Edinburgh Festival Guide: Performers and directors reveal where they like to go during the festival
Susan Calman, Kai Humphries, Lucy Porter, Craig Campbell and more offer their tips on where to eat, drink and hang out in the capital
This article is from 2016.
Craig Campbell / credit: Idil Sukan
One thing Edinburgh definitely has in abundance each August is choice. Choice of venues, choice of genres, choice of shows, even choice of festivals. While we were debating about what bars, restaurants and attractions should make it into our City Guide our comedy editor directed us to untapped source of recommendations – the performers themselves. Who knows where to eat, drink and be merry in Edinburgh during the festival better than the those who rock up each summer ready to entertain the masses for three weeks solid. Several have chosen places just a stones throw from their own venue this August, but we're sure that is just a happy coincidence.
My favourite restaurant in Edinburgh is Bonsai. I’m loathe to recommend it though as it’s tiny and you will all go there! It’s two minutes walk from my venue on Roxburgh Place and it has the best Dragon Roll in the business. This place is really about the food rather than the atmosphere. It’s pretty low on comfort, there are benches and they pack you in. The food is incredible and the same people have been running this joint for as long as i’ve been coming to the fringe. 10 years…I know why do I look so young?
Tiff Stevenson: Seven, Assembly Roxy, 3–28 Aug (not 15), 7.10pm, £10–£12 (£8–£10)
The Baked Potato Shop: A total Edinburgh must. We've been going there for years and they're still the best baked potatoes we've ever tasted, filled with an array of veggie and vegan delights. Maison Bleue: Great if you have some time to savour the elegant food and lovely surroundings. They do an excellent lunch deal. We're always performing at night so the occasional long lunch is a real treat. Victor Hugo deli: Gorgeous for a Parisian morning coffee and croissant overlooking the Meadows.
Abbi Greenland and Helen Goalen appear in Two Man Show, Northern Stage at Summerhall, 6–27 Aug (not 10, 17, 24), 8.15pm, £11 (£9)
Hive 'til Five – You have to experience the scummy night club that the locals tell you to avoid to really experience a city. Leave your dignity at the door and come out with a story you'll tell for years. Visit: Arthur's seat, I recommend doing this at the end of your night out to watch the sun come up while you're still drunk. I guarantee that when you get to the top you won't be the only drunk who's had that idea.
Kai Humphries: In Full Colour, Gilded Balloon Teviot, 3–28 Aug, 7.35pm, £7.50–12.50 (£5–£10)
Hula Juice Bar and Gallery is my favourite place to collect my pre-show thoughts over a carrot juice and soya earl grey (yep TWO drinks #winning ). Scrummy food, bright colours and teeny tiny milk bottles make for a top cafe. The staff tend to be beautiful Earth goddesses and they serve top healthy stuff so you will feel good about yourself afterwards, although you might consider wearing yoga pants out.
1 Woman, a Dwarf Planet and 2 Cox: Samantha Baines, Pleasance Courtyard, 3–29 Aug (not 6), 3.30pm, £7.50–£10 (£6.50–£9)
Whenever traveling comedians ask me for the best place to get breakfast/brunch/lunch in Edinburgh, my go to is The Caffeine Drip. Because it’s my go to. Everyday is a new weird soup where you’re thinking, 'There’s no way that can be good' and then not only is it good, but it’s your new favourite soup. The staff are great, the chefs are great and it’s just a really cool place to chill out in and have a cup of coffee and enjoy the free wifi.
Daniel Sloss: So?, EICC, 4–28 Aug (not 15 or 23), 8.40pm, (also 10pm Fri & Sat; not 5 & 6), £10–£17.50 (£10–£12.50)
Two places I love to eat as a treat, obviously I put it on the credit card as I like to forget how broke I am! One – Ting Thai Caravan (not far from Gilded Balloon) it's Thai food. Fresh, healthy flavours. Exactly what you need as a burger alternate. It's a busy spot so go between 3pm and 5pm. Two – Spoon, a quaint tearoom with thee nicest Lemon Posset and Ginger shortbread in the land! I actually crave it, from my first dalliance in 2014!
Kat Woods is writer/director of Mule, Gilded Balloon Teviot, 662 6552, 3–28 Aug (not 17), 1.30pm, £10–£11 (£8)
I always say to people you should give L'Alba D'Oro a try, the fish and chip shop down in Stockbridge, it's so iconic. If we're going to be lampooned for deep frying everything then people should go there and have some deep fried broccoli or something. It's not just pizzas and mars bars there's joy in other ways. I always love going to the National Museum of Scotland because Dolly the Sheep is there. I love Dolly. I love that gallery, it's got a very nice mixture of things and a beautiful big Victorian main hall.
