Edinburgh Festival Guide: Where to eat, Old Town
Including Indian tapas, Thai street food and Scottish surf and turf
This article is from 2016.
The Old Town is the most touristy part of the city, blame that darn castle and impressive medieval architecture. Never fear, the Old Town has plenty of fantastic eating options, both Scottish and international, with no sad haggis in sight.
Cannonball Restaurant & Bar (SCOTTISH)
Cannonball House, 356 Castlehill, Royal Mile, £16 (set lunch) / £25 (dinner)
Historic Cannonball House is owned by The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo and run as a three-storey bar and restaurant. The menu of rich but contemporary dishes revolves around an exhaustive Scottish sourcing. The street-level bar has filling lunchtime plates including lobster thermidor mac 'n cheese as well as bar bites after 5pm and whisky tasting options.
More info on Cannonball Restaurant & Bar
3 Bristo Place, £10 (lunch) / £17 (dinner)
An old shipping container with cut-away sides, parked in this big, white-walled space gives Checkpoint its shanty-chic vibe. Options include 'Philfy' rolls, bowls of noodles, miso broth or smoked haddock chowder, and 'Po'Boys' (big, spicy, Louisiana-style sandwiches). Evenings give way to 'substantial stuff' like haggis-stuffed pork belly, rump steak and moules marinière.
More info on Checkpoint
Colonnades (ARTS VENUE)
Signet Library, Parliament Square, High Street, £16 (set lunch)
The Colonnades restaurant opened in 2015 in the Royal Mile's grandly gorgeous Signet Library, look out for the monogramed Signetum or WS on the silver teapots and salt cellars as well as the Signet Gin and Signet Blend tea. Lunch is a delicious, elegant affair. Later there's an opulent afternoon tea: tiers of savoury and sweet treats, from beef wellington pie to blueberry and violet eclairs.
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G&V Royal Mile Hotel, 1 George IV Bridge, £15.95 (set lunch) / £25 (dinner)
The food is as modern and clean-cut as the space itself (it's located in the oh-so-swanky G&V hotel), and every dish is an intricately designed adventure in contemporary Italian cooking. Starters of note include scallops with cauliflower panacotta and braised octopus salad, while mains include pan-fried guinea fowl and stone bass in saffron sauce. There's also a small, but refined, selection of risotto and pasta.
More info on Cucina
Edinburgh Larder Café (CAFE)
15 Blackfriars Street, £7 (soup and sandwich)
A handy escape from the bustle of the Royal Mile, the Edinburgh Larder is a breath of fresh air. An authentic commitment to Scottish seasonal produce is clear. There's porridge or full cooked breakfasts for early birds, plus a changing daily selection of homemade cakes such as gluten-free brownies and lemon sponge. Meat is sourced locally including beef from the Borders.
More info on Edinburgh Larder Café
La Garrigue (FRENCH)
31 Jeffrey Street, £14.50 (set lunch) / £24 (dinner)
An Old Town favourite since 2001, La Garrigue's menu is a showcase of Languedoc cuisine – with staples like fish soup, cassoulet, roquefort soufflé, and saucisson, it's familiar and comforting French food, rich and filling but not presented without finesse. It's worth keeping room for some of the beautifully made patisserie, such as choux buns filled with Nutella cream or lavender crême anglaise.
More info on La Garrigue
The Grain Store (SCOTTISH)
30 Victoria Street, £14 (set lunch) / £40 (dinner)
Oysters, foie gras, pheasant, venison, halibut and lamb – the Grain Store lays out the finest Scottish produce on a menu set to impress. This is one of Edinburgh's oldest Scottish restaurants, celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2016. Crispy roasted pork belly beautifully complements seared king scallops as soft and smooth as butter. Quite simply, the Grain Store remains one of the city's finest restaurants.
More info on The Grain Store
3 Johnston Terrace, £9.95 (set lunch) / £15 (dinner)
Slap bang in tourist central, with no tartan in sight and there's large menu filled with Middle Eastern food for sharing. To start, dip oversized flat bread into hummus and smoky baba ganoush. The overwhelming mains selection caters for vegetarians, fish and meat eaters alike. Kurdish and Iranian-style kebabs are a key feature. The restaurant is BYOB with no corkage charge, but offers a selection of non-alcoholic beers and wines. Partake in a puff of the shisha to round off.
