|Moderately-priced restaurants||Italian restaurants|
|More expensive restaurants||Asian restaurants|
|Favourite food shops||Decorative Venues|
This guide was originally written for groups of conference participants visiting Edinburgh. It was intended as a short list of places that could be relied upon to provide something decent, so that the visitors could avoid the consequences of incautious exploration of British restaurants.
Now we are not involved with conferences, it is just our personal restaurant guide reflecting our recent experiences. There are probably many excellent places not mentioned, owing probably to ignorance on our part.
Comments are very welcome by E-mail to the editors, but we only include places we have been to ourselves.
The Scottish Cafe and Restaurant (The National Gallery, Edinburgh, EH2. Tel: 0131 226 6524 www.centotre.com/thescottishcafe/) Victor and Carina Contini (of Centotre) are now involved in this. It provides pretty good fare by the standards of museum restaurants.
Urban Angel (121, Hanover Street EH2, Tel: 0131 225 6215 www.urban-angel.co.uk) Just south of Queen Street, a small basement entrance conceals a substantial seating capacity in this cafe-cum-restaurant. They make a lot of their fair-trade and organic sourcing but it's not just lentils: there's Buccleuch beef and other top-class meat too. We really enjoyed a recent lunch of Tapas - it's one of those "anything from a snack to a full meal" outfits. The food is generally good although the service can be rather lax. Also now at 1 Forth St EH1.
The Bon Vivant (55, Thistle Street EH2 1DY Tel: 0131 225 3275, bonvivantedinburgh.co.uk) What a pleasure to find properly cooked food without huge pretensions at a very reasonable price. A recent meal included small portions of black pudding, lovely arancini and a nicely-balanced lamb stew that had been properly degreased. There is a sensible wine list too with a fair selection of Champagne.
|More expensive restaurants|
Restaurant Martin Wishart (54 The Shore, Leith. Tel: 0131 553 3557) The food and service remain very good, although Martin is spreading himself around a bit more with his Cooking School, brasserie and a venture on Loch Lomond. We hope this does not effect standards here. It is modern British cooking with quite a lot of shellfish, foie gras and other luxury ingredients. Wine mark-ups are hefty but the growers are well-chosen and one can drink quite well without absolutely breaking the bank.
La Garrigue (31 Jeffrey Street, EH1. Tel: 0131 557 3032) Jean Michel Gauffre has decided to return to the stove having been executive chef at a top city hotel. His restaurant specialising in the food of the Languedoc fills a gap in the city: it is not trying to serve smart, intricate dishes, but rather traditional French country food made from high-quality ingredients.
Cafe St. Honore (34 Thistle St Lane North, EH2. Tel: 0131 226 2211) Just makes it into the serious eater section - a bit cheaper than some, but a decent dinner usually - although we have not been for a long time. This made an appearance in one of Ian Rankin's Rebus thrillers.
The Honours (58a North Castle Street, EH2 3LU. Tel: 0131 220 2513, www.thehonours.co.uk) A "brasserie" and part of the Wishart empire. There's a good collection of dishes ranging from shepherd's pie to top of the range restaurant cooking, all beautifully executed. Great food, but the wine list is very disappointing, seeming to be standard issue from a run-of-the-mill wholesaler.
Number One (Balmoral Hotel, Princes St. EH1. Tel: 0131 557 8740) We hear that Jeff Bland is still cooking very well here although the location in the basement can be a bit soulless. This is still one of the top couple of places in the city.
Harvey Nichols Fourth Floor (30-34 St Andrews Square, EH2. Tel: 0131 524 8350) Quite an ambitious restaurant with stunning views in an area of town where decent meals are not so easy to find. The standard here is pretty decent, if not quite among the best of the city. The wine list is extensive and expensive, but at the time of writing all wine above 13.50 is available for retail price on Tuesday evenings. There is also a "bistro area" with a cheaper, less ambitious menu.
The Scotch Malt Whisky Society (28 Queen Street, Edinburgh EH2 1JX. Tel: 0131 220 2044) A little bit variable but usually pretty good and often excellent. The style is typical modern British. The bar upstairs serves some decent dishes in very convivial surroundings, but that is "members only".
The Kitchin (78 Commercial Quay, Leith, EH6. Tel: 0131 555 1755 www.thekitchin.com) This is really very serious competition to the nearby Martin Wishart, and some feel it benefits from the Chef's being in the kitchen most of the time. Absolutely first-class food meriting its Michelin star. Lunch is a bargain.
