Quite a few Flyertalkers have asked about visiting Edinburgh, and those who have made the journey had often asked more specific questions here about the city. It seems we've built up quite a bit of knowledge from different sources but it would be nice to have it all in one thread so I passed some idle time at work today bringing all the information into one place. Hopefully others can use this thread for any further queries or to add their own knowledge and advice. A big 'thank you' to the many Flyertalkers, including many locals, who contributed a good part of what is posted below in earlier threads.
- 1 Overview
- 2 Getting There
- 3 Getting Around
- 4 Orientation
- 5 Attractions
- 6 Accommodation
- 7 Restaurants
- 8 Shopping
- 9 Links
Just over an hour's flying time from London, Edinburgh is consistently voted one of Europe's top short break destinations and Scotland makes an ideal side-trip for those visiting the UK and a great starting point for those exploring Scotland. Renowned as a party city, Edinburgh is a great place for young people and is home to tens of thousands of college students who enjoy its world-leading reputation for scientific research - and its liberal licensing laws. Edinburgh hosts the world's largest arts festival and countless other cultural events through the year. The Hogmanay celebrations have become famous as the global pace-setter for New Year partying.
From the Lonely Planet guide to Edinburgh:
- "Edinburgh is, in some ways, the least Scottish of Scotland's cities. Tourism, its close proximity to England, and its multicultural, sophisticated population set it apart. The city sticks shockingly up-to-the-nanosecond dance clubs in 15th-century tenement buildings and body-stockinged firebreathers outside Georgian mansions: this is a place that knows how to blend modern and medieval. Its superb architecture ranges from ancient churches to monumental Victorian masterpieces - all dominated by a castle on a precipitous crag in the city's heart. It is here that each summer the world's biggest arts festival is held, giving Scotland's capital a cultural importance to match its recently renewed political status and its place as a key European financial hub. It is also Auld Reekie, an altogether earthier place full of bars and clubs, of all-night parties and over-indulgence, of loud singing in pubs and of wandering home through cobbled streets at dawn. Above all, Edinburgh is a city to be explored. In traditional Scottish fashion, despite the cold, it will leave you feeling whisky-warm inside."
The capital of Scotland since 1492, Edinburgh is the site of the Scottish Parliament (which reconvened in 1999 after a gap of nearly three hundred years). The Old Town, which grew up out of the medieval settlements and fortifications, and the New Town - the grand 18th century answer to overcrowding - were listed by UNESCO as World Heritage Sites in 1995. During the Scottish Enlightenment period (late 18th century, early 19th) Edinburgh was the epicentre of an explosion of scientific and literary genius that secured Scotland's status at the forefront of the industrial revolution (and later, the founding of the British Empire) and the city's reputation as a seat of finance and academic learning. Even today, banking and scientific research account for more than 60 per cent of the city's economy and the city region is cited as one of the world's foremost centres of biotechnology, computer science and financial management.
Scotland has its own separate legal system, enshrined in the Act of Union of 1707, but despite the advent of devolved government in 1999 the majority of legislation mirrors that applicable to England and Wales. The British Pound Sterling is the official currency throughout the United Kingdom but Scottish banks are licensed to print their own sterling notes and you are likely to end up with a wallet full of exotic looking money during a visit to Scotland. Scottish money is valid elsewhere in the UK but traders are not obliged to accept it and you may find it hard to spend Scottish notes in England. Any bank anywhere in the UK will happily change the notes upon request.
Despite Scotland's nordic climate, Edinburgh has quite mild weather - and more average sunshine hours than London. It rarely rains heavily (just a prolonged, soft, miserable drizzle) and the heavy snow that coats northern Scotland in winter is unusual in the capital. The micro-climate makes it hard for visitors who like to keep track of temperatures but as a rule of thumb the spring time is best, and the only time a weather can make a difference to visitors is in the late summer/autumn when an absolutely impenetrable ground level sea fog, known locally as haar, rolls in from the Firth of Forth reducing visibility to barely a few metres.
