Where to eat at Christmas

  • The List
  • 11 December 2006

Festive feasting

While the festive season goes full pelt, groups of friends or family may need a place to celebrate. Here are a host of restaurants The List rates as among the best for special meals.


92-94 Mitchell Street, City Centre
0141 221 0971
From the tall doorway to the knowingly efficient and dapper waiters, there is a sense of grandeur at L’Ariosto. The menu focuses on strong combinations of Italian flavours, from seafood salad to slightly charred cutlets of veal. Fancy a bit of entertainment? The disco ball begins to spin once the cabaret starts.
Largest group booking About 120
Private dining room? Yes, for about 60

7 Church Street, West End
0141 339 7711
Located at the bottom of Church Street in cavernous premises (that nevertheless manages to maintain a sense of intimacy), Balbir’s is the latest venture of Balbir Singh Sumal, a veteran Indian restaurateur. Opened in 2005, it offers innovation, serving home-style and contemporary Indian cuisine, using fresh ingredients, no food colouring and substituting ghee with low-cholesterol rapeseed oil. First-time diners might try the banquet, which comprises three starters and three main courses.
Largest group booking About 70
Private dining room? No

The Buttery
652 Argyle Street, West End
0141 221 8188
Here’s a venerable Glasgow institution that needs little introduction. After all the years, it can still make a meal feel like a special event. Elements, from the beautiful linen tablecloth and fresh lilies to warm soda bread and delicate appetisers, combine to make diners feel like VIPs. The lush experience means that the Buttery remains a reliable choice for an occasion when you hope to make a favourable impression.
Largest group booking About 70
Private dining room? Yes, for about 40

Ho Wong
82 York Street, City Centre
221 3550
While Broomielaw’s building sites are less than auspicious, Ho Wong’s unassuming entrance on York Street belies the potential delights inside. TV chef Rick Stein has cited it as among the best Chinese restaurants in the UK. An interior largely dominated by deep Prussian blue furnishings has a surprisingly spacious feel. Like the crisp tablecloths, the waitresses are pristinely turned out, serving food of vivid character.
Largest group booking About 30
Private dining room? Yes, for about 30

278 West George Street, City Centre
0141 572 1001
In the vaulted basement of the boutique hotel, the brasserie in Malmaison is quite theatrical. Traditional bistro favourites, such as a slow-braised lamb shank served with puréed potatoes, tend to dominate the satisfying menu. While the wines are largely French, the list features interesting choices from less than common producers. While private, one separate dining room allows views of everyone else.
Largest group booking About 35
Private dining room? Yes, for about 20

Urban Grill
61 Kilmarnock Road, Southside
0141 649 2745
Open last year, Urban Grill transformed the former Village pub into a swish, stylish, Manhattan-style bar and restaurant. A large eating area opens off the more intimate booths of the bar, with dark wood, subtle pendant lighting and oil paintings creating a grown-up atmosphere. Jazz and a gorgeous grand piano add to the sophisticated effect, as does a menu that concentrates on classic dishes.
Largest group booking About 100
Private dining room? No


Le Café St Honoré
34 North West Thistle Street Lane,
New Town
0131 226 2211
Here’s a bit of the belle epoque hidden down a cobbled New Town lane, complete with chequered floor tiles, artfully aged paintwork and aproned waiters. Expect briny oysters strewn with crispy bacon and fresh pesto, top-notch venison succulently pink below its pungent dijon crust, or crisp-skinned duck playing superbly against earthily-sweet beetroot. An excellent wine list provides suitable accompaniment.
Largest group booking About 40
Private dining room? Yes, for about 16

Fishers Bistro
1 The Shore, Leith
0131 554 5666 (www.fishersbistros.co.uk)
When talking about fish restaurants in Edinburgh, it’s virtually impossible not to mention Fishers. Housed in one of Leith’s landmark buildings, the restaurant includes a darkly charismatic circular bar as well as an airy (if rather tightly packed) dining room - make sure you specify which you’d prefer when booking. The accomplished cooking ranges from contemporary Scottish dishes, such as grilled sea bass with prawns in a roast butternut squash sauce, to others with Far Eastern influences.
Largest group booking About 30
Private dining room? No

La Garrigue
31 Jeffrey Street, Old Town
0131 557 3032
At any time of year, the fresh, unfussy décor of La Garrigue gives the impression of southern France balminess. It could be popular for that alone, but this restaurant’s assured food makes it a real treasure. A dish such as pan-fried sea bream on chickpea mash is a master-class in cooking, while ‘silky’ is an inadequate word with which to describe the texture of chef/owner Jean-Michel Gauffre’s lavander crème brûlée.
Largest group booking About 45
Private dining room? Yes, for about 10

The New Bell
233 Causewayside
0131 668 2868
A blissful bolthole in the upstairs of a 17th century inn, with low ceilings, Persian rugs, and mellow walls, the New Bell offers a blend of charm and chutzpah. Service is personal and prompt, and the food is Scottish at its best; fine ingredients done new justice by thoughtful treatments. Each dish is harmonious, such as a starter of seared scallops with celeriac remoulade, apple sauce and crispy black pudding backdrop.
Largest group booking About 60
Private dining room? No

38 St Mary’s Street, Old Town
0131 557 5754
Prego plies its wares behind an unostentatious façade. Inside, magnolia walls and tawny wooden fixtures are complemented by an unobtrusive soundtrack of Italian-American folk songs and discreet service. The separate room with a wood-burning stove offers an enticing view over cobbled streets that can be commandeered for groups. The menu features a selection of good quality traditional Italian classics.
Largest group booking About 40
Private dining room? Yes, for about 20

Thai Me Up in Edinburgh
4 Picardy Place, New Town
0131 558 9234
Edinburgh’s love for Thai cuisine is increasingly matched with venues that indulge such cravings. Thai Me Up in Edinburgh does dishes such as a whisky-marinated chicken wrapped with Thai herbs that may prevent it from being a beacon of authenticity. Nevertheless, it still gives diners a glimpse of true passion with each beautifully sculpted dish that leaves their kitchen.
Largest group booking About 40
Private dining room? No

The Vintner’s Rooms
The Vaults, 87 Giles Street, Leith
554 6767
Immaculate but homely, our 2006 restaurant of the year in Edinburgh offers a warming fire and welcoming bar - as well as an air of accomplished preparedness. This is one of Edinburgh’s most classically attractive and historic dining spaces, enhanced by first-class service and exceptional cuisine.
Largest group booking About 70
Private dining room? Yes, for about 30

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