Whether you’re a well seasoned foodie or exploring the scene for the first time there’s always a lot to discover in such a vibrant, food-loving city as Edinburgh.
Take these 22 local foodie secrets and tips on board to enhance your eating and drinking experiences in Scotland’s capital.
1. Cooking your own dinner is fun…
… especially when that dinner consists of a tasty steak and you’re cooking it on a hot stone in a restaurant rather than in your pokey kitchen at home. At Steak on Stones – hidden inside city centre restaurant Steak – you can take a turn in the driving seat and sizzle your own steak at your table right in the middle of a bustling dining room. It might sound a bit gimmicky, but there’s nothing more satisfying (or fun) than cooking your own meal to perfection without having to do the washing up afterwards.
2. You’ll have to hunt for some of the best restaurants
Edinburgh is known for its amazing eateries, but not all of the best restaurants are easy to find. Highly praised establishments like Dubh Prais (hidden behind an unassuming door on the Royal Mile) and Restaurant Mark Greenaway (camouflaged on the corner of North Castle Street and Queen Street) may take some searching for, but it’s worth it. Google Maps on your phone is your friend.
Or, you could play it safe and try our epic list of 100 recommended places to eat out.
3. Soup tastes better on the go
If you’re anywhere near George Square – where Edinburgh Uni’s main library is located – and it’s a week day you’ll be able to buy some tasty soup from the Union of Genius retro soup van, affectionately named Dumbo.
4. You can tailor your own burger
If you’re a gourmet burger lover – and these days who isn’t? – but you’re bored of the same old flavour combos it’s time to go off-menu. Burgers and Beers Grillhouse on the Royal Mile encourage their customers to be creative and build their own dream beef, chicken or veggie burger from a huge list of options if nothing on the menu tickles their tastebuds.
5. Friday night is lobster and champagne night
Obviously Stockbridge restaurant Kilted Lobster serve up some amazing seafood, but did you know they offer a lobster and champagne special to rival some of Edinburgh’s most upmarket establishments every Friday night? Treat yourself to a whole lobster and a glass of champers for £28 or opt for a half lobster and pay £16. Either way, you’re guaranteed to feel posh while saving some dosh.
6. It’s possible to try booze before you buy
Even if you’re a diehard whisky or beer fan you’re not always guaranteed to love the pint or dram you’ve just shelled out for but never tried before. Flights (otherwise known as tasters of several different types of your preferred drink served altogether) are a great way to test out new or unusual blends and brews before you commit to buying a full glass. Lots of specialist Edinburgh bars have interesting and reasonably priced flights on their menus, from the Whiski Rooms on North Bank Street to The Hanging Bat on Lothian Road.
7. There’s a secret cake source
Free lovecrumbs cake at the Hanging Bat. I repeat, free cake!!
— Hannah Shaw (@hanjshaw) May 24, 2014
Lovecrumbs in the West Port is fast becoming one of the city’s most popular cafes and you might struggle to get a slice of the sweet stuff – never mind a seat – if you turn up late to the party. Just between us, Lovecrumbs supply several other Edinburgh eateries with their tasty cakes including the aforementioned Hanging Bat so you don’t have to miss out.
8. Mary’s Milk Bar sells gelato filled doughnuts
If you’re lucky enough to have eaten both the gelato from Mary’s Milk Bar in the Grassmarket and the doughnuts from Twelve Triangles in Leith then prepare to be excited. On Fridays Mary has been known to stuff her gorgeous gelato into those equally delicious doughnuts and the results are calorific but undeniably heavenly. Get them while you can.
9. Edinburgh has some Canadian delicacies up its sleeve
Well, one Canadian delicacy in particular – poutine. While chips smothered with gravy and topped with cheese curds might not sound too appealing, most people with a penchant for poutine will be ecstatic to hear it can be eaten and enjoyed in Scotland’s capital city. Both Burger and Bread Meats Bread include poutine regularly on their menus so if you get a craving you know where to go.
10. There’s a secret speakeasy or two in town
Although not the best kept secrets in the world, we do have a couple of well hidden cocktail bars in Edinburgh that are worth a visit. Both located on Queen Street, Panda & Sons and Bramble are both speakeasy style bars hidden respectively behind a bookcase and an unmarked, black door. While Panda & Sons have gone all out with the speakeasy theme – fronting as a barber shop – Bramble is actually much more difficult to find so will probably be quieter.
11. You can browse records and sip a pint at the same time
The first of its kind in Edinburgh, Paradise Palms on Lothian Street has recently opened a small record shop in the corner of the bar where you can shop and listen to music with a drink in hand – ideal for fans of both vinyl and booze.