Most visitors to Scotland arrive from elsewhere in the UK. In the air and on the ground, the travel market between London and Scotland is huge. There are close to 200 flights a day in total between Scotland and London and nearly 100 trains.
Edinburgh has about 40 scheduled daily flights in each direction: the bulk of them business-orientated links to and from LHR (BA, BMI) and LCY (BA and Cityjet). There are also frequent services to and from LGW (BA, easyJet) and STN (easyJet) and LTN (easyJet). Flying time is just under an hour but you'll find schedule padding at airports like LHR can make the journey well over two hours. Air traffic slot delays on domestic flights at LHR are not just common - they're the norm. Some other things to bear in mind if you're unfamiliar with the UK aviation market: First, budget carriers such as easyJet will often give great fares, but if you're booking in advance these deals are sometimes match by the 'majors' - it is possible to get BA and BMI tickets from LHR to EDI for as little as £50 inclusive. Second, the chances are your fare, irrespective of carrier, will be less than the taxes and fees so a £10 bargain could end up costing you closer to £40. Third, the budget carriers are generally strict about ticketing and hand baggage, and can add hefty fees on top of the base fare for checked luggage, priority boarding, seat selection, etc. easyJet has the most generous hand baggage policy. If you're late for your flight you'll lose your whole ticket, no questions. If you're changing carriers in London, leave plenty of connection time unless you are certain they have an interline agreement.
Scotland is served by two major rail routes - one up the east coast to Edinburgh from London Kings Cross, the other up the west to Glasgow from London Euston. Edinburgh got lucky: the east coast main line is by far the fastest, most efficient and prettiest - and without doubt one of Europe's best rail journies. The main train operator is East Coast, a successor to the very popular GNER (and much less popular National Express East Coast) with an almost half-hourly service to Edinburgh, taking about four hours. The route is incredibly busy, so whether in Standard Class or First Class seat reservations are essential - these are usually available free of charge at the time of booking. Ticket prices are higher for weekdays, lower for weekends and advanced purchases. If you can find an discounted advance purchase First Class ticket, the added comfort may be worth the cost. At weekends, Standard Class ticket holders can usually upgrade to First Class by paying a £25 supplement - not bad for a better seat, although there is often less complimentary catering at weekends.
The choice between rail or air is a matter of personal preference and convenience. Fares can very wildly on both. The rail service is more punctual but slower, flights faster but frequently delayed. Consider which airport or rail station is most convenient to your location in London. Edinburgh Waverley station is right in the heart of the city. The approach to the westerly runway at EDI is one of the most scenic in the world; sit on the left hand side of the aircraft on your journey up from London and watch as the plane heads north across eastern Edinburgh, banks left over the Firth of Forth, past the Forth bridges for landing. On the train, sit on the right hand side heading north - through England you'll see Durham on the approach to Durham station, Alnwick, the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, Berwick-upon-Tweed from the spectacular Royal Border Bridge over the River Tweed on the approach to Berwick-upon-Tweed station and then the stunning coastal scenery as the rail line hugs the Scottish shore as far as the southern suburbs of Edinburgh (look out for the abandoned castles and fishing coves just north of Berwick-upon-Tweed).
From further afield, EDI has direct daily flights from EWR (Continental), AMS (KLM, easyJet), BRU (BMI), CDG (Air France, easyJet), DUB (Aer Lingus, Ryanair), FRA (Lufthansa), CPH (BMI, Norwegian Air Shuttle) and PRG (Jet2), ARN (SAS, Norwegian Air Shuttle). There are also domestic UK links to Belfast airports BFS (easyJet) and BHD (flybe) and loads of English regional links including Manchester, Nottingham East Midlands, Birmingham, Bristol, Exeter, Kent International, Norwich, Liverpool and Leeds Bradford plus Cardiff in Wales and Scottish domestic services to Stornoway, Kirkwall, Lerwick, Wick and Inverness. For a full, updated list, see the airport's Wikipedia page.
