Time was that when the Edinburgh Festival finished at the end of August the city quickly slipped back into its famous genteel torpor. No more. Nothing matches the city for vibrancy in the famously rainy month of August but September and October in Scotland's most enigmatic city are often drier and sunnier. Walking hand-in-hand down the old cobbled ginnels (alleyways) of the Old Town or sipping cocktails on any number of rooftop terraces like that of Harvey Nichols, the place is full of romantic possibilities. Wrap up well, there is a chill that blows in from the North Sea. There is plenty of culture from the newly refurbished Scottish National Museum and Scottish National Portrait Gallery to theatres and concerts, not to mention fine dining from the likes of Tom Kitchin and Mark Greenaway. And Edinburgh must be unique in that in the middle of the city there is not only a castle sitting on a volcanic plug but a little patch of the Highlands in the shape of Arthur’s Seat and Salisbury Crags. With the Scottish independence debate high on the agenda there has never been a better time to visit the Athens of the North.
It's written by a local person in Edinburgh, who provides honest and detailed reviews of restaurants and bars in Edinburgh. Photos are provided too, so you can see what your meal looks like and if it's appetising!
With the madness of the Edinburgh festival just about to start, I have a trip for anyone wishing to take a break from it and escape the city for a day.
The splendid Jupiter Artland, a contemporary sculpture garden in the grounds of Bonnington house, just outside the city.
An impressive selection of art work from some of Britain's biggest names - Andy Goldsworthy, Anthony Gormley, Anish Kapoor etc. When you need a break from exploring, treat yourself to tea and cake from the chrome vintage caravan cafe, and hang out with the peacock.
And if that's not enough to tempt you, did I mention the miniature donkeys?
Honest food at honest prices. "Real" beef or chicken or bacon burgers, traditionally with bun or healthily with salad, with thick shakes...or Fentimans Ginger beer, and on the Roral Mile,too. Rightly poular with families, locals and tourists.
217 High Street, Edinburgh
Google map: tinyurl.com/3y697ea
There are many pubs with great music in Edinburgh and the first I visited was the "Sandy Bell's" on Forest Rd: really nice atmosphere thanks to the good traditional music played by anyone who would an instrument! But the best thing about this pub is that you just need to cross the road to find the fantastic "Monster Mash" where you can enjoy traditional dishes like haggis, neeps and tatties, at least four different kinds of mash and much more. Large choice for vegetarian as well! All served in huge portions for a low price. If you want to treat yourself and you love fish, you really have to go to the "Fishers in the city": located in 58 Thistle Street, this restaurant is perfect to appreciate the fresh local fish served by friendly and polite staff. A bit pricy but worth it: main course, dessert and a bottle of wine for £60 (for 2people). I consider it my best experience at eating fish in the UK. At the Kalpna (2/3 St Patrick Square, 0131 6679890) you can enjoy a totally different taste of Indian food: believe me, nothing to do with what we are use to! The prices are reasonable but the place is always packed so I suggest you to book in advance. I went for lunch in a lovely canteen, “Susie’s Wholefood Diner”(51-53 West Nicolson Street), where you can have the best vegetarian food; perfect to feel better after a few days of greasy food! Most of the customers are students/teachers so I would suggest you to go a bit earlier to avoid a huge queue. At last the “Bow Bar”, 80 West Bow: this is what I consider a REAL pub. Very friendly staff (it was the only time I didn’t feel myself a tourist),good choice of real ales, well kept, and a selection of 150 Scotch whiskies.
Google map: tinyurl.com/37xex7j
Right smack in the middle of festival madness and 5 mins from The Pleasance to the East and the Udderbelly even closer to the West, lies Nile Valley, the only place in Edinburgh to get a decent falafel. Pop in on yr way between the two venues for a low-key fast food lunch, or enjoy the calm oasis of the downstairs, candle-lit caverns over dinner.
Just across the cobbles on Nicholson Street is the no fuss boozer and free festival venue "The Pear Tree". Free live music on the outdoor stage, a comedy and cabaret venue upstairs, reasonably priced beer and a burger shack for the falafel-ed out, it's the perfect place to plan the day ahead or to share your triumphs and rasperries with other punters after a hard day's festival going.
6 Chapel Street
Edinburgh, EH8 9AY
The Pear Tree House
34 West Nicolson Street
Edinburgh, EH8 9DD
Google map: tinyurl.com/3ypfxt9
As an unpaid and broke intern forlornly lurking around Edinburgh, every day for weeks I would pass Clarinda’s Tea Room. No flashy sign or outside seating, just a sitting-room sized window with lace curtains which I longed to look behind.
Visiting friends from London gave me the much-needed excuse to finally venture inside. Clarinda’s turned out to be a doilied heaven; cakes on display and a scent of baking in the air which reminded me of my native Norway’s old-time cafés and visiting my Grandmother’s house. The best Cream Tea north of the border made our experience complete.
Clarinda's Tea Room, 69 Canongate, Edinburgh EH8 8BS
Google map: tinyurl.com/3588kqc
An avid festival goer of many years and an Edinburger, my hot tip for the Festival has to be the Mussel Shack at the Spiegel Tent venue. It's an outdoor seafood bar, lit up with sparkly fairy lights, in picturesque Princes Street gardens at the foot of historic Edinburgh Castle. You really are amid the spirit and energy of the festival and Edinburgh itself.