Alan Cumming Sings Sappy Songs, The Hub, 473 2000, 6–27 Aug (not 10,14–15, 22), 10.30pm, £30
It’s my tenth year at the Fringe and I do Edinburgh rather differently these days. Instead of late night carousing I go to bed early and spend my mornings exercising. The Meadows is best appreciated as dawn is breaking, devoid of the usual carousers and performers. During the day Edinburgh is a cacophony of sound and fury. In the morning, on the cool grass, that green space is an oasis of calm. The only people I meet while running are other joggers, and we don’t speak, we simply nod and part company. We all respect that sweet sound of silence, just for a moment, before the city wakes again.
Susan Calman: The Calman Before the Storm, Pleasance Courtyard, 556 6550, 3–28 Aug, 6.20pm, £10–£14 (£9--£13)
Caffe Espresso on Bank Street, near the top of the High Street. Try the delicious chorizo and Manchego baguette, or Piera's outstanding homemade take-away pasta and cakes. Or Cafe Piccante at the top of Broughton Street, their deep fried Mars bar with ice cream and chocolate sauce was my son’s favourite Edinburgh food experience.
Robert Shaw directs Poena 5X1, Underbelly Med Quad, 0844 545 8252, 3--29 Aug (not 17), 3.20pm, £9--£11 (£8--£10)
Comedian, Craig Campbell's 'Easy Tiger', The Stand Comedy Club, 3–28 (not 4 or 15), 10pm, £12 (£10)
Dinner, lunch, or late night after a show, food-drink-and-good-cheer-oasis, Bar Napoli is the only place to go! Did you say after show? Good food at night in Scotland!? Indeed I did! Hungry night owls on their fringe prowl devouring bubbling homemade lasagnas or fresh seafood dishes (try the monk fish gratin)! Opt-in for a Popeye's portion of house spinaci (Spinach), this wonder is prepared bursting with spine straightening l'il green chilli's and is delightful every time!
Cocktail bar Under the Stairs. It's in the heart of Old Town, but at the same time feels removed from the shit-storm going on above ground. I'm as bewitched by the festival as the next man – don't get me wrong, the Fringe stirs my cauldron – but one you've been at the festival for a couple of weeks, it can get a little trying. This basement bar is the perfect anti-spell, its sophisticated, friendly, and full of dark corners for doing dark deeds (not really, I went on a very unromantic not-date here in 2013).
Patrick Turpin: To Me You Are Perfect, Sneaky Pete's, 6–27 Aug (not 15), 6.15pm, free
Choco-Latte on South Clerk Street. This little chocolate shop has always been somewhere I come for a mid-festival pick-me-up. They make their own cakes which are covered in sweeties and could probably satisfy the calorie requirements of the Scotland rugby team for a month. It's a tiny shop but it's crammed full of old-fashioned treats and confectionary creations. It's really worth bringing children here because it's totally a 5 year old's idea of what heaven looks like.
Lucy Porter: Consequences, Pleasance Courtyard, 3–28 Aug (not 15 or 22), 5.30pm, £10–£14 (£8–£12)
Sodaeng, just up the road from Summerhall serves up healthy, pretty cheap Korean dishes if you fancy something a bit spicy. Sugarhouse Sandwiches is the place to go for a bread based lunch. Located in the old town they do made to order sandwiches and have a selection of homemade soups for those chillier Edinburgh days. Piemaker on South Bridge is a MUST. Sometimes a Tatti Dog is all you need.
Theatre company Inspector Sands perform The Lounge, Summerhall, 3–27 Aug (not 4 or 15), 3.25pm, £15 (£12)
If you're up for a few days and have some cash left over after buying tickets then Maison Bleue near the Grassmarket will do you moules frittes and steak that will knock you out. If, however, you're up for the month, knackered, down to your last pennies and find that all the hangovers are blurring into one then get yourself to Cafe Babylon off Nicolson Square. It's the closest thing I've found to a proper greasy spoon. I've had sausage and egg sandwiches there that have genuinely saved my life.
Writer/performer Oli Forsyth appears in Happy Dave, Pleasance Courtyard, 556 6550, 3–29 Aug (not 16), 4.15pm, £8.50–£11 (£7.50–£10)
My top tip would be Scran & Scallie in Stockbridge almost for the name alone! They consistently do amazingly tasty food with a really warm Scottish wit about it like when the top of their menu says “Sit ye doon yer welcome!” I would always recommend a wee trip to Dean Village – an old milling village under Dean Bridge. It's so picturesque and gives you the excuse to walk down the tranquil Water of Leith, it's a very chilled way to spend a day.
Craig Hill: Up and Coming, EICC, 4–28 Aug (not 15 or 23), 7.15pm, £10–£17.50 (£10–£15)