The cheapest and easiest way into the city centre from EDI is on Lothian Buses' Airlink 100 shuttle which runs between the terminal and Waverley Bridge every 10 minutes or so all day and takes around 25 minutes, costing £3.50 single (child £2.00), £6.00 return (child £3.00). Please forgive the bus company's penchant for tawdry branding, the Airlink 100 service is both reliable and comfortable. Heading inbound towards the city centre, the bus additionally picks up and drops off on Glasgow Road (for the Edinburgh Marriott Hotel), Corstorphine Road (for Edinburgh Zoo and the Holiday Inn Edinburgh), Haymarket Terrace (for Haymarket Railway Station), Shandwick Place (for the Caledonian Hilton and Sheraton Grand), and Princes Street. Drivers will usually help with directions if required. A taxi journey from EDI to the city centre usually costs £15-£20.
Don't think about driving in Edinburgh; it's bad enough for those of us who live here. The city authority is determined to reduce the number of private cars in town - to the irritation of everyone from motorists and ratepayers to shops and major employers. A myriad of hurdles and restrictions faces the Edinburgh driver, including bright green bus lanes in which all stopping is forbidden, strict parking regulations and incomprehensible one-way systems - all enforced by a merciless private company under city contract that last year issued over a quarter of a million tickets and collected £7 million from fines. Illegally parked vehicles can be towed instantly, attracting a non-refundable £200 release fee. If you must drive, your hotel can advise on the nearest parking facilities. Major parking lots are at Castle Terrace in the west end (£3.50 to come in after 5pm and leave before 9am, +44 131 229 2870), St Johns Hill near the Cowgate (£2.70 to come in after 5pm and leave before 9am, +44 131 556 7886) and the St James Centre on Leith Street (£2.60 to come in after 5pm and leave before 9am, +44 131 556 5066). The parking facility at New Street has been reduced to make way for the City Authority's new Headquarters. Street parking is metered (pay and display): £2.00 per hour to a maximum of 3 hours in the city centre, £2.00 per hour to a maximum of 4 hours in the Old and New Towns between 08:30 and 18:30 Monday to Saturday. Rates reduce and maximum parking duration increase the further out of the centre you go.
Fortunately, Edinburgh has a superb and comprehensive bus service which carried more than one million passengers last year - three times the city's adult population. Lothian Buses has the most routes, and there is a linear map available at every bus stop. All people in Scotland over the age of 60 travel free of charge on local buses and trains.
The main Tourist Information Centre is right in the middle of the city at the east end of Princes Street at the junction with Waverley Bridge and Waverley Station. It can be found in the ugly grey concrete expanse that forms the roof of the underground Waverley Shopping Centre. I thorougly recommend a bus tour of the city. All tours leave from nearby Waverley Bridge. The best ones are the Edinburgh Tours, on the open-top buses, which cost £8.50 and last between 40 minutes and 1 hour; you can hop on and off where you like. A good 'first day' spot is the Camera Obscura right next to the castle at the top of the Royal Mile. The Camera Obscura offers little virtual tours of the whole Edinbugh from inside a giant Victorian camera; entertaining - and pretty cool for bored children - and helps you get your bearings on the capital. On very dark or gloomy days (of which there are plenty in Edinburgh...) the view through the camera is not as good but helpful staff on the ground floor reception/ticket desk will advise. Be aware: there are lots of steps.
