Visitors to Edinburgh in search of Scottish food and drink to take home as gifts or souvenirs would be best advised to steer well clear of the innumerable tourist shops with tartan carpeting and welcome signs in half-a-dozen languages. Far more interesting produce - generally at more attractive prices - can be found in smaller, independent outlets that have established reputations amongst Edinburgh's own citizens.

For knowledgeable whisky drinkers, Cadenhead's is the ultimate off-licence. Here, pounds 7,500 will buy just one bottle of 1919 Campbeltown, whilst on a somewhat more realistic level there is a choice of more than 100 malts, all bottled at full strength from single casks and many from distilleries no longer in production. Up in Leith, the Scotch Malt Whisky Society also offers an amazing range of rare, unadulterated malts, which may be sampled by the dram in their elegantly furnished club room. Though the club is members-only, visitors may join over the bar for an annual subscription of just pounds 20.

Many local butchers still produce proper haggis in a natural casing and there is fierce rivalry as to which might be the finest. The best-known and one of the most consistent is made by Macsween, who also sell a range of pies and black puddings, all hand-made on the premises. George Bower - chiefly known as Edinburgh's premier game dealer - also makes a very decent haggis. On Tuesday of next week, following the "glorious 12th", the shop will be as crowded as any Festival venue when the first grouse of the season go on sale. One of the city's few fishmongers, George Armstrong, cures his own smoked salmon over oak chips, following a recipe handed down through the generations of the family. A good range of smoked fish, including salmon, is also to be found in Jenner's, the Princes Street department store that is much a city institution as the Usher Hall. Shortbreads, jams and oatcakes are among the many other Scottish products to be found in their food hall.

For distinctive Scottish cheese such as Bonchester and Lanark Blue, the place to go is Iain Mellis. Decor in the little shop is spartan and there is scarcely room to move between enormous truckles, but every cheese on sale is farm-produced and ripened to perfection under carefully controlled conditions in a nearby cellar. Next door, The Auld Alliance sells delicious sourdough bread, along with other subtle-flavoured loaves, baguettes and brioches.

No tour of Edinburgh's food shops would be complete without a visit to Valvona & Crolla. For more than 60 years this has been the city's best Italian deli - an Aladdin's cave crammed floor to ceiling with exotic goodies. There are many Scottish products to be found amongst the pastas, fungi, oils and wines, but the accent is exuberantly cosmopolitan. Like the festival itself, the shop is an almost overwhelming celebration of cultural diversity in a city that takes great pride in being a European capital.

Cadenhead's. 172 Canongate. Tel: 0131-556 5864.

Macsween. 130 Bruntsfield Place. Tel: 0131-229 1216.

George Bower. 75 Rayburn Place. Tel: 0131-332 3469.

George Armstrong. 80 Rayburn Place. Tel: 0131-315 2033.

Jenner's. Princes Street. Tel: 0131-225 2442.

Iain Mellis. 30 Victoria Street. Tel: 0131-226 6215.

The Auld Alliance. 32 Victoria Street. Tel: 0131-622 7080.

Valvona & Crolla. 19 Elm Row. Tel: 0131-556 1688.

HS

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