From Michelin-starred meals to the best pizza and margaritas, here are our top 10 picks – essential if you’re going to Edinburgh for the festival.
Looking for somewhere to eat in Edinburgh? Stuart Farquhar, a writer for The Scotsman, knows his way around the city's food scene like the back of his hand. These are his picks for a great dining experience, whether you're looking for somewhere formal for a romantic evening for two, a casual meal with the kids, or a quick bite on the go.
Best for special occasions
Modern yet traditional, cool yet unpretentious, Timberyard is set in a converted warehouse. On the menu you’ll find responsibly sourced seasonal ingredients such as trout and lamb, combined with more unusual items like daikon radishes and woodruff. While the larder is strictly Scottish, there’s a Scandinavian feel to the decor and food presentation, which – Nordic-style – also reaches deep into the wallet. A four-course dinner will set you back £55; the eight-course menu is £75. The wine pairings add a further £40 or £75, respectively, but will make a fascinating culinary journey unforgettable.
Don’t be fooled by the sumptuous decor throughout Paul Kitching’s Michelin-starred 21212 – there’s nothing staid about the way you're served here. Dishes may include Lanzarote seafood blast (smoked salmon & haddock beignet) and the pink panther (glazed Victoria sponge brûlée). Kitching’s personality sings through the menu, which changes weekly. On weeknights, a three-course dinner is £70 – but make sure you book.
The Gardener’s Cottage
Kid-friendly, too, looking like a Wizard of Oz-style tornado has deposited a quaint rural abode on the side of busy London Road, The Gardener’s Cottage keeps the magic going inside. Seasonality dictates the menu as ingredients from the garden and local farmers are conjured into spectacular dishes such as roe deer taco. You sit on large shared tables and booking is essential.
Opened in 2016 in Leith, Norn weaves rustic with sophisticated. From the sourdough made with bere – a Viking grain grown in Orkney – to the veal carpaccio with sorrel, every dish here is a mix of innovation and tradition. The set four- or seven-course menu (£40 and £65) is led by what chef Scott Smith and his foragers have bagged, so expect fascinating ingredients such as spruce and cicely. An enlightening dining experience.
Tom Kitchin’s obsessive pursuit of perfection extends even to the bespoke crockery, which was specially commissioned for his Michelin-starred restaurant. His food is a celebration of Scottish produce – everything from the pig’s head & langoustine starter to the shell fish rockpool main is a glorious lesson in flavour. Stick to tap water and you can enjoy a three-course set lunch for £33 – extraordinary.
Restaurant Martin Wishart
The insight which saw Martin Wishart boldly unleash fine dining on cheap and cheerful Leith back in 1999 and garner Edinburgh’s first Michelin star continues to drives his restaurant. It’s a well-oiled machine still capable of surprising and delighting in equal measure. The hushed, unflavoured decor ensures the food takes centre stage, although a marching band could parade past your table and you would still be lost in admiration of the assured and finessed fusion of French-style modernity with the best of Scotland’s larder. Enjoy lunch for £32 but the fireworks to discover on the six-course tasting menu make its £85 price tag seem economical.
Dominic Jack lavished a stunning £1 million refurbishment on his stylish Castle Terrace restaurant, which now, in 2016, includes a chef’s table in the sizeable kitchen. While dishes such as salmon, sushi-style are as beautiful to look at as they are to eat, for many, the seafood paella ‘Castle Terrace style’, served on spelt risotto is the real talking point. Three-course à la carte menu from £70.
Number One, The Balmoral
Occupying the grandiose Balmoral Hotel at the head of Princes Street, Michelin-starred Number One – resplendent with rich oak floors, red lacquered walls and plush furnishing – exudes early 20th-century opulence and elegance. But warm, knowledgeable staff help create a relaxed atmosphere that’s anything but snooty, allowing you to concentrate on the likes of sumptuous Blairgowrie beef or spectacular caramel soufflé. At £89 (without drinks), the seven-course tasting menu is a winner for special occasions.
Best for casual dining & cheap eats
What the cupboard-sized Hanedan on West Preston Street lacks in size, it makes up for in character. Chef-owner Gursel Bahar’s excellent Turkish dishes are modestly priced and packed with flavour. While the chargrilled meats are the stars, Bahar’s hummus deserves an award for services to chickpeas. The two-course menu of soup or hummus followed by chicken shish is a steal at £10.95. Mezes from £3.50, mains from £8.95.
