Eating and Drinking
Edinburgh offers a tremendous selection of eating establishments from Michelin starred restaurants to self-service vegetarian fare and pop up cafes. Dining out needn’t be a drama with so many options in Edinburgh.
George Street, the Royal Mile, the Grassmarket and Leith are just some of the areas where you’ll find a range of restaurants to suit all palettes. Dining outside regular lunch and dinner times will make it easier to get the whole family around a table if you haven’t booked anything.
Here are some of Time Out's favourite places to eat and drink:
BRISTO SQUARE STALLS
Don’t expect fine dining in the pedestrian precinct around the Udderbelly, the Pleasance Dome and the Gilded Balloon, but you will find a range of fast food and drink to keep your energy levels up as you race from show to show.
Bristo Square, EH8.
PLEASANCE COURTYARD STALLS
On a sunny day, you can pass many an hour on the picnic benches in the central courtyard of one of the busiest Fringe venues, supplied by the bars and stalls that attend to all your carbohydrate needs.
60 Pleasance, EH8 9TJ (0131 556 6550, www.pleasance.co.uk).
The catering wing of the Edinburgh International Festival, Cafe Hub has a flexible menu, ranging from salads and sandwiches to more substantial dishes such as poached salmon. It’s also a great place to have an alfresco beer.
Castlehill, EH1 2NE (0131 473 2067, www.thehub-edinburgh.com).
Among modern restaurants with wholly vegetarian menus, David Bann dominates. Try blue cheese and tomato tart to start, then aubergine and puy lentil with mash and gravy. Well placed for the Pleasance and the Royal Mile.
56-58 St Mary’s St, EH1 1SX (0131 556 5888, www.davidbann.com).
This light, airy daytime restaurant provides space to contemplate an exhibition or two along with excellent salads, sandwiches and deli platters. Drinks run to a few wines and beers.
45 Market St, EH1 1DF (0131 226 1843, www.fruitmarket.co.uk).
A good stopping-off point between the Pleasance Courtyard and the several Bristo Square venues, Mother India offers a menu of starter-sized, tapas-style Indian dishes. Choices range from chickpeas and potatoes in yoghurt-based sauce to king prawns and spiced haddock.
3-5 Infirmary St, EH1 1LT (0131 524 9801, www.motherindiaglasgow.co.uk).
Over the road from the Festival Theatre and in the same spot where JK Rowling set to work on Harry Potter, Spoon is a laid- back and spacious café with long opening hours and an adventurous menu ranging from breakfast rolls to substantial main courses.
6a Nicolson St, EH8 9DH (0131 557 4567, www.spooncafe.co.uk)
The Tower offers self-conscious chic, good views and a terrace, weather permitting. The menu has an emphasis on fresh seafood and well-sourced meat. The wine list
is one of the best in the city.
National Museum of Scotland, Chambers St, EH1 1JP (0131 225 3003, www.tower-restaurant.com).
In a grandiose former bank, Centotre produces high-quality Italian food, from pizza and pasta to Milanese-style veal. At the front, the Italian Bar caters to coffee fiends, wine-sippers and snackers.
103 George St, EH2 3ES (0131 225 1550, www.centotre.com).
The decor is simple (huge dog picture excepted), and the food is good value: three courses at dinner come in at under £18. An Italian version, Amore Dogs, is nearby. Good for the Assembly Rooms.
110 Hanover St, EH2 1DR (0131 220 1208, www.thedogsonline.co.uk).
Ideal for a speedy pre-Assembly Rooms meal, Henderson’s is Edinburgh’s original vegetarian restaurant – on the go since 1963. Hearty soups, stews, salads and desserts are served canteen-style.
94 Hanover St, EH2 1DR (0131 225 2131, www.hendersonsofedinburgh.co.uk).
In a prime location between the Assembly Halls and the Hub on one side and the Bedlam and Bristo Square on the other, the Outsider avoids starters and offers instead ‘chunky healthy lines’, such as chargrilled monkfish or vegetables, designed for sharing.
15-16 George IV Bridge, EH1 1EE (0131 226 3131).
Classy but informal, this upstairs retreat above the Traverse can pull off some of the best café-bar food in town: pork belly with an apple and black pudding tart tatin for example. There’s a large, open dining space at the front and a bar to the rear.
10 Cambridge St, EH1 2ED (0131 221 1222, www.bluescotland.co.uk)#
ASSEMBLY ROOMS BAR
In true Fringe style, the Assembly operation boxes in the lane down the side of the building and turns it into an instant bar to cater to the pre- and post-show crowd in one of the city’s busiest venues.
George St, EH2 2LR (0131 623 3030, www.assemblyfestival.com).
This handsomely fitted out bar and restaurant over three floors of a grade A-listed former church is a stylish West End destination, open from 8am until 3am, and offering Scottish-themed drink, food and cabaret entertainment.
2 Rutland Place, EH1 2AD (0131 222 9930, www.ghillie-dhu.co.uk).
Even with the recent outlandish bar and hotel additions to George Street, the Dome has the biggest wow factor. Converted from an 1840s bank, it has a striking classical frontage, the eponymous dome, and a number of bar and restaurant spaces.
14 George St, EH2 2PF (0131 624 8624, www.thedomeedinburgh.com).
Hidden down a close just a few yards from the main tourist street, this is one of the Old Town’s better-kept secrets. The other-worldly atmosphere is strong, thanks to the fairy lights
and antique fittings. It’s a secluded place for a beer.
Monteith’s Close, 57-61 High St, EH1 1SR (0131 557 0330, www.monteithsbar.co.uk).
A folkies’ hang-out with nightly open sessions, Sandy Bell’s is a traditional Scottish pub that draws everyone from bus drivers to philosophers (the University of Edinburgh is nearby).
25 Forrest Rd, EH1 2QH (0131 225 2751).
The Oxford enjoys minor celebrity status as a favoured haunt of Ian Rankin’s Inspector Rebus (and, for that matter, Rankin himself) and is appropriately well positioned for the Book Festival.
8 Young St, EH2 4JB (0131 539 7119, www.oxfordbar.com).
An ideal place for a drink before or after a show at the King’s Theatre, this marvel of Victorian design has a long wooden bar down one side, with a huge selection of single malts, while the opposite wall has fitted red leather seats and more wooden fittings.
8 Leven Street, EH3 9LH (0131 229 5143).
TRAVERSE THEATRE BAR
The essential bar for the theatre set, the Trav bar gets very busy. As well as drinking, it’s a good place for a casual meal, just as long as you can grab a table.
10 Cambridge St, EH1 2ED (0131 228 5383, www.traverse.co.uk).
This article first appeared in Time Out Magazine. Reproduced with permission.