Royal Mile and Old Town
The Royal Mile is Edinburgh's oldest streets and one of the finest historical thoroughfares in the world. At the top lies Edinburgh Castle, at the other end the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the Scottish seat of the British royal family. There is plenty to see and do along its length; it is generally easier to head downhill from the castle to the palace (from west to east on a map). The development of the street over centuries is fascinating and buildings which can be found along each side are a living guidebook to almost a thousand years of Scottish history. There are plenty of websites about the Royal Mile, some with a little historical background to the street and the surrounding Old Town. The About Scotland pages provide much more detail about the street, and a little linear map. Edinburgh Castle remains Scotland's most popular tourist attraction and has a useful collection of exhibits and plenty to keep families entertained but at £7 a ticket and huge queues you could easily skip going inside and just enjoy the stunning view from the Castle Esplanade entrance instead. Just down from the castle is the excellent Scottish Whisky Heritage Centre offering interactive guided tours of 300 years of whisky-making and the chance to try some samples. The website also offers tokens which you can print out, take along to the tour, and exchange for a free 'dram of the day'. Heading down the Lawnmarket towards the High Street you pass the High Court, Supreme Court and Faculty of Advocates - all key parts of Scotland's distinct legal system - and St Giles Cathedral, regarded as the mother church of Presbyterianism and the scene of the start of the Reformation in Scotland. Further on, past Parliament Square, the Real Mary King's Close offers surprisingly non-tacky tours of a well-preserved medieval street which lies underneath the 18th century city chambers. On the corner of South Bridge is the Tron Kirk, now converted into an information centre, then further on towards the Canongate is the home of protestant reformer John Knox, now a charming little museum. Down the final stretch of the Royal Mile, called the Canongate, is the former tollbooth marking the medieval boundary to the city (it is now a pub) and the Canongate Kirk, burial place of economist Adam Smith, and the Queen's choice of church when she's in town. At the bottom is the controversial building which houses the first Scottish Parliament in almost 300 years. Tucked away between the Canongate and Holyrood Road is the Scottish Poetry Library. The Palace of Holyroodhouse at the very end is partly open to the public (if you give a monkeys about royal property...) and there is a new gallery which regularly features previously unseen royal collections. For families, Our Dynamic Earth is an award-winning interactive attraction looking at the physical history of the planet. Right next door to that is the new headquarters of The Scotsman newspaper, otherwise known as my (ajamieson's) workplace. Other notable parts of the Old Town are Victoria Street, just off George IV bridge, which has dozens of little restaurants and specialist shops including Iain Mellis cheesemongers (if you can stand the smell). Also off George IV bridge is Candlemaker Row, home to Greyfriars Kirk and the legend of Greyfriars Bobby...as well as the Greyfriars bobby pub.
In contrast to the Old Town, the rigid elegant terraces of the New Town are well worth a look around. Princes Street, the 'dividing point' of the two parts of the city, was heavily bombed during the Second World War and is now largely so ugly that another heavy bombardment is about the best way forward. Rose Street, the cute little thoroughfare that runs parallel, has plenty of charming bars while stunning, chic, George Street is great for top-end window shopping. At either end of George Street are two excellent squares. To the east, Saint Andrew Square features Harvey Nichols, Tiles Bar and the rear entrance to the world's oldest independent department store (now part of House of Fraser) and Edinburgh institution, Jenners. To the west, Charlotte Square is one of the finest examples of Georgian architecture and the central park area hosts the annual international book festival. At the eastern end of Princes Street, Calton Hill gives great views back over Edinburgh. It is an almost effortless climb, which is more than can be said for Arthur's Seat. Calton Hill is used for the city's annual Beltane pagan festival and the Hogmanay torchlight procession. At the northern end of the New Town is the Royal Botanic Garden which is free to visit and a lovely place to stroll around.
The Port of Leith, historically a separate city from Edinburgh, lies at the foot of the mile-long Leith Walk. Having undergone extensive redevelopment, it has been transformed from an industrial wasteland to a desirable waterfont area with some excellent bars and restaurants. Next to the huge dockside Ocean Terminal retail park is the Royal Yacht Britannia, which offers guided tours and can be reached by a shuttle bus from Waverley Bridge in city centre.
Museums and Galleries
Pick of the museums is the bright, modern and unstuffy National Museum of Scotland which includes everything from the Declaration of Arbroath (as loosely featured in Braveheart)...
- "For as long as a hundred of us remain alive, we will never on any conditions be subjected to the lordship of the English. For we fight no for glory nor riches nor honours, but for freedom alone, which no good man gives up except with his life."