The genius of Pickles is its simplicity. This unassuming Broughton Street bolthole serves local pâtés, chutneys, and meat and cheese platters, meaning this cosy cellar bar is often crammed with locals sharing an informal bite and a bottle of wine. Seats are hard to come by at weekends. The highly recommended sharing platters come in at £15.
Open since 1947, Khushi’s claims to be Edinburgh’s first Indian restaurant. A recent restyling gives it a clean, modern feel, which mirrors the consistently zingy food on offer. Don’t skip starters – the stuffed tandoori mushroom (£5.95) and prawn kolhapuri (£6.95) are standouts. Mains from £7.95.
For 15 years, this French bistro has been a dependable stalwart. Chef-owner Jean-Michel Gauffre is evangelical about the comforting cuisine of his native Languedoc. Rustic ingredients are given a sophisticated flourish in dishes such as rabbit with aubergine caviar & olives. Mains from £14.95.
Blue Parrot Cantina
Now that this basement restaurant in Stockbridge opens only on Fridays and Saturdays, those in search of Edinburgh’s best Margaritas (£6.95) and nachos (£4.15) will have to keep weekends clear. An intimate and quirky little place, it’s easily the city’s best Mexican. Mains from £9.50.
Scran and Scallie
With the likes of oysters or hake and squid risotto on the menu and some Michelin-star-winning know-how behind the scenes, Scran and Scallie is a gastropub with attitude. While it’s on the pricey side for pub grub – a steak pie is £16.50, a burger and chips £14 – this is Tom Kitchin and Dominic Jack pub grub, meaning excellence is fitted as standard and ingredients are responsibly sourced from mainly Scottish producers. And unlike many an Edinburgh pub, this one’s child, dog and foodie-friendly. Mains from £11.50.
Origano recently decanted to larger, always bustling premises just down Leith Walk from the original, complete with wood-burning oven. This is the best pizzeria in town. Pizzas from £7.65.
Leith Chop House
With its filament lightbulbs, bare brick and high beard count, it might look like a hipster joint but these guys take their meat very seriously. Fastidiously Scottish sourced, it is butchered and dry aged in-house for at least a month before the already legendary steaks hit the open-flame charcoal grill. The dripping chips and bread and bone marrow butter are no mere sideshows, either. Mains from £12.50. Steaks from £18.
Porto & Fi
Versatility is the order of the day at Porto & Fi. The breakfast menu – which includes a masterful eggs benedict with salmon – often means the smart, bright Newhaven bistro is jammed full in the morning. Later on, afternoon tea and cakes are the main attraction, before well-crafted dishes such as venison casserole with smoked paprika dumplings take centre stage. A well thought-out children’s menu makes this an ideal family venue. Mains from £10.50.
The Tailend Restaurant and Fish Bar
Other Edinburgh chippies are available, but what Leith Walk’s Tailend offers that many don’t is a pleasant sit-down experience in a restaurant setting, with cutlery, beer and wine and as much of the city’s famous brown chippy sauce as you care to douse over your food. Meanwhile, the golden, crisp chips are streets ahead of most Edinburgh chip shops while the traditional battered haddock dish might seem pricey at £11.45 but is worth a lot more. Mains from £7.45.
Despite the name, the draw here is the falafel and hummus wrap, which attracts fans to Nicholson Street from all over the city. The decor is as low-rent as you might expect a city-centre kebab shop to be, but with prices starting at £5.50 for a wrap, nobody’s complaining.
Occupying little more than a doorway at pavement level, Spoon is a surprisingly expansive, airy first-floor refuge from the hustle and bustle of Nicolson Street. JK Rowling used to scribble here, but today, the magic takes place in the kitchen, which rustles up anything from hangover-curing grilled breakfasts to sumptuous lamb flank. The kids’ section makes this a popular coffee or afternoon tea pit stop for parents too. Mains from £14.
The minimalist decor and crisp, clean lines of Grindley Street's Kanpai offer the first hint of the immaculately presented and exquisitely fresh Japanese food here. Aside from the superior sashimi and sushi dishes, the light crab & prawn tempura should not be overlooked. Five-piece sashimi dishes from £5.50.
Where to shop
Peter Ljungquist and Jan Hedh’s Swedish-style bakery has queues out the door for their sourdough, crispbreads and sweet treats.
Mary’s Milk Bar
This gelato parlour makes some of the most sinful creations you’re ever likely to encounter.
Edinburgh Farmers’ Market
Every Saturday, Castle Terrace is filled with food stalls. Lunch on hot pies or buffalo burgers.
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All recommendations have been reviewed and approved as of the 18 October 2016 and will be checked and updated annually. If you think there is any incorrect or out of date information in this guide please e-mail us at email@example.com.