Review of the 2023 Part 2: 1 – 14=

Well here we are, featuring the crème de la crème of 2023. It's fair to say that it hasn't been a vintage year. Having said that, let's not take anything away from the top three, number one, Tapa and Tipo. It would be hard to find three more disparate places. Number one is a grand hotel restaurant, flagship of Edinburgh's Balmoral Hotel. Head chef Mathew Sherry recently won the Hotel Chef of the Year award.

When I reviewed it, Tipo was latest venture for the energetic Stuart Ralston: no longer. He has now established Lyla in what was 121212. I see it is completely booked out for the next six months.

But if I had to select one to be my Restaurant of the Year, it would have to be Tapa, tucked away in Leith behind The Shore. It's a scandal that it took me fourteen years to find it. It may be no coincidence that it's the only one of the three which doesn't have a tasting menu. Go instead for the warmest of welcomes and for tapas better than you will eat in Spain. Head chef Paco Martin Romano will feature in Chef Watch when we return in the new year.

1= number one Edinburgh 22.5 This basement restaurant in The Balmoral Hotel never disappoints. Mathew MacSherry is the latest maestro to man the stoves.



Edinburgh 22.5 Isn't it great that the trams are opening up Leith? This place has been here for about 14 years. Owned by two guys from Comrie. Chef Paco produces finer tapas than you'll find in most places in Andalucia.
1= Tipo Edinburgh 22.5 At the time of writing, the latest from Stuart Ralston. This is his idea of informal. Stunning.
4 incanto Amsterdam 22 The word means enchantment. Just right for fabulous, classy Italian food enjoyed overlooking one of the main canals.
5= The Magnum Edinburgh 21.5 What a delightful surprise. Out for a walk, fancied a pub lunch, stumbled into a haven of deliciousness.
5= Noble Rot Mayfair London 21.5 The third Noble Rot restaurant, completing a hat trick of brilliance.
5= The Rabbit Troon 21.5 Situated in The Marine Hotel, The Rabbit is presided over by MasterChef The Professionals winner Derek Johnstone. Part of the Marine and Lawn group. You will eat seriously good food.
8 The Caddy Mann Jedburgh 21 How can such a tiny kitchen produce such a huge menu, and then another one almost the same size for vegetarians? Sheer genius, is the answer. Game is a specialty. Take a bow Ross and Lynne Horrocks.
9= Sugo Pasta Glasgow 20.5 From the same stable as Paesano (see below). Fabulous pasta from a' the airts o' Italy. Wonderfully good, and the top priced dish is £12.90.
9= chá, chá, chá Olhão 20.5 All fresh from Olhão market daily. Small plates, big plates, whatever. The best of Portugal, run by an Englishman.
11 The Old Fire Engine House Ely 20 Oh my. Great English food served in the shadow of Ely Cathedral. Established in 1968 and still run by the same lady. Fabulous.
12= Herringbone Edinburgh 19.5 Bustling and fun, this is another venture from the team who bring you Scotts et al. They know what they're doing.
12= Everest Inn Perth 19.5 A simple in appearance Nepalese/Indian place in the centre of Perth. They saved their efforts for where it really matters, the food. Lots of awards won recently. Do go.
14= The West End Brasserie Edinburgh 19 Closed for ages, now reopened as a classic brasserie, mostly Scottish with a nod to France. They got lucky with this score. Had I reviewed on my return 6 months later it would have been a 16.
14= Paesano Pizza Glasgow 19 What pizza should be all about. Good sourdough base and wood ovens. Bare tables, high turnover, astonishing (in a good way) prices.

To everyone in the restaurant business I extend my very best wishes for 2024. It will undoubtedly be another challenging one, not helped by the Government's scandalous refusal to extend the rates relief enjoyed in England and Wales. Unless of course, you are on an island. Eh?!

To the rest of you, I wish you a very happy new year. Please keep the comments coming. COVID among members of my family has already ridden a coach and horses through our Christmas plans. Never mind, we'll be back in about three weeks' time, raring to go.


  1. Janet Hood on 29th December 2023 at 12:16 pm

    Tom, wonderful thanks for being an amazing food writer and, of course, cook. May 2024 bring you lots of joy.

    • Tom Johnston on 30th December 2023 at 11:26 am

      I suspect that in the cooking stakes I lag far behind the Hoods, but guddling about in the kitchen is always fun. Long may it continue. After 10 days in Barbados we’ll kick off with a Bajan (that’s the Barbados folks’ adjective for themselves) theme. Rum punch anyone, mon?

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