More info on Hanam's
Michael Neave Kitchen & Whisky Bar (SCOTTISH)
21 Old Fishmarket Close, £9.95-11.95 (set lunch) / £28 (dinner)
Enjoy a pre-dinner drink in the whisky bar of this classy, mature and confident venue. Downstairs the modern, spacious restaurant offers distinctly Scottish dishes in a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere. West coast scallops make a strong and popular starter, and meat lovers won't be disappointed if they follow that with a beautifully cooked Aberdeen Angus steak set off with dauphinoise potatoes, and juicy, lightly grilled cherry vine tomatoes.
More info on Michael Neave Kitchen & Whisky Bar
57–61 High Street, £15 (lunch) / £25 (dinner)
A delightful basement cocktail bar and kitchen. The impressive bar shakes a splendid cocktail, from a Speyside treacle Old Fashioned to a rhubarb and thyme negroni. The kitchen steps up to the plate with confidently composed and well-presented modern Scottish cuisine. Tender lamb rump with smoked artichoke and lamb bacon hits the mark and wonderfully rich Arbroath smokie risotto appears on a focused weekend lunch offer.
More info on Monteiths
Mother India's Café (INDIAN)
3–5 Infirmary Street, | £15 (lunch) / £15 (dinner)
The tapas-style menu at Mother India's Café allows you to start with a few smaller dishes and proceed from there. A range of lamb, chicken, fish and vegetable dishes are served quickly by friendly, unobtrusive staff while the café setting leads to an informal ambience where the food takes centre stage. You could easily picture yourself working through the entire menu, experiencing different flavours on every plateful.
More info on Mother India's Café
The Mussel and Steak Bar (FISH)
110 West Bow, Grassmarket, £10.95 (set lunch) / £27 (dinner)
A relaxed dining space which specialises in quality, Scottish surf and turf. You'll find exactly what you expect here – kilo pots of mussels steamed in four different sauces and chargrilled, 38-day-matured rump, ribeye, sirloin, fillet and T-bone steaks. However, the menu goes well beyond this, offering scallops, haggis and satisfyingly stodgy desserts. This bustling space provides some of the best eating to be had in the Grassmarket area.
More info on The Mussel and Steak Bar
The Outsider (BISTRO)
15–16 George IV Bridge, £12 (lunch) / £20 (dinner)
Given its location, The Outsider could just rely on passing trade: to its credit, it doesn't. If you manage to nab a seat by the far windows there are spectacular views of the castle. The lunchtime specials are deservedly popular and good value. In the evening steamed mussels are plump and tender with an accompanying tin of chips. Star among puddings is lemon sorbet with a shot of icy vodka.
More info on The Outsider
6a Nicolson Street,£13 (lunch) / £21 (dinner)
Overlooking the Festival Theatre, Spoon's funky first-floor room evokes hints of a 1970's sitcom set. The experienced kitchen draws on a broad range of influences, with simply prepared bistro classics, big on flavour and respectful of season. Blueberry waffles and a popular mixed grill feature on an all-day breakfast offer, with a splendid Sunday roast as well as weekend brunch staples like eggs benedict and Arbroath smokies.
More info on Spoon
Ting Thai Caravan (THAI)
8–9 Teviot Place, £8 (lunch) / £14 (dinner)
Whatever stage of life you're at, it's hard not to fall in love with delicious, reasonably priced Thai food served in a no-frills, street-food style way. The classic pad Thai emerges steaming hot from the open-plan kitchen. A good array of side dishes are on offer, including a very moreish roti flatbread with chilli jam. Two things to be aware of: the restaurant can't be booked and is cash-only.
More info on Ting Thai Caravan
Wedgwood the Restaurant (SCOTTISH)
267 Canongate, £12.95 (set lunch) / £28 (dinner)
There's nothing unusual about bread and butter pudding with ice-cream appearing on a menu. But when it's listed among the starters you know this is a chef with imagination. A wine list with a lower mark-up than many similar establishments is another draw for diners who feast on mains such as three identically-sized cylinders of tender rabbit which come neatly wrapped in pancetta and enhanced by chestnuts, barley, mushrooms and carrot purée.
More info on Wedgwood the Restaurant
WildManWood Pizza (ITALIAN)
27–29 Marshall Street, 0131 667 7001
This recent opening is fitted with a custom-designed wood-burning oven, fired by beech and oak chips. It is capable of temperatures approaching 600ºC and staff spent a month in Naples training at the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana (where they finished top of the class). While pizza is the mainstay, the menu is an all-day offering from breakfast right through to late dining, with brunch items, grilled dishes and salads all available too.
More info on WildManWood Pizza
Where to drink in Old Town