While age-old favourites, like haggis and deep-fried Mars bars, can still be found in ready supply across the Scottish capital, Edinburgh is a hub of new and exciting culinary opportunities. For those on a tight budget, The Culture Trip reveals the cheapest places to lunch in Edinburgh, without compromise on quality.
On Victoria Street, just off the Royal Mile, you can often smell Oink before you see it. The menu is as simple as the name; customers are offered freshly carved hog roast, served on a white or brown roll with a choice of sage and onion, applesauce, chilli relish, or haggis. The meat is sourced from carefully selected Scottish borders farms, the owners haven’t messed about when it comes to quality, and it pays off. Great prices for great food.
Under the Stairs, hidden beneath George IV Bridge, has remained a hidden gem in the city. The restaurant has a carefully constructed, homespun quality, giving customers the impression that they’ve just walked into a comfy living room. Armchairs are placed around a cosy fireplace, and diners sit at old wooden kitchen tables. The menu is Middle Eastern inspired, with dishes like harissa-marinated sea bream, spicy aloo Bombay burgers, and maple-glazed tofu all at the £10 mark. Sharing platters are a particularly good value, and they come on big slabs of old wood to match the rustic aesthetic.
Customers at Ting Thai Caravan sit cheek to cheek at canteen-style tables and eat from cardboard boxes. The exposed brick walls and techie soundtrack suggests that the restaurant could happily be found in Shoreditch. While the aesthetic is low-key and unassuming, the restaurant offers some of the best Thai food in Edinburgh. The lunch menu is made up of a choice of rice and noodle dishes, curry dishes, soup bowls, and small boxes. The flavours are fresh and zingy and appeal to a wide range of palates. The queues out the door on the weekend are a testament to the quality of the food!
Union of Genius runs on a simple formula; it offers six different soups every day, which come accompanied by a range of artisan breads. The shop, located on Forrest Road, is a favourite among students. The chefs’ characteristic use of chorizo, harissa, and curry paste provide warming, fiery tastes on chilly Edinburgh days. Union of Genius also runs a soup van in George Square for those in need of a quick lunch-on-the-run.
Tuk Tuk, in Edinburgh’s Bruntsfield, serves up high quality Indian street food in a restaurant setting. The owners have attempted to recreate the hustle and bustle of the Indian market place to great effect, with brightly coloured walls and tables, Bollywood music, and speedy service. The menu is fun and fresh, with dishes such as spicy pea and potato samosas, lamb curry with fresh spinach, and chicken achari, all around the £5 mark.
The Dogs is one of the most popular haunts in the city. Set in a grand Georgian house, the restaurant has a spare, elegant aesthetic. Diners sit at mahogany wooden tables and eat from an eclectic mix of vintage china. The ambiance is refined and trendy, if a little kitsch (with canine pictures and figurines lining the stairwell). The menu offers sophisticated dishes at impressively low prices; you can enjoy a particularly memorable ox shin, barley, beer, and pastry pie for just under £7. Be sure to book in advance.
The Potting Shed provides exactly what it says on the tin. The sofas are made from sackcloth, buckets are used for lampshades, and jam jars for glasses. Garden detritus in the form of terracotta pots, shears, hoes, and spades litter every available surface. The owners are no less committed to the garden theme when it comes to the food. The Scottish-based menu uses homegrown ingredients and provides hearty and homey meals. Get there between 12PM and 3PM on weekdays for a £5 two-course lunch.
Bonningtons is ideal for a custom-made lunch. It offers a selection of high quality ingredients to be made into paninis or salads at £5 a pop. For those who are feeling uninspired, however, the pre-made ‘sweet and sour’ panini (with prosciutto, goat’s cheese, rocket and tomato, and chilli chutney) is perfect for a speedy lunch. Look out for the homemade raspberry and chocolate brownies for a tasty post-lunch treat.