Edinburgh’s food scene is fairly febrile in Scottish terms - and over the last year there's been a steady stream of new openings to tempt diners. If you’re looking for fist food, then toastie specialist Meltmongers is wowing them at 80 Bruntsfield Place, while there’s a new café-bar in the shape of Southpour at 1-5 Newington Road – they’re very enthusiastic about their venison bridies.
The Byron burger chain recently landed in the city with two branches at Lothian Road and North Bridge, while Stockbridge welcomed Smith & Gertrude at 26 Hamilton Place, an award-winning wine bar that also has a fantastic selection of cheeses and charcuterie. As for our pick of new eateries in the Scottish capital, here are a select six that are yet to celebrate their first birthday…
Chop House Bar & Butchery
Edinburgh had hardly recovered from the 2015 festival when this new steak house landed in Leith last September. With its booths and banquettes, feature glass panelling, exposed brickwork, angular fixtures and essential food proposition, it’s quite a masculine environment. That said, there's a serviceable cocktail menu so you can sip on a Rhubarb Fizz (Botanist Gin, Aperol, lemon, rhubarb bitters) as you read the meat’s CV: dry-aged in house for a minimum of 35 days using Himalayan salt then cooked on a charcoal grill.
You could have a vegetarian main involving mushroom, goat cheese and hazelnut crumb, but this is really where you want a starter like crispy squid or oysters followed by a 350g sirloin with bone marrow gravy, cabbage and bacon on the side. The venture has proved so successful that the owners are opening a city centre branch in New Waverley Arches, Market Street (near Waverley Station) during the 2016 festival. See website for details.
102 Constitution Street, Leith, Edinburgh EH6 6AW
Stuart Muir used to be executive chef at the local Harvey Nichol’s restaurant, Forth Floor, but last November he opened Dine – you’ll find it upstairs from the Traverse Theatre. Officially described as “brasserie-style dining”, it’s actually several cuts above basic duck confit and a glass of plonk and it comes with a champagne lounge and statement design: the restaurant signage indoors is on a living green wall, there’s an apple tree in among the dining tables while going for dinner feels like being on the set of a Luc Besson movie.
A typical three courses here might include halibut ceviche starter, cured in Hendrick’s Gin, with candied grapefruit, compressed apple and lime salt; honey-glazed ham hock as a main with pot au feu-style vegetables, new potatoes and persillade; Edinburgh Mess for dessert (Eton Mess meets Cranachan). Market, lunch and pre-theatre menus also available.
Saltire Court, 10 Cambridge Street, Edinburgh EH1 2ED
Up the far end of St Stephen Street from where most of the shops, bars and eateries live, Kilted Lobster opened its doors in October 2015 aiming to be more than a restaurant. All profits go to its Cooking Up A Storm initiative which involves job training for young people, complimentary dining for those facing financial hardship, cookery classes for people on a low budget and more. It’s a small venue with predominantly white and blue décor giving a nautical feel, although the menu doesn’t confine itself to seafood.
Typical starters would include seared scallops, seafood chowder or pigeon breast; lamb fillet, whole sea bream or lobster as mains; clootie dