At this time of year we turn our attention to the Edinburgh Festival and Fringe. So if you are going to see some shows but aren’t quite sure where to eat or drink, then here are some bar and restaurant suggestions from our resident Foodie Explorers, covering the New Town, Old Town, West End, and Newington.
The most well-known venue here is the Assembly Rooms on George Street, but there’s also The Stand Comedy Club and Rose Theatre, among others. For classic boozers, three of the most ornate are within a stone’s throw of each other: Cafe Royal (19 West Register Street, EH2 2AA), The Abbotsford (1 West Register Street, EH2 2AA) and Tiles (1 St Andrews Square, EH2 2BD). There are also plenty of cheaper options along Rose Street: the New Town is a haven for cocktail drinkers, with numerous quirky bars and speakeasies we’re going to focus on those.
If you’re travelling to Edinburgh by train, you may be surprised to know that there is a cocktail bar directly above Waverley train station. Cask (3 Princes Street, EH1 1BQ) has been redesigned just in time for festival season, with a mezzanine wine bar and suntrap roof terrace. If the weather isn’t so good, there are Scandinavian-style domes to sit in outside. Food is provided by Lichen Kitchen and afternoon tea is also available. Open all week.
Never Really Here (89 Rose St North Lane, EH2 3DX) used to be Bryant and Mack, a detective agency-themed bar with frosted glass windows. It always looked like it was closed but if you gave the door a push, lo and behold, you found yourself in a dimly lit cocktail bar. It changed owners and name before lockdown, but retains a similar secretive speakeasy style, with unusual cocktails. Reservations recommended. Closed Mondays and Tuesdays.
Hoot the Redeemer (7 Hanover Street, EH2 2DL) also hides behind a facade: a single door suggests that psychic palm readings and crystal-ball-gazers are waiting inside. Downstairs, away from prying eyes, is a nostalgic bar with tarot-themed cocktails and vending machines that dispense ready-made cocktails or alcoholic ice cream. If you’re just looking for a beer there is a selection of Pilot, plus some from further afield and wines by the glass. They also like to give you popcorn with your drinks. Reservations recommended. Closed Mondays.
Sister to Hoot, Panda & Sons (79 Queen Street, EH2 4NF) is hidden beneath a fake barber-shop frontage. Downstairs, you’ll find cocktails served in teacups, top hats, and even Chinese takeaway cartons. If you’re not after cocktails you’ll be pleased to know that local craft beer features, as does wine by the glass. They also provide popcorn with drinks orders. Booking is advisable. Closed Mondays and Tuesdays.
Also on Queen Street is Bramble (16A Queen Street, EH2 1JE). You’d be forgiven for missing the tiny sign acknowledging its existence: you sort of have to know it’s there, and guess what? It’s hidden underneath a dry cleaners, only the business is real this time. Bramble frequently ranks in top cocktail bar lists for the UK and even the world, so try and locate it to find out why.
Sister to Bramble, and also on the same street, is Lucky Liquor Co (39A Queen Street, EH2 3NH). This dinky bar is a little more conspicuous than the others mentioned: it’s easy to find thanks to having the brightest paint job on the block. Closed Mondays and Tuesdays.
Finally, Superico Bar & Lounge (99 Hanover Street, EH2 1DJ) has a bright, vibrant Art Deco and Latin American-style bar with a focus on sour cocktails and spritzes. Closed Mondays.
A little further up the street is sister venue Superico Restaurant (83 Hanover Street, EH2 1EE). Open for lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch, the food is a mixture of world cuisines that can’t really be pigeonholed, with unusual items such as scallop tartare and tempura enoki mushrooms. Closed Mondays and Tuesdays.
Noto (77A Thistle Street, EH2 1DY) specialises in exquisite sharing plates and wine from small producers, in a minimal, Michelin-recommended restaurant. Closed Mondays and Tuesdays until 22nd August.
If you are looking for food early or mid-morning near Assembly Roxy or The Pleasance then the obvious choice is Breakfast, Brunch & Lunch (65 Pleasance, EH8 9TG) who have been going for over a decade and launched Scotland’s first vegan deli, which is laid out just like a butchers. Open all week.
Also nearby is The Holyrood 9A (9A Holyrood, EH8 8AE), with a modern yet classic interior and breakfast food options. There’s also a large burger menu (including vegetarian and vegan), salads, and small plates with things like nachos, koftas and halloumi. Drinks-wise, they have 16 draught craft beers with Guinness and cider also on tap, and 16 wines by the bottle. Open all week.
