Looking for Edinburgh restaurants? We’ve found the best places to eat in the Scottish capital. From the top restaurants in Edinburgh to places for brunch, cafés and bars, we have all of the local favourites here…
olive’s top 10 must-visits for foodies in Edinburgh
Considerit – for vegan desserts
Plant-based, vegan, dairy free: Considerit ticks all the boxes. Grab an iced cinnamon bun or gorgeously gooey Oreo or Biscoff doughnut plus an oat milk latte or vegan ice cream milkshake at this low-key bakery and cafe (all chipboard benches and student vibe) on Edinburgh’s Southside. Before you leave, stock up on their hand-crafted chocolate bars (popcorn, chai spice and smoked sea salt flavours).
Edinburgh Fermentarium – for kombucha
Swing by the Saturday morning farmers market, below the castle, to give your gut a boost. At Edinburgh Fermentarium’s stall you can sample tubs of sauerkraut (meadowsweet is mix of lemongrass, lime leaf, carrot, onion, chilli peppers, ginger and salt), kimchi and sauerkraut water or buy a scoby to make your own kombucha.
Noto – for small plates
One of the most exciting new restaurants to catapult onto Edinburgh’s dining scene in 2018 was Noto (from Stuart Ralston the chef behind Aizle). New York-inspired with a minimalist vibe, a cobbled New Town alley location and a nod towards Asian cuisine (don’t miss the char siu pork bao with teriyaki and spring onions) the focus is on small sharing plates.
East Coast Cured – for Scottish charcuterie
Wander down to Leith to check out Scottish charcuterie producer East Coast Cured. This family business creates a range of cured meats in the store’s basement; think earthy venison, pork and sloe gin salami, rare-breed smoked chorizo, Saddleback pork saucisson sec and pungent porcini and truffle salami.
Merienda – for farm-to-fork tasting menus
In cute café-peppered Stockbridge, Merienda is a chic little joint (white tables, green tiles, wooden floors) where you design your own tasting menu from ‘farms and pastures’, ‘rivers and seas’ and ‘fields and gardens’. Mediterranean-inspired but made with Scottish ingredients, dishes include sea bass ceviche with beets, lemon sauce and cucumber or roast salmon gravalax with black garlic and dill emulsion.
Damm 27 – for a hearty lunch
Grab a booth for lunch at rustic-chic restaurant Damm 27. Dishes are designed for sharing but portions aren’t dainty. Tuck into a hearty one-pot spiced aubergine caponata with salty slabs of grilled halloumi, the rich stew layered with peppers, capers olives and onions or rich bouillabaisse packed with chunks of fish, prawns and mussels, charred gruyere-topped bread to soak up the juices.
Bross Bagels – for bagels
Join the queue at one of the four branches of Bross Bagels (Leith, Portobello, the West End and Bruntsfield) launched by Canadian comedian, Larah Bross, in Edinburgh in 2017. Each has a tailored selection but try a Montreal (traditional cream cheese, salmon, red onion, capers, dill and a squeeze of lemon on a sesame seed bagel) or a Hungry Vegan (smashed avo, tomatoes, chilli oil and rock salt on a multiseed bagel).
Grazing by Mark Greenaway – for bistro vibes
Chef Mark Greenaway has moved out of his eponymous restaurant – and into the Waldorf Astoria. Grazing by Mark Greenaway is a big, bustling bistro with turquoise banquettes. Start with treacle sourdough smeared with duck skin butter then choose from big and small plates and a smattering of concept dishes – order the ‘BBQ Shitake mushrooms, toast, truffle’ the mushrooms sprouting from a chunk of a trunk. And to finish? Sticky toffee pudding soufflé.
Lady Libertine – for cocktails
In the dimly lit basement of the Edinburgh Grand, bearded bartenders rustle up mean martinis and bespoke cocktails at hipster hangout Lady Libertine. The ground floor bar has a unique vibe (think fin de siècle European train station) and an extensive sherry menu. Sip a La Gitana manzanilla or glass of Fernando de Castilla Antique Palo Cortado and step back in time.
Where to stay in Edinburgh – Market Street Hotel
Sleek and central (tucked beside Waverley Station) the new Market Street Hotel’s USP is its slick rooftop champagne lounge, Nor’ Loft. Top and tail your day here with breakfast from the gourmet pantry or the chef’s counter (try the grilled grapefruit with demerara, whipped coconut, toasted coconut and mint oil) then return for a glass of fizz and Queenie scallops and Ayrshire pork belly with curried roast cauliflower puree, as the sun sets over Edinburgh’s dramatic skyline.
Doubles from £105, check availability at booking.com
Best restaurants in Edinburgh for wow factor…
The Lookout by Gardener’s Cottage
The latest restaurant from chef Dale Mailley – whose rustic-chic, communal dining field-to-fork favourite, Gardener’s Cottage, was joined in 2017 by a Leith-based bakery, Quay Commons – has hungry diners running up the hill (thelookoutedinburgh.co).
All clean, pared back lines inside a glass box built on a cantilever and part-suspended over the north-west slope of Calton Hill it’s part of the new City Observatory complex, redeveloped by The Collective as a contemporary art venue. Think sweeping views of the city skyline and out over the Firth of Forth as the backdrop for Mailley’s ever-inventive menu of seasonal dishes such as cured sea trout with scurvy grass, malted rabbit and hare yakitori.
Scott Smith wowed Edinburgh diners with his first restaurant, Norn, in Leith. Having bagged Edinburgh Restaurant of the Year, the announcement of its sudden closure sent shockwaves across the city. Fans didn’t have to wait long to taste his cooking again, however; his follow-up project, Fhior (Gaelic for true), opened on Broughton Street in summer 2018.
Set above hipster basement bar, Kin, in a string of small Scandi-chic rooms, the restaurant serves four- and seven-course tasting menus with a playful element that lets seasonal ingredients sing. Eye-poppingly creative dishes live up to the hype: ‘baby gem lettuce, hogget, pea, goats’ curd’, for instance, entails warm braised lettuce, tender, torn lamb, sweet peas and puree offset by a tart, tangy goat’s curd.
Click here to read our full review of Fhior by Scott Smith…
Langoustine dish at Fhior
Best restaurants in Edinburgh for casual dining…
In the heart of Edinburgh – but named after a district of Tokyo – Harajuku Kitchen specialises in traditional family recipes cooked by owner-chef Kaori Simpson, who was shortlisted in the ‘best street-food chef’ in the 2019 olive Chef Awards. This compact modern Japanese bistro serves tempura, noodle dishes, sushi and sashimi, as well as main courses such as tempura aubergine curry; tofu teriyaki and pork gyoza dumplings.
Tom Kitchin is on a roll. Not only has he recently launched his first pub with rooms, The Bonnie Badger in East Lothian (bonniebadger.com) but he quickly followed that by opening a second gastropub in the Scottish capital, the Southside Scran. Slightly south of the city centre, in Bruntsfield, menus here feature belt-busting hearty dishes based around seasonal Scottish produce but with a nod towards France.
Typical starters include Clash Farm pig’s head terrine and celeriac remoulade, West Coast shellfish ravioli and shellfish bisque and Borders Game pithivier and quince. In the dining room the rotisserie grill sizzles with whole roast Gartmorn Farm chicken and confit garlic and grass-fed Highlands Wagyu tail, shallots and parsley, while ‘Southside Comforts’ are just that: wagyu burger with red onion relish and Isle of Mull cheddar alongside re-imagined old-school desserts: rotisserie pineapple and rum sauce and rice pudding with pumpkin, orange and salted caramel sauce.
The Little Chartroom
Chef Roberta Hall-McCarron’s starry credentials include stints at The Kitchin and Castle Terrace. Now heading up her own restaurant, off still edgily down-at-heel Leith Walk, she was awarded Young British Foodies Chef of the Year in 2018.
The bijoux little joint (just 16 diners at the bar and smattering of tables) features dishes such as earthy game broth with a plump doughy duck bun followed by venison selection, brussel sprouts, salt-baked celeriac and chestnut. Then, to finish, darkly hearty malt loaf smeared with Vacherin cheese, plus mead and hazelnuts.
Best seafood restaurants in Edinburgh…
White Horse Oyster and Seafood Bar
You can’t beat ‘a buck a shuck’, and Oyster Happy Hour runs from 4-6pm Monday to Thursday at the White Horse Oyster and Seafood Bar at the bottom of the Royal Mile. This sleek seafood restaurant, in what was once an 18th-century inn, has a bespoke green marble bar, custom-designed oyster tank, leather banquettes and exposed stonework, and dishes up a smorgasbord of seafood.
The smattering of exquisite small plates designed for sharing includes tender octopus with pine nut, mint and basil, moreish monkfish satay, chargrilled mackerel with pickled beetroot and horseradish and crab and crayfish toast with chilli, orange and avocado, as well as traditional seafood platters.
Best restaurants for supper club vibes…
Edinburgh Food Studio
Ground-breaking restaurant and research hub Edinburgh Food Studio continues to evolve organically. Founded by Ben Reade, once head of research at the Nordic Food Lab in Copenhagen, and his partner, Canadian chef and anthropologist Sashana Souza Zanella – with a little help from their crowdfunding friends – the sleek ‘food studio’ takes a wide-angled view of the restaurant concept. It’s more supper club in character, with a string of guest chefs and foragers.
Diners cluster round communal tables for a set seven-course tasting menu. Originally open just three nights a week, you can now book dinner Wednesday to Saturday, lunch Thursday to Saturday and brunch on Sunday. There’s a new head chef, James Murray (who’s worked at Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons and Lyle’s in London) and the business now sells bread – from its other project the Company Bakery (companybakery.com). It’s a whole new chapter.
Best brunch spots in Edinburgh…
Leith’s vibrant waterfront has long been a foodie hub with its jostling of Michelin-starred restaurants and quirky gastropubs. Toast, a cool jazz-filled wine café in an old art gallery on The Shore is a buzzing place for brunch. Think exposed brickwork, a mix of high tables and turquoise velvet banquettes and tables spilling out onto the pavement.
Tuck into a creamy bowl of porridge with roasted pistachios, coconut and honey, Mexican inspired huevos rancheros, chilli and lime-infused smashed avocado with sun-blushed tomatoes on sourdough toast or shakshuka, that rich tomato, roast pepper, chilli, onion and aubergine stew baked with two eggs. The wine list is the other draw, of course. Wines by the glass are changed weekly to keep the locals on their toes and around a third of the 100 or so wines on the list are organic, natural or biodynamic.
Best coffee shops in Edinburgh…
Lowdown Coffee is a cool café in the bright basement of a grand Georgian terrace on George Street. Owner Paul Anderson sources his beans from Swedish coffee roaster Koppi, founded by champion baristas Anne Lunell and Charles Nystrand – who also occasionally hold workshops and tastings at Lowdown.
The inspiration for the clean, minimalist design was Japanese not Scandinavian, however. Anderson studied furniture designer and his father was an architect and the space feels more like a friend’s flat than a café with its kitchen counter-layout. The whole place is designed to encourage social interaction – yes cosy chats over coffee and cake.
The capital is sprinkled, cappuccino chocolate shaker-style, with independent coffee shops and micro-roasteries and Cairngorm Coffee is one of the best. Owner Robi Lambie veered down different design routes for his two branches, setting them apart from the mainstream chains.
The Frederick Street basement café with its rustic, rough-hewn wood groove is mountain hut chic. You could hole up here nursing a latte for days amongst the coffee bean sacks. Melville Place, however, is a sleeker, more contemporary option. Think high tables (a bar of wood sandwiched between copper) along with copper angled iPad holder tables and state-of-the-art equipment: the first Sanremo Opera espresso machine in Scotland. And the coffee? Roasted in the Cairngorms, of course.
Best food shops in Edinburgh…
From dough to doughnuts: Twelve Triangles’ story began back in 2015 with a spot of experimentation – slow ferment, cold-prove doughs. Now, this tiny bakery just of Leith Walk sells a range of breads – including a dark and devilish charcoal loaf, gourmet doughnuts and pastries. It’s also since expanded to a second branch in Portobello and the Twelve Triangles Kitchen Table, a café, gathering place and the venue for regular fermentation workshops.
The Bearded Baker
Rowan Taylor is the Bearded Baker – or bagel man. At this cute little joint in Canonmills you can choose from a range of combinations running from your classic smoked salmon, cream cheese, pickled cucumber and dill to the P.B.B – smooth peanut butter and sliced banana with an optional drizzle of honey. He also makes a mean doughnut, plump and doughy, caked in sugar and oozing fillings from white chocolate and pecan to lemon meringue.
Best bars in Edinburgh…
Smith and Gertrude
Whether you want to sink a pint or nurse a peaty dram Edinburgh has more than its share of hipster hangouts, sleek whisky bars, old-world pubs and late night drinking dens. Smith and Gertrude, in perkily pretty Stockbridge with its delis, patisseries, cheesemongers, butchers and bakeries, is a new departure, however, a retro-chic wine bar that’s all reclaimed wood flooring, vintage radiators and a simple concept: wine, cheese, company.
The carefully curated wine list features natural, organic and biodynamic bottles, as well as orange wines. It serves daily changing wines by the glass, weekly wine flights and regular tastings. And then there’s the cheese – from Ubriaco, an Italian cow’s cheese served with aged Balsamic to an Irish Killeen with quince – along with charcuterie platters.
Best foodie places to stay in Edinburgh…
Dunstane Houses is a cosy bolthole in Edinburgh’s West End – and two hotels in one: Dunstane House, a William Playfair-designed Victorian mansion and the (about to be revamped) Hampton House across the road. Orkney-born owners Shirley and Derek Mowat have stamped their character and Orkney roots on the rambling Dunstane House. Think oversized tweed headboards and framed black and white photos of island life. There’s no traditional hotel restaurant, but relaxed all-day dining (12-9.30pm) in the eclectic lounge with its low-slung velvet sofas and scattering of tables and the darker more dramatic Ba’ Bar.
The cooking style is Modern Scottish with a nod to the Orkneys, the produce local, seasonal farm, field and fishing boat, the menu split into wee and bigger bites. For ‘a wee taste of Orkney’ tuck into hand-cut smoked salmon and smoked peppered mackerel pate from Grimbster or a platter of mature Orkney cheddar with homemade apple and plum chutney and oatcakes. Scottish favourites include creamy Cullen Skink with artisan bread, hand-dived Orkney scallops with chorizo, chilli and spring onion and crispy Campbells haggis bonbons with Glenkinchie single malt whisky and Arran mustard mayo. To finish Dunstane Cranachan: wickedly decadent whisky, whipped cream, toasted oats, honey and orange.
Photo credit: Rita Platts
Trust olive Lucy Gillmore is a freelance journalist based in Scotland who heads out on the road in search of the latest foodie hotspots. For more information see visitscotland.com or Edinburgh.org, visit olivemagazine.com or search for #oliveeatsedinburgh