On Princes Street, behind The Mound, are the National Galleries of Scotland. The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art is located north-west of the city centre, on Belford Road. The number 13 bus operates from the city centre. More easily accessible, and conveniently located opposite one another on Market Street, are the City Art Centre and the Fruitmarket Gallery, which has an excellent bookshop and cafe.
Walking around Edinburgh can be hard work. If you are anywhere near the east end Princes Street and fancy resting your feet, the Cafe Royal bar, tucked away in West Register Street just behind Burger King opposite the Balmoral Hotel, is an architectural treat where you can get half a dozen Loch Fyne oysters with your pint. Also don't miss the Plaisir du Chocolat, a world-class patisserie cafe on the Canongate (at number 257, near the corner of New Street) which offers amazing chocolates and cakes (hand made on the premises by the propietor, Bertrand) alongside warming hot chocolate drinks and hundreds of different teas. SanDiego1K will attest to the quality of the tea and chocolate in this place, so you know it must be good. Just over the street, another small branch sells cheeses and other gourmet foods. For total relaxation book a spot at the Sheraton One Spa, which attracts visitors from all over the UK and whose thermal pool is used by the Scotland rugby team for muscle therapy.
One of the best ways of exploring the Old Town is by taking one of the many night-time Ghost Tours which are advertised all along the Royal Mile and usually begin from Parliament Square, or by dropping in to one of the area's countless pubs and bars.
Among the best of these (for historic atmosphere if nothing else) are The Jolly Judge, Deacon Brodie's Tavern, The Bank Hotel and The Mitre. Special mention goes to the World's End on the corner of the Royal Mile and St Mary's Street, because it is my local bar. I've (ajamieson) lost count of the number of Flyertalkers I've dragged in here to see the cramped space, poor choice of beer, surly staff and clientele of bemused tourists and unfriendly locals. It's my favourite place in the world.
Underneath all of this are the Grassmarket and the Cowgate, now the epicentre of one of Europe's most popular party cities. Jammed with large bars, this part of town on a Friday or Saturday night is not for the faint-hearted.
If you're using Priceline, select only the City Centre area. Try and aim for a good value 4-star bid rather than a dirt cheap 3-star bid. There are some fairly poor 2/3-star chain hotels located on the fringes of the zone which really stretch the concept of 'central' and offer disappointing accommodation in inconvenient locations; these are far more likely to accept your low bid.
Edinburgh has all the usual major chains, but most of city centre establishments are fairly unremarkable despite their high prices. Service and ambience at the main Hilton Caledonian are often said to be poor, while the Sheraton Grand has some second-rate rooms at top-rate tariffs. Even the historic Balmoral Hotel on Princes Street is less impressive than one might think from the exterior. If you must stay at one of the chains, make sure the rate is competitive and that you get the full benefit of your hotel chain status.
- Sheraton Grand Hotel, Festival Square (Lothian Road)
- Excellent location opposite the castle but the perfectly adequate building is modern, charmless and surrounded by office blocks. The only real reason to stay here is to use the spa which Sheraton has spent millions of pounds converting into one of Europe's best spas. It is stunning and well worth an appointment...but you can still visit without being a guest.
- Hilton Caledonian, Princes St, corner Lothian Rd/Shandwick Pl
- One of the city's most famous and historic buildings, the old turn-of-the-century Caledonian Hotel was taken over by Hilton but there has been little improvement in the service or the standard of the rooms. If you can get a room looking across the street to the castle, all to the good. The restaurant downstairs is good quality and sometimes boasts good offers on food and drink (often with HHonors Points...) for residents and non-residents. Sean Connery always stays here. But then, he can afford the good rooms.
- This is convenient and comfortable but, with a reliable bus service into the city centre and an early morning taxi journey costing about £15 and taking about 20 minutes, there is really no need to stay here unless you are stuck.
- Located in the west end of the city, close to Haymarket rail station, this is often the cheaper choice for those who want HHonors Points but can't stretch to the Caledonian. Split across two sides of the same street, it gets mixed reviews. Currently under refurbishment.