Try mussels marinere with fresh homemade breads or with frites, hot-smoked salmon in a crusty roll and oysters on ice with fresh lemon or tabasco. All washed down with cider or chamagne! Or you can sit at what feel like impromptu candlelit tables, taking in the atmosphere in the heart of the festivals greatest venue.
A relatively new addition to Thistle Street in the heart of Edinburgh's New Town, the Bon Vivant is a relaxed and cosy restaurant and bar which serves very reasonably priced food. Starters and deserts come as regular portions for around £3 or ingeniously as 'bite' sized for £1 each. The menu changes daily and the staff are always friendly.
55 Thistle Street Edinburgh, EH2 1DY
0131 225 3275 bonvivantedinburgh.co.uk
Toast is a small and friendly cafe in Marchmont, a pretty and largely studenty area away from the hustle and bustle of the city centre. As well as dinner in the evenings there is breakfast and lunch, and on weekends they serve brunch, which is a real winner! It includes not only the breakfast options (full scottish breakfast, croissants, waffles etc), but also delicious sandwiches and french toast. Portions are generous (order something with goat's cheese and you won't be disappointed!) and prices are very reasonable - as a student it is my favourite local eatery, and not only when the parents are visiting! The walls are filled with various art works giving it a low-key warmth, and the walk to get there from the town centre is a very pleasant one across the Meadows. Booking is not essential if you don't mind a few minutes' wait for a table.
146 Marchmont Road, Edinburgh, EH9 1AQ
146 Marchmont Road, Edinburgh, EH9 1AQ
0131 446 9873
google map: tinyurl.com/39r3ebf
Tucked away in one of Edinburgh's most famous streets, this culinary gem is the perfect place to escape the Festival crowds without leaving the centre of town. Situated on the upper floor of 30 Victoria Street, opposite the fabulous Bow Bar (perfect for a pre or post-dinner drink), it is easy to miss from the street which lends a visit a pleasantly "in the know" feel. Once you're in, the low vaulted loft setting is intimate, charming and very romantic; the food is imaginative, unfussy, beautifully prepared and, (the best bit) excellent value.
The team at Sweet Melinda's genuinely care about ingredients with a focus on seafood and game the dishes are interesting and delicious - all sourced locally, cooked on site and served in the cosy restaurant filled with old quirky photos. Don't miss it if you're a festival goer or just a city visitor
This small Turkish restaurant a few minutes' walk from The Pleasance is ideal for tucking into some pre or post-show food during the Festival. The atmosphere is friendly and lively, whilst the food - in the form of platters of mezze followed by Turkish coffee and baklava - is fantastic and very reasonably priced (its also BYOB which helps to keep the cost down). There is often live music later on in the evening and, if you're really lucky, the owner will entertain you with his own guitar-playing skills (albeit he's only learned a couple of chords so far!)
Informal curries cooked and served in the grounds of the Edinburgh Central Mosque. Tasty, portions big enough to satisfy my growing 14 year old, variety enough for a seven year old, and catering for both vegetarians and carnivores. Best of all perhaps: a fabulous variety of non-alcoholic drinks from cans of coconut milk to doubtful highly coloured fizzy concoctions. A treat for all the family without breaking the bank. Take a jumper as the eatery is open air (marquee style roof to keep off the rain).
Potterrow, behind the National Museum of Scotland, near to the University - the minaret is a clue.
Google map: bit.ly/b3P3jl
There are plenty of delicious places to eat and drink in Edinburgh but on a sunny day you can't beat a picnic on top of Arthur's Seat or The Crags at Holyrood Park. Stop at Peckhams' to pick up some gourmet bread, cheese, olives, cakes and deli treats along with beer, cider or wine straight from the fridge and take the short walk to Arthur's Seat. On a clear day you'll have perfect views for miles around, including the Forth Bridge and the Pentland Hills. There are climbs, walks and plenty of space to just sit and enjoy the sunshine.
A beautiful cafe with incredible food. Off the beaten track slightly, in the heart of Marchmont, so you'll likely avoid swarms of festival-goers, but popular with the locals so it will be fairly busy nonetheless.
Booking is sensible on weekends for brunch, when they serve a classic menu cooked to perfection. Their Full Scottish Breakfast - an essential experience when visiting Edinburgh - is almost definitely the finest in the city. Sandwiches and proper mains available too. All dishes at reasonable prices and guaranteed to delight.
If you like coffee you must visit Artisan Roast. Once tasted all other coffee will seem like pale imitations of the real thing. They buy direct from the growers and roast on site. What's more, if you bring your own cup then you pay less!
Chop Chop has to be the best Chinese restaurant ever! The dumplings are to die for at this family friendly, family run business. If you visit Edinburgh you have to visit Chop Chop. Right next to Haymarket Station. PS: they've just opened one in Leith.
There can be few more pleasant ways to spend a sunny Edinburgh afternoon than taking a stroll through Holyrood Park (strenuous climb up Arthur's Seat optional!) over to The Sheip Heid, which claims to be the oldest pub in Scotland. Built as it was in 1360, they may have a point. Traditional pub grub is the order of the day in the atmospheric interior, while in the summer months an extensive barbecue menu is served in the pub's courtyard. And if - as is perfectly likely - the weather turns inclement, you can always skip the walk in the park and take comfort in a pint of local ale and basket of scampi and chips over a game of skittles in the pub's old-fashioned alley hidden away in the annex.
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