A little closer to Festival Theatre and theSpace @ Surgeons’ Hall is Mosque Kitchen (33 Nicholson Square, EH8 9BX) for no-nonsense budget price vegetarian curries – around a fiver for a main course, which includes rice. Open all week.
Mosque Kitchen is not licensed, so for libations head to nearby Captain’s Bar (4 South College Street, EH8 9AA). This cosy pub, with its varied nautical ephemera, is popular with folk music fans, and cask ale is available. Open all week.
Underbelly and Gilded Balloon are just west of here, and around the corner is a great budget eatery, Union of Genius (8 Forest Road, EH1 2QN). This soup cafe features up to six soups per day, plus chilli and at least one other non-soupy special. Coffee and gluten-free cake are also available.
Towards the Haymarket end of the town, the EICC will be hosting a number of events. Further along the same street is Froth & Flame (192 Morrison Street, EH3 8EB), serving Neapolitan pizza made by a former winner of Best Pizza Maker at the UK Italian Awards. Enjoy with a draught beer from breweries, or enjoy a cocktail, wine, or Speyside gin. If you don’t fancy pizza, then fish, pasta, burgers, and salads are available.
A little bit closer to Haymarket you will find Wee Vault (7A West Maitland Street, EH12 5DS). This is one of two new bars operated by Portobello’s Vault City Brewing, who specialise in sour beers. But not your typical sour beers: more like sweet-sour beers, if that makes sense? They may sound a bit novelty, but the flavours are incredibly accurate and include carrot cake, cookie dough, Black Forest gateau, and banana split. Yes, these are really beer flavours!
There’s plenty going on at Summerhall, so if you want a filling meal take a look at The Auld Hoose (23-25 St Leonards Street, EH8 9QN). This venue serves pub grub like burritos and hot dogs, but it’s famous for its gigantic sharing portion of nachos, weighing 6.2lbs (2.8kg). Ideal for groups of four to six. A regular portion size is also available. The jukebox here is worth noting, as it specialises in 80s / 90s punk and metal. Craft beer and plenty of other drinks are available. Open all week: reservations for groups of 8+ only.
ELSEWHERE IN EDINBURGH
The Pitt bids farewell to Leith in August and says hello to Granton. The food market has been situated on Leith’s Pitt Street since 2015, but due to the site being redeveloped they are moving to a shoreside site in Granton (20 West Shore Road, EH5 1QD). Expect more stalls at this bigger location, which has space for 21 vendors.
Tom Kitchin’s Scran in Bruntsfield has been replaced by his latest venture, Kora by Tom Kitchin (14-17 Bruntsfield Place, EH10 4HN). Described as ‘modern Scottish with accents of global flavours’, the restaurant’s dishes include courgette flower tempura, crispy Ayrshire pork belly and North Sea cod.
Dean Banks has expanded from St Andrews to Edinburgh, with not only The Pompadour at The Caledonian Hotel, but also Dulse (17 Queensferry Street, EH2 4QW). This new venue specialises in simple dishes that utilise Scottish seafood. Expect to see wild sea bream ceviche, Cumbrae oysters, and trout pastrami.
There’s a lot going on in Glasgow’s Southside. Silk Road Deli (34 Minard Rd, G41 2HW), known for flavoursome sandwiches with an exotic touch, is now open on Friday evenings. Booking is recommended, as it’s a wee space. The menu is ever-changing, but you can expect dishes such as whipped feta with salt and pepper fried mushroom, and a panko-fried, gochujang-seasoned cauliflower burger. BYOB every Friday from 6 p.m. to 9.30.p.m., and you can book a table by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
On the same street, Tantrum Doughnuts (20 Minard Road, G41 2HN) have opened a third store in addition to their West End and city centre locations, so now you can enjoy a picnic with gourmet sweet treats in Queen’s Park.
Just around the corner, the team behind Ramen Dayo have opened Yakitori Shack. This Japanese street food stall sits beside The Bevy Store, so you can enjoy crafted cocktails with grilled meats and veggies. Open Friday to Sunday at Park Lane Market, 974 Pollokshaws Rd, Glasgow G41 2HA
In the city centre, situated under Central Station, Alston Bar & Beef (79 Gordon St, Glasgow G1 3SQ) are running ‘Chateau Thursdays’ until September, where you can get a chateaubriand, two sides, two sauces, and a bottle of wine for only £65. Normally their chateaubriand is £70 on its own.