- The Balmoral Hotel, 1 Princes Street
- The capital's most prestigious address and one of the grandest places to stay. The building is a major city landmark, but the interior decor is more belle epoque than modern luxury - odd, since the hotel got a major refit a couple of years ago. Jennifer Lopez recently booked out the top floor suites for a long weekend.
- Thistle King James Hotel, 107 Leith Street
- Centrally located but part of an ugly shopping complex which should never have been built. Sometimes offers good rates but generally avoidable.
- Mercure Edinburgh Princes Street, Princes Street
- Well located, with excellent views from the south-facing rooms over the Castle and the Old Town and often bargain rates.
Edinburgh boasts some excellent independent or 'boutique' hotels which are well worth a look and offer much better value for a short-stay experience than almost all of the major chains.
- Prestonfield House, Priestfield Road, EH16 5UT
- Among the best luxury hotels in Britain, this historic country house a mile or so from the city centre has recently been bought by the legendary Edinburgh restauranter, James Thomson. The unpublished prices are high, but for an indulgent all-in treat you couldn't do much better than this unique 17th century property, which boasts its own resident peacocks.
- Rick's Hotel, 55A Frederick Street
- Stylish and comfortable, the £110 rooms are located above a trendy bar.
- The Glasshouse, 2 Greenside Place
- A new designer hotel, part of an entertainment and leisure complex, with a stunning roof terrace at the back that overlooks Calton Hill.
- Point Hotel, 34 Bread Street
- Stylish and extremely good value, centrally located but away from many of the other hotels, the toop floors have great views.
- The Scotsman Hotel, North Bridge
- My former office! The former baronial headquarters of The Scotsman newspaper were sold in 1999 to make way for this luxury hotel whose rooms are themed to match the building's printing history. The views and location are among the best in the city, and Justin Timberlake booked out the Editor's Suite (which used to be the inky, dirty, old compositors' room for the Evening News) when he came to Edinburgh for the MTV awards. Rooms start at £72 at weekends but prices are usually much higher.
- Holyrood Aparthotel, Holyrood Road
- Tucked away in a side-street off Holyrood Road, this is an ideal choice for those travelling with families or groups who want a little more space or a self-catering option. It is easily accessible by road and fairy central, just behind the lower end of the Royal Mile.
- Malmaison, 1 Tower Place, Leith, EH6 7DB
- Enjoying a fantastic waterside location down in the Port of Leith, the trendy enclave of bars and restaurants located to the north-east of the city centre, the former Seamen's Mission is popular with celebs and has a great downstairs bar.
- Ellersly House Hotel, 4 Ellersly Road, Edinburgh, EH12 6HZ, 0131 337 6888
- Originally an Edwardian country house, the ‘Ellersly’ is conveniently situated just west of Edinburgh city centre, close to Murrayfield Stadium en route to Edinburgh Airport.
- Minto Hotel Edinburgh, 16-18 Minto Street, Edinburgh, EH9 1RQ 0131 668 1234
- The Edinburgh, New Minto Boutique Hotel, formerly two Georgian townhouses, is situated minutes from the world famous Princes Street with Edinburgh Castle prominently reigning over the city.
Smaller Chains and Budget Chains
Jury's Inn, 43 Jeffrey Street
- Part of a small Irish chain, unremarkable but good value 3 star hotel almost right next door to where I live. It is very well located behind the Royal Mile, and has good views across to Calton Hill and the New Town. There are often some very good rates here and the service is pretty good.
Travelodge Edinburgh Central, St Mary's Street
- A large no-frill chain hotel with functional, comfortable rooms at reasonable rates. Very handy for the Royal Mile.
Premier Inn Edinburgh City Centre, Morrison Link
- Part of a large no-frills chain offering good value rooms in the west end of the city.
Bed and Breakfast
For a comfortable, quiet and friendly stay in the capital you could do worse than to choose a B&B. There are bucketloads, listed by location and category on the excellent VisitScotland website, but here I've chosen some of the classier, upscale ones. Personally, I would recommend one of Edinburgh's fine Georgian homes in the New Town, the beautiful 18th century planned area to the immediate north of Princes Street.
