaurant. Simple cuisine focusing on local produce with a modern twist is what Stac Polly is all about. Roger's ethos which began 21 years ago has not changed. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. The concise, varied seasonal menu emphasises homely, freshly prepared dishes - meal-in-a-bowl soup, local seafood, lamb, venison, chicken and, of course, haggis.

If you have never eaten haggis, try Filo pastry haggis parcels for a starter (a Scottish samosa), served with plum and red wine sauce. And a delicious specialty is Smoked haddock Fishcake - stuffed with chunky fish, peppery creamy potato, complemented well with saffron aoli and delicate micro herb salad. For main course, we sampled a fillet of prime Scottish salmon with a Chinese spicy crust, on a bed of Celeriac mash and fresh green beans. Vegetarians (or carnivores wanting a change of scene), should try the hearty, healthy Savoury Crepe stuffed full of mushrooms, leeks and spinach, smothered in a light citrus crème fraiche and green salad. I was given one Crepe which was a feast, but apparently men (or hungry ladies), will be presented with two Crepes.

If you have the appetite, the pudding menu is classic: Lemon and ginger sponge with custard, or traditional Scottish Cranachan - raspberries, toasted oatmeal soaked in Drambuie, the honey flavoured whisky liqueur. A diner beside me said to the waiter that this dessert was "Divine".

To Drink...

Stac Polly is a beer drinkers' kind of place. The blackboard lists several Scottish beers and micro brewery Real Ales with poetic food pairing descriptions: Dark Island from Orkney, (iconic, ripe, fruity nose, dried fruit and figs, suitable with red meat, mushrooms, strong cheese); Latitude from Atlas brewery - German noble hops and Highland water = a refreshing Pilsner ale best with roast pork, fish, chicken. The short, comprehensive wine list - from Spain, Italy, New Zealand, and Chile - has three house wines by the glass.

The Bill
Contact Stac Polly Web site for current menu and prices.

Further Information
Stac Polly is located at 38 St Mary's Street (off the Royal Mile) in Edinburgh's Old Town. Post al code (useful for Satnav devices) is EH1 1SX. See also Google Maps for St Mary's Street. For sample menus and more information, see the Stac Polly Web site. To make a reservation phone 0131 558 3083

This is a casual, friendly, welcoming Bistro for lunch, early supper or relaxing dinner. On the night we were there, it was full with people being turned away if they did not have a reservation - our fellow diners were a lively crowd of Dutch rugby supporters, a few couples of all ages, a family with teenagers, locals and city visitors alike. For a special family occasion or for a large group of friends, you can reserve your own room for private dining. And check out the Stac Polly website to find out about the other two Stac Polly restaurants.

Vivien Devlin
July 2010

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