Edinburgh’s food scene is decidedly eclectic. Splash out at a Michelin-starred restaurant in the port suburb of Leith, or try a traditional low-key pub in the bohemian neighbourhood of Stockbridge with Culture Trip’s guide to dining out in the trendiest areas of the capital.
While many tourists who visit Edinburgh each year come looking for traditional Scottish menus, (of which there is no shortage), there are plenty who come for the growing number of innovative dining experiences. Food provenance is imperative to many chefs in the city, so you can expect local, seasonal ingredients served in unexpected ways at these must-visit restaurants.
This cosy restaurant in the unofficial seafood quarter of Edinburgh has more than a whiff of Highland inn about it. For a relaxed evening enjoying good food, settle down at A Room In Leith with a warming bowl of cullen skink or a mug of haggis, neeps and tatties, all washed down with a wee dram or two.
Housed in a converted warehouse and serving a menu that’s about as far removed from stereotypical Scottish cooking as imaginable, Tapa has earned itself a loyal following among in-the-know residents in Leith. Its take on Spanish tapas dishes provides a break from the norm: there are melt-in-your-mouth ribs, and the chef’s mother offers her own recipe for venison stew that’s not to be missed.
Restaurant Martin Wishart, Edinburgh | Courtesy of Restaurant Martin Wishart
The first of Edinburgh’s restaurants to be granted a hallowed Michelin star, Leith’s Restaurant Martin Wishart could take credit for turning what was once a forgotten corner of the city into one of its most exciting culinary scenes. The chef’s tasting menus are legendary – classic French cooking meets Scottish-caught lobsters and langoustines – and the elegant setting and crisp linen tablecloths in the pristine dining room add to the refined experience.
Though it’s been a New Town fixture since the ’60s, Hendersons Vegan Restaurant only became fully vegan in 2015. From the navy-painted exterior to its plant-based ingredients, it has a wholesome, stripped-back feel, beloved by regulars. Those wanting to sample house specialties would do well to try the vegan haggis, served with red wine gravy and mash, which has drawn customers since 1968.
A lounge-style restaurant that serves cocktails – best enjoyed in one of the red-leather booths – and just a road away from the exclusive shopping area of George Street, Grand Cru is a good choice for an early dinner and drinks. Food is well-priced and portions are generous. Order the mussels with a tarragon cream sauce for a real treat.
It’s fair to say The Cellar Dog gets a decent footfall from the Old Town’s busy thoroughfare. A contemporary restaurant with pendant lighting and exposed floorboards, its popularity is not undeserved. Scotland’s natural larder, not to mention its lochs and seas, have been mined by the restaurant’s chefs to produce delicate dishes that put a twist on the traditional.
After a busy day seeing the sights on the Royal Mile, nip into Bubba Q for some good, honest smoked food – think pork sliders, juicy burgers or fully-loaded tacos. The kitchen’s signature barbecue dry rub is used liberally throughout the menu and gives the dishes a unique flavour. Portions are also huge, so skip lunch and come straight for dinner.
You can’t go wrong with a neighbourhood Italian, and Piccolino is an excellent choice near Fountainbridge, west of the city centre. As one of the city’s few restaurants that doesn’t serve Scottish dishes, it’s all about home-made pasta and fresh mozzarella here, alongside rich tomato sauces and risottos dotted with squid and prawns.
The Stockbridge Restaurant is a sophisticated affair in the stylish suburb of Stockbridge, and a local favourite. Beautifully fresh fish dishes change daily based on the local catch, and hearty game dishes are consistently good. The wine list is strong, and the candlelit dining room, where huge artworks decorate the dark walls, has a decidedly Gothic feel, perfect for a languorous evening.
Everyone in Stockbridge knows that for the best pub grub in town, you come to The Scran and Scallie – the dual enterprise of two of Scotland’s most respected chefs, Tom Kitchin and Dominic Jack. Getting a table at this gastropub is no easy task, but with dishes like home-made fish pie or lamb rump with braised shoulder, you’ll be glad you did: it’s like going round to your very posh friend’s house for dinner. Although sadly, you do have to pay.