- 17 Abercromby Place, EH3 6LB
- Fairly pricey as B&Bs go, but this stunning historic building - the former home of William Playfair, Edinburgh's famous architect of Georgian times, - is furnished throughout with antiques and offers among the most stunning rooms to be found in the capital.
- A charmingly eccentric B&B run by a travel writer and located in one of Britain's most sought-after addresses.
Reviews by Jenbel
These reviews were written in 2008 and updated in 2009.
- Fisher's, Leith
- Also with a branch up in town. Fabulous fish restaurant, relatively reasonably priced - £15-£20 for a main course. Excellent fish, with a good selection of available all the time dishes, and a selection of specials everyday. Good beef too, but I can't look beyond the range and variety of fish :) Good service. Quite small, pre-booking at weekends essential. However, they do do food all day, so if you arrive in town, and can't find anywhere to eat, you can sometimes get a table mid afternoon!
- Daniel's Bistro, Leith
- Recent new find for me. French bistro type place. More French, less Languedoc than La Garrigue (of which more presently!). Reasonably priced (£10-15 for a main). Food was good and I would return, if only to eat Duck confit (I got sidetracked by the fish stew, which was excellent).
- Witchery, Royal Mile
- Generally considered one of the best (but also most expensive) of the Edinburgh restaurants. Reservations an absolute must. Dine in medieval gothic fantasy, with an excellent menu comprising a good range of Scottish ingredients - its not often that you see roe deer on the menu these days and it was cooked to perfection! They managed to accommodate a very late arrival and a large suitcase (due to the vagaries of BA around Christmas without making us feel like it was an imposition.
- Wedgwood, Royal Mile
- Ok, I'm going to slip this into the middle and hope that not too many of you notice it. Opened last year, and it's become my current favourite restaurant. It reaches (and even surpasses?) Witchery at half the price. High class Scottish food, beautifully presented. But I really want it to remain a secret so I don't have to fight to get a table
- 2009 update: Still fantastic. Although sadly the recent menu revamp was not so much of a revamp as changing a couple of dishes. A bit of variety would be good occasionally!
- La Garrigue, near Waverley
- Excellent French/Languedoc-aise restaurant well known to FTers for various reasons Based around the food of southern France more. Middle of the road prices, good staff, good wine, and lovely things with lavender for dessert
- Grainstore, Victoria St
- I'm always pleasantly surprised by this place. Firstly, for some reason, half the meals I've eaten (and greatly enjoyed!), I attribute to Maison Bleue down the street... The menu may have only half a dozen choices on it, but the food is excellent - I'd class it as Scottish bistro with a bit of French influence. Always a few oddities on the menu which work very well (who'd have thought beetroot risotto?!), and some seriously good desserts! Not the cheapest - £12-20 for a main, but seriously good food.
- Howies, Victoria St
- A menu which looks lovely, but can sometimes fail to deliver. Scottish bistro style. However, this place can be a goodsend if trying to get somewhere of reasonable quality at short notice, but it wouldn't be my first pick of a night.
- Room in the Town, New Town
- Until I found Wedgwood, this was probably my favourite restaurant. Very casual dining, but excellent food, and it's really good value for money. It has a sister restaurant (Room in the West End) which I haven't made it to yet - another Scottish bistro place. Staff terribly friendly and relaxed.
- Cento-tre, George St
- It's an Italian restaurant in a bank. But actually, the food is really rather good, so I think it deserves a mention. Good pizzas!
- Valvona & Crolla, Mulberry Walk and Elm Row
- Mmmm - excuse me while I just do the obligatory Edinburgh foodie's reverie at the thought of this place. Embarrassing FT moments aside, one of Edinburgh's institutions - excellent deli, excellent food. Mmmmmmmm. Mulberry Walk is more restauarant than deli, but good for lunch and dinner, while Elm Row has the deli.
