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10 Things You Should Know About Scottish Cuisine & Booze in London

By Sophie Marie Atkinson (17 Feb 14)
Tags: scottish food,scottish drink,whisky bars,whisky london,haggis in london,what is haggis,what is in haggis,irn bru,food from scotland,scotch whisky,whisky from scotland,scottish restaurants in london,deep fried mars bar,neeps tatties,burns night,boisdale restaurant,scottish seafood,fish and chips,top 10 restaurants london,scottish cranachan,

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It's undoubtedly a big year for Scotland, with the Commonwealth Games descending on Glasgow, plus the infamous Scottish independence referendum.

So, on the off chance that you will, at some point in the not-too-distant-future, need a passport and currency exchange to head north over the border, here's a handy guide to those places in London that will assist you in getting your fill of Scottish grub and tipples; from the best haggis and Scottish whisky bars, to lesser known Scottish desserts and the old favourite, deep fried Mars Bar.

1) Despite what one in three American visitors to Scotland think, haggis is not, I repeat NOT, a three-legged animal with vestigal wings, native to the highlands.

2) Haggis IS a hearty, traditional Scottish dish made from the innards of sheep (including heart, lungs, and liver), mixed with oats and traditionally encased in an animal's stomach. It also tastes a hell of a lot better than it sounds, particularly when served with neeps (turnip) and tatties (potatoes) and accompanied by a wee dram of whisky.

3) The biggest night of the year for Scottish fare is, without a shadow of a doubt, Burn's Night. Held on or near January 25, Burns Suppers are hosted throughout the UK to celebrate the life and poetry of our dear Rabbie Burns. Not keen on making your own haggis? Dozens of venues around the city pay tribute to Scotland's favourite son, including Vinopolis, Mr Fogg's and Fortnum & Mason.

4) For the best haggis in London, I recommend the three branches of Boisdale at Belgravia, Bishopsgate and Canary Wharf. The last word in Scottish cuisine in London, Boisdale of Canary Wharf offers live jazz music, an oyster bar, cigar terrace and abundance of whisky, in addition to sumptuous Scottish grub. It might not cheap, but it is worth every penny. Don't miss the lobster bisque or Bloody Mary tomato sauce. For Burn's Night 2014, and to demonstrate their feelings about Scottish independence, Boisdale created a Union Haggis, made using the heart of Scottish lamb, the liver of English lamb, the lungs of Welsh lamb and bound using Irish barley. Certainly one of the more interesting forms of protest that we've encountered.

5) Irn Bru have recently launched their first ever ice cream, which went on sale in Glasgow in January and is set to go nation-wide in March. Don't knock it ‘till you've tried it.

6) Scotland's other and more potent favourite drink is of the malted variety. Don't know your Maker's Mark from your Monkey Shoulder? Check out the best whisky bars in London. There is a wealth of places to refine your palette and toughen your liver. Try Athenaeum in Mayfair, which offers more than 270 whiskies from around the world; Soho Whisky Club, which boasts more than 400 whiskies; or one of the Bosidale restaurants, which presents whisky patrons with a 30-page menu, of which 20 pages are solely for Scotch.

7) Looking to sample some of Scotland's famous seafood? Head to one of the two central London branches of Loch Fyne in either Covent Garden or the City of London, where you can dine on oysters, rope-grown mussels, whole baked lobster and Aberdeen Angus steak.

8) We've all heard of Scottish whisky, Scottish salmon and Scottish shortbread, but the ultimate Scottish dessert is cranachan, a sort of celtic trifle, made with cream, oats and raspberries (preferably Scottish grown). Albannach, just off Trafalgar Square, serves up a damn good version all year round.

9) Crispy Candy in Camden Market and Oliver's Fish & Chips in Hampstead both sell the infamous deep friend Mars Bar.

10) The fact of the matter remains that despite a sheer abundance of awesome, home-grown grub, the true national dish of Scotland is the chicken tikka masala. While few places can live up to the lofty heights of the curry houses in and around Glasgow (I implore you to visit Mother India if you are ever in the area), London certainly offers up a wealth of superb Indian eateries, from high-end Benares and Gymkhana to cheap and cheerful Tayyabs and The Red Rose on Holloway Road (rock group, The Darkness, are such fans of this Holloway haunt that they took the chef on tour with them). As for the ultimate Scottish fusion food, haggis pakora, I'm afraid you'll have to make your way up to Scotland for that one.

Do you have any tales of Scottish cuisine in London? If so, please share them below in the comments box.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Brett Jordan (Share Alike).

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