scotland 1620

White Horse Oyster & Seafood Bar

Edinburgh, Scotland

There’s a special kind of joy reserved for when you find great food by accident. Some of that joy seems to make every mouthful just that little bit more satisfying, as if your taste buds are giving you a slap on the back for a job well done. Part of it too, perhaps, provides a sense of smugness; that somehow, without research, recommendation or relying on the reviews you see on your phone, you can still function as a human being and exercise independent thought successfully. Whatever it is, I like it when it happens.

A trio of oysters

And so to the White Horse in Edinburgh. Without a reservation on a bank holiday weekend I wandered in and was invited to have a drink at the bar whilst my table was readied. I (along with my Palate colleagues, I suspect) tend to judge a place on the strength of its Negroni. A sprig of rosemary was initially a worry, but thankfully it added only an aroma rather than the dreaded ‘twist on a classic’. It was in fact everything a Negroni should be, and the additional flourish of using a heat stamp to embellish the ice cube with the restaurant’s logo was a nice presentational touch.

Having initially been shown to my table and given a menu, I will admit I was left alone for a while – a small gripe as, if nothing else, I had finished my aperitif and was again thirsty – but the service once it got going was nonetheless engaging, thoughtful and knowledgeable. The suggested trio of oysters from Caledonia, Lindesfarme and Carlingford were fresh, plump and rather delicious.  A nod, too, must go to the detail in proper preparation (previous experiences have included basic errors such as not detaching the mollusc from its shell) and the jaw-clenching sharpness of sweet shallots drenched in vinegar.

This is the kind of thoughtful cooking with great ingredients that puts a smile on your face

That Negroni

The wine list may feel a little on the small side to some, but there wasn’t a single bottle there that was out of place, ill-suited or outrageously priced. I chose a Spanish Albariño, Pulpo from Pagos del Rey, to keep me company – a fantastic, bright, unoaked wine that gave a perfect balance of fresh, peachy fruit with a mineral feel. It seemed perfectly suited to not only my food but my surroundings – a clean, modern dining area with grey-blue walls, uncomplicated furniture and the odd lobster pot adorning the wall. Intelligently divided in to three, you can simply visit for a drink and oysters at the bar, share a booth and small plates with friends, or opt for the dining room to the rear.

Cracking claws and picking the meat is a thoroughly satisfying experience, if you can stand to get a little messy. Or in my case very messy. My three claws were packed with succulent white flesh and were a delight by themselves, but with a squeeze of burnt lemon juice I could honestly concentrate on nothing else. I have a vague memory of there being mayonnaise too, but I didn’t touch a drop. The main course of lemon sole was arguably the best fish main course I’ve ever had. As far as I could tell there were only five ingredients – the sole, some clams, samphire, red chillies and butter – and yet it was a combination that will live long in the memory. This is the kind of thoughtful cooking with great ingredients that puts a smile on your face.

This is the kind of place I want to go back to.

White Horse Oyster & Seafood Bar
Food & Drink56
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266 Canongate
Royal Mile


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