- La Monde, George St
- 'Edinburgh's coolest destination'. Oh dear. Well actually, I haven't eaten in the restaurant, only ended up in the bar, when a combination of drinking and not eating made the home comfort bar food all too attractive and it was reasonably decent. Besides, this place is always fun to see where the people who actually buy clothes out of Harvey Nicks go to drink.
- The Dome, George St
- Had lunch here recently - memories of rude staff completely overwritten due to the charming and personal service we received (3 ladies, lunching). Very good food - strange mix of bistropub and restaurant.
- Indian Cavalry Club, Haymarket/West End
- On the one hand, having moved up from Yorkshire, I was a little bit wary of Scottish Indian restaurants. OTOH, Calvary Club has been around for years, so must get something right. Finally tried it last night, and my fears were allayed - really nicely spiced dishes, very nicely cooked. The table liked my Pasanda best and it was an excellent example of the dish - as was the sag alu. Chicken was properly tandoored and then cooked in the sauce, and not just boiled and dunked in the sauce - but was also beautifully tender. A lamb madras was wonderfully deep, with consideration given to the blend of spice, and not just about how hot it was. Service was attentive. All round a for my first Scottish Indian experience since learning the finer points of Indian food in Yorkshire.
- Maison Bleue, Victoria St
- In Festival time, this place doesn't take reservations, but operates a first come first served routine which can be a godsend. The food is good, with a french twist, albeit not a very wide menu, but beautifully cooked duck was just what I needed! Service displayed just a bit of an attitude however, leaving us with a slightly sour taste in our mouth, despite the excellent food.
- Skippers, Leith
- The other fish restaurant in Leith. Cosy, pub like environs, a nice menu, with a nice range of sea food, friendly staff and nicely cooked food. I'd still give Fishers a slight edge - I think their menu is a little bit better with a bit more choice, but there really isn't too much in it.
- Loch Fyne, Granton
- Continuing with the fish theme, another branch of the Loch Fyne restaurants has opened down on the sea front. Not quite having the edge of Fishers/Skippers, it still provides a good range of seafood, generally executed well. And easier to get into than those - plus it's on the sea front, with, on that one day of summer, the opportunity for a few drinkies on the harbour wall. I wouldn't necessarily make a special trip to eat there, but living fairly locally, it makes a good option if I am looking for a last minute place.
- The Old Club House, Gullane
- Technically not Edinburgh, but it's become a favourite eating place on jaunts out of town. A friendly, busy pub in the pretty village of Gullane, it has a really nice menu, which is all home cooked - and tastes it. Fish pie to die for! Sticky toffee pudding to die for - it had the magic caramalised date taste despite not having any dates in it. Not fine dining, but really good, wholesome, cared about food all the same. And the crowds it attracts testify to that!
- Cafe Andaluz, George St
- Recent random find, there are a couple of branches in Glasgow as well. Good Spanish tapas - the difficult bit is deciding what to have! Good for a shopping lunch, or a heavier group dinner.
- A Room in Leith, Leith
- Another in the Room in empire, relatively new, but turning out good food, which might be just a shade better than Room in the Town. Small, but nicely located, and so far, not that difficult to get into. Good friendly staff and an excellent menu, comprising all kinds of Scottish nice things.
- The Raj, Leith
- It's with a heavy heart that I must give my first negative review. The Raj has been there for 20 years, so I decided that it couldn't be that bad. And actually, it isn't, the food was reasonable and nicely cooked. It's a very traditional Indian restaurant, with everything you'd expect on the menu. Except one of our dishes came with extra body - all efforts by the waitor to convince us that the insect in the dish was a late addition, having fallen in, was met by my disbelief as a biologist, as it was quite clear that the insect had been cooked. We were (quite rightly) not charged for the dish, but we also are really unlikely to go back. I'm sticking with the Cavalry Club
- Fishers, City
- I deserted my usual Leith one to try the one in the city for lunch - and it was, as expected, good. Subtly different feel than Leith - not quite so laid back, bigger premises, but with many of the old favourites and some lovely fish. So if you don't want to trek to Leith, this is an acceptable substitute!