Edinburgh quite often gets little passing mentions on the blog, especially in my Sunday Summary posts, but I thought it was high time I got round to doing some proper posts dedicated to my favourite wee city. Even though I’m not originally from Edinburgh, it seems like I’ve lived here forever and it definitely feels like home. So, here is the first of my “city guides”; I’ll be doing a few of these with different themes to share some of my favourite places and things Auld Reekie has to offer. And what better way to start than with my favourite hobbies (yes, they are hobbies), eating and drinking?
If it’s great Scottish food you’re after, try The Grain Store on Victoria Street. They don’t really do much advertising, but rely on word of mouth recommendations and passing trade so this restaurant retains a very “Edinburgh”-y feel. It’s quite relaxed and not at all pretentious, with rustic stone walls, lots of candles and tables tucked away in cosy little alcoves. The food is always delicious, using fresh and seasonal Scottish ingredients; expect lots of game and seafood on the menu. The Grain Store is on the more expensive side, but not overly so – a set 3 course lunch is £15 and dinner from the A La Carte menu is usually around £35-40 per person. Just around the corner on George IV Bridge is Ondine which is of a similar price range and also serves up fresh Scottish produce cooked simply but excellently. Ondine specialise in seafood, although they do a couple of meat dishes too. Located on the second floor, the restaurant has lovely views of the Old Town and a really nice atmosphere. I would really recommend the grilled Isle of Mull lobster served with garlic and herb butter – simple but so good! If you’re going all out and want to sample some Michelin star food, I’d suggest heading down to The Kitchin at the Shore. It is pretty expensive, but definitely worth it if you’re celebrating a special occasion. The menu changes regularly according to what’s in season, and there’s often unusual and lesser-used ingredients on offer. Situated right by the waterfront, it has great views and despite the very formal service it doesn’t feel at all stuffy.
As much as I’d love to live the champagne lifestyle, my budget is usually a little bit lower than that. For amazing food at a reasonable price, why not try one of my all-time favourites, Passorn? They serve delicious Thai food packed full of fresh flavours. I could probably live off their coconut rice, it’s so good. As is the Kaeng Panang red curry, puts the average Saturday night takeaway red curry to shame! If Mexican food is more your thing, head over to Thistle Street and sample some of Tex Mex 2‘s menu. The restaurant is small and super cute, and serves up all the usual favourites including rather good frozen margarita pitchers. I also love the little bowls of spicy popcorn they bring to your table as you wait for your order, yum! Another tex mex restaurant which I spend a disproportionate amount of time in is Illegal Jack’s. They do fast-food takeaway style food (but much tastier) which is cheap and completely customisable. Choose your base, your fillings, toppings and any accompaniments – my usual order is a burrito with chicken, pinto beans, hot salsa and extra jalapenos. A main course (the portions are big so no need for starters!) plus a drink usually comes to around £10, so perfect if you’re on a budget.
As for cafés and snacky places, my top choice is definitely Frisky, who have stores on Lothian Road and Forrest Road. They specialise in delicious frozen yoghurt with a variety of toppings, from fresh fruit to chocolate and even rose petals! My favourite flavour of their frozen yoghurt is definitely mango, and I usually have a different combination of toppings every time I visit. The decor is a bit space age with bright pink and white walls and cartoon decorations, and the plastic bubble chairs are wonderfully weird. For something slightly more traditional, head to the Elephant House for tea, coffee, snacks and cakes. The Elephant House is a must-visit for Harry Potter fans as some of the books were written there, but it’s also a really nice café in its own right. It has a nice and cosy relaxed feel to it, and, as a non coffee/tea drinker, I’m particularly impressed by their speciality hot chocolate menu.
I’m rather partial to a cocktail (or 5) and Edinburgh has quite a few lovely cocktail bars. My absolute favourite is The Dragonfly, on the edge of the Grassmarket. Their cocktail menu is extensive and features lots of original cocktails that are a bit different to the usual Cosmopolitans and Martinis (although, the staff will happily make you one if you ask!). There are too many great cocktails to choose a favourite, but I have to mention the Raspberry Ripple (like ice cream in cocktail form, and the glass is even decorated with hundreds and thousands), the Joe Le Taxi (vodka with a balsamic reduction and fresh strawberries, yes please) and the Deep Purple (it’s made with beetroot syrup and is BRIGHT purple – amazing). Most cocktails at the Dragonfly are between £6 and £8 which is average for a cocktail in Edinburgh, sadly drinking is pretty expensive here! A slightly more purse-friendly cocktail bar is Bar Kohl over on George IV Bridge. With flavoured vodka mixes from £3.75 and cocktails from £4.70 it’s a great place for a few drinks of an evening, and they also do great burgers if you’re stopping by during the day time. The Old Skool cocktail is definitely favourite; it’s served in a cute mini tankard and tastes just like Kola Kubes. Bar Kohl make a lot of their own flavoured vodkas, so keep an eye out for all the weird and wonderful bottles behind the bar.
Pubs are literally everywhere in Edinburgh, but you can’t visit the city without stopping for a drink at The Café Royal. Dating back to the 1860s, and retaining much of the original interior, The Café Royal appeals to both my love of history and my love of drinking. It’s exactly how I think all Edinburgh pubs should be, nice and cosy but also classy and refined. With a big circular bar and lots of impressive Victorian decor, it’s a lovely place to spend the afternoon along with a pint. It’s only a couple of seconds away from Princes Street, but it’s tucked away on West Register Street so is great for escaping the busy tourist spots. Over in the Old Town, Holyrood 9A is another great pub which has a traditional pub feel to it, but is also a bit cool and trendy. If beer’s your thing, they have lots of speciality beers from around the world, and lots of local ones too. I’d recommend sampling a pint of Edinburgh’s very own Innis & Gunn. Holyrood 9A also do great food; think lots of burgers, sharing platters and salads.
I hope you enjoyed my whirlwind tour of a few of my favourite Edinburgh restaurants and bars, and find it useful if you’re planning a visit or live nearby! What are your favourite Edinburgh eating and drinking establishments?