Ondine (2 George IV Bridge, EH1, Tel: 0131 226 1888 http://www.ondinerestaurant.co.uk) Roy Brett, who had a good reputation at "Dakota" is now right in the centre of town. This is a seafood restaurant with a couple of meat courses, and the execution with fish is generally very good.
Warning: A word of advice for those of you considering Scottish "theme" restaurants in the town centre - DON'T!
Glass and Thompson (Dundas Street, EH3. Tel: 0131 557 0909/9888) Reliable Italianate snack menu, with olive oil on the table. Smartly designed place, with newspapers to read, and it serves a decent coffee. An Edinburgh institution these days, featuring in Alexander McCall Smith novels.
The Elephant House (21 George IV Bridge, EH1. Tel: 0131 220 5355) Lots of elephants, and coffee of a sort. Worth it, just about, for the view of the castle, but they are a bit inclined towards playing continual loud Muzak.
Museum Cafes: National Gallery of Modern Art and the Portrait Gallery Don't forget these if you are looking for a decent light lunch. The first is a little out of the centre (but there is a pleasant walk to it along the Water of Leith) and the second very central, on Queen Street just by St Andrews Square.
Sprio (37 St Stephen's Street, EH3. Tel: 0131 226 7533) This little cafe cum deli is tucked away in Stockbridge - an area with an abundance of lunching places, but almost none we feel more than luke-warm about. Spiro is great: there's a fixed selection of Panini (well worth trading up to the foccacia I feel since the standard bread is a little weak) and a couple of soups and salads of the day. Everything is simple, made from fresh ingredients and is completely honest. You can just tell that the owners know and care about food.Wellington Coffee, Press Coffee, Kilimanjaro (33A George St EH2, 30 Buccleuch St EH8, 104 Nicolson St EH8 respectively) The espresso revolution has hit Edinburgh. These three cafés are under the same ownership, they are using coffee from Square Mile Roasters, as favoured by lots of top London estblishments, and the quality is a way above what we have had before in the city. Peter's Yard (27 Simpson Loan, Edinburgh, EH3. www.petersyard.com) This Swedish café around the central University area is a splendid addition to the Edinburgh scene. Brilliant bread baked on the premises, and soups and sandwiches too. The ice cream is great in the Summer.
Valvona & Crolla (18 Elm Row, EH7. Tel: 0131 556 6066) The Italian deli Valvona & Crolla is a great Edinburgh tradition. The café, which is open for lunch only except for the festival, seems less exciting than when it first opened - we feel it is less consistent and perhaps other places have caught up too. See its listing under Favourite Food Shops.
Valvona and Crolla Vincaffe (11 Multrees Walk, Edinburgh EH1. Tel: 0131 557 0088) Just by Harvey Nichols, V&C's town centre restaurant and cafe has served us some good meals, but we do get the feeling too that somebody needs to be keeping more of an eye on standards. The food in the restaurant is not necessarily complicated, but well-executed Italian dishes made simply from really good ingredients. Not cheap, but very good. The wine list is excellent, with relatively reasonable mark-ups so one can drink pretty well too. There is a good range by the glass too, with open bottles preserved by a high-tech inert gas system. The cafe on the ground floor is good for a quick snack and a glass of wine or just a coffee.
Centotre (103 George Street EH2, Tel: 0131 225 1550) Italian Cafe serving a range of mainly simple dishes (pizzas, etc) and a few hot dishes of the day. We have heard the occasional moan from friends but when we have gone we have had usually had a good meal. A dish of grilled butterflied Langoustines on our last visit was delicious.
Santini (8, Conference Square, EH3. Tel: 0131 221 7789) Very serious, rather expensive, but very high-quality Italian food. There is a cafe area too with less ambitious food at more reasonable prices. Thisis another place we have not visited for a while and so are not sure how it is doing these days.
Beware of Italian restaurants in Edinburgh; it is mostly overcooked, supermarket pasta with regulation Brit-Ital sauces. One that stood out a bit from the crowd was Librizzis but we haven't been there for a good while. Beyond this, Hanover Street has a mass of pizza and pasta joints serving the usual cliches to about the usual, poor standard.