12. Midnight munchies are no problem
Most restaurants will stop serving food around 10pm, but City Restaurant on Nicolson Street is an exception to that rule. A favourite haunt of Fringe performers and locals alike, the place is a real Edinburgh institution and famous for its fish and chips. Open until 12am, their takeaway menu features a huge selection pizza, pasta and gourmet burgers – beats chips and cheese or a kebab hands down.
13. Your local fishmonger is your friend…
… if you like sushi, that is. As well as selling lobster and langoustines, Eddie’s Seafood Market in Marchmont specialises in sushi-grade salmon and tuna so you can try your hand at making your own sushi at home, safe in the knowledge that you’re using the best ingredients.
14. Michelin stars don’t mean much
Edinburgh has five restaurants boasting much-talked about Michelin stars, but it has hundreds of other eateries worth writing home about that don’t have a fancy award – yet, that is. Places like Timberyard and Restaurant Mark Greenaway are often associated with the ‘Edinburgh Michelin star gang’ – which includes chefs Martin Wishart and Tom Kitchin – even though they haven’t been awarded a Michelin star. Nonetheless, their menus are just as unique and extravagant – you’ll still feel like you’re eating Michelin quality food, just with a smaller price tag.
15. Private dinner parties can be held in a bank vault
The beautiful building that houses Italian restaurant Amarone on St Andrew Square was once a bank and the original vault is still downstairs. Now used as a private dining room, the safe can be booked for special occasions and holds up to 32 people or a round 20 for a cocktail masterclass.
16. You can drink draft beer at home (without installing a bar)
The rising popularity of the ‘growler’ here means that buying bottled beer is a thing of the past. You’ll save money and get a better variety by filling up a re-usable glass bottle (or growler) and taking it home to enjoy. Growler Beers in both Leith and Morningside specialise in filling and delivering growlers with all kinds of interesting craft beers. Some Edinburgh bars like The Southern and the Innis & Gunn Beer Kitchen have also recently jumped on the growler bandwagon.
17. It’s always breakfast time somewhere
Getting up early enough to enjoy a breakfast out before noon can be a struggle at the weekend, which is why it’s always best to figure out where the best all day breakfasts can be found. One of Edinburgh’s strongest contenders is The City Cafe on Blair Street where you can get a full Scottish, French toast with bacon and a killer bloody mary at 9am or 4pm – no biggie.
18. There are free post-work snacks to be had
Popular after work drinks spot and restaurant Grand Cru on Hanover Street is known to treat their customers to a tasty treat or two at no extra charge during the week. Head there for a pint after you’ve clocked out and you and your mates could find yourselves munching on free Italian bruschetta or arancini.
19. Edinburgh’s markets are foodie heaven
Spent Sunday browsing around Stockbridge. Firm favourite – devouring delicious pork souvlaki from Wee Greek Kitchen. pic.twitter.com/sBkyJmd3zi
— Joy (@joy_parkinson) January 3, 2016
If you consider yourself a food enthusiast and you’ve never paid a visit to one of the city’s many markets then shame on you. Edinburgh Farmers Market on Saturdays at Castle Terrace, Stockbridge Market every Sunday in Jubilee Gardens and the Greater Grassmarket weekly market running all weekend are just three of the regular markets you can stop by and proceed to eat yourself silly. Forget about carrots and fresh eggs – there’s everything from artisanal coffee and gourmet marshmallows to authentic sushi on offer at Edinburgh’s markets.
20. It pays to keep your ears (and eyes) to the ground
Or even lower than the ground. There are a ton of great basement pubs, bars and even restaurants to be found on the basement level of Edinburgh’s city centre, from The Boozy Cow on Frederick Street to the appropriately named Basement Bar on Broughton Street.
21. A specially selected steak tastes better
You might be used to a choice of cuts when ordering at a specialist steak restaurant, but Kyloe on Rutland Street goes one further by letting customers select the breed of cow that their steak comes from. This place has a different guest breed on their menu every week, or you can opt for good old Aberdeen Angus.
22. You can get a cooked breakfast delivered
honestly praise the fucking lord for snax cafe delivery
— Acid Jazz Singer (@AKA_Helena) December 30, 2015
Feeling a tad tender after a wild one last night? Never fear, you can get one of Edinburgh’s most loved cooked brekkies delivered straight to your hangover bed. Snax Cafe will deliver a full breakfast, filled rolls and even coffees with a smile so you can get on the road to recovery without having to leave the house.
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Main image: This is Edinburgh / Flickr / CC