Most Asian (and particularly Indian) restaurants in Britain serve identical dull food of no culinary interest. People believe they are cheap, but is is amazingly easy to spend sums of money that would buy you a proper meal on very average food made from substandard ingredients and bought-in sauces.
Mithas (7 Dock Place, Leith EH6 6LU. Tel: 0131 554 0008) Indian food, but not as we know it! It's amazing how different it is if you take decent quality ingredients, use fresh spices thoughtfully and don't drown everything in synthetic sauces. This is real fine dining and rates close to the best eating spots in town. The set banquets are recommended. And as an added bonus, you can bring your own wine with no corkage charge.
Dusit Thai Restaurant (49a Thistle Street EH2, Tel: 0131 220 6846, http://www.dusit.co.uk) This is just the best Thai food we have eaten in Edinburgh, and we haven't had much better anywhere else. Fresh, clear flavours are evident in every dish and we get the sense that high-quality ingredients are being used. This perhaps has elements of Thai-fusion rather than plain traditional Thai and it is none the worse for it.
We've not been eating Indian out for a while but we've heard Khushi's recommended. The Indian places in the vegetarian section just below are OK too.
Hendersons (9 Hanover Street, EH2. Tel: 0131 225 2131) Ancient Edinburgh Institution that is perhaps not what it once was. We once overheard someone ask: "Could you tell me what is in the courgette and butter bean bake", which sums it up quite well. Large array of healthy looking vegetarian dishes, that don't always look appetising to the carnivore.
Kalpna (2/3 St Patricks Square, EH8. Tel: 0131 667 9890) Another Edinburgh favourite that periodically appears in the national press, and seems to maintain its high standards year after year. Buffet lunch for five pounds is a bargain too. (Better by far than most of the non-veggy Indians.)
David Bann (56-58 St Mary's St, EH1. Tel: 0131 556 5888 www.davidbann.com) More or less serious restaurant prices for a pretty good vegetarian version of fine food. A lot of dishes tend towards oriental or at least fusion cooking. The style is quite individual with some odd mixtures, some of which work well, others a bit less so. Overall, worth a try, particularly if your tastes tend towards the vegetarian. The wine list is not inspiring.
|Favourite Food Shops|
I.J. Mellis (30a Victoria Street EH1, 205 Bruntsfield Place EH10, Kerr Street EH4) Iain Mellis is one of Britains foremost Cheesemongers and all the shops have a fantastic selection of British and Irish cheeses in peak condition. The Bruntsfield and Stockbridge (Kerr Street) stores also have continental cheeses and a good range bacon, hams and salamis, and other groceries.
Shaw's (formally Ian Proudfoot) (6 Learmonth Avenue, EH4. Tel: 0131 315 2056) Not everybody even has a local butcher now, and we are very lucky to have this shop. The lamb and beef are excellent, at least partly because they are properly hung. Pheasant and venison are also first class. Recently taken over but there still seems to be a comitment to quality.
Valvona & Crolla (19 Elm Row, EH7. Tel: 0131 556 6066 www.valvonacrolla.com) Famous Edinburgh Italian delicatessen, not cheap for everything, but a great collection to browse in. Good coffee and a huge selection of top Italian wines. Also good for lunch - see above.
Henri's Delicatessen (376 Morningside Road, EH10 and 48 Raeburn Place, Stockbridge, Edinburgh EH4) Great selection of mainly French cheeses (to complement Mellis's British ones) and a range of other deli produts of generally good quality.
Farmers Markets (Saturday mornings, Castle Terrace and Sunday's Stockbridge) We frequent both of these, which have, as you would expect, a selection of products from a range of local producers.
Herbies (66 Raeburn Place, Stockbridge, Edinburgh. Tel. 0131 332 9888) Really pleasant little neighbourhood deli. Excellent very rare roast beef and lots more.
Appetite (42 Howe Street, EH3 www.appetitedirect.com ) A good little business providing home cooked meals to take away. There are soups, salads and hot dishes from shepherd's pie to tagines and curries. The menu is put up daily on their facebook pages and twitter (@appetitedirect).
The first of these especially is worth a visit just for a look:
Cafe Royal (17 West Register Street, EH2 Tel: 0131 557 4792) By the way, "West register street" is one of those things that doctors used to ask you to say to see if you are confused. So don't try and get a taxi to here after a heavy evening.
Tiles (1 St Andrew's Square, EH2 Tel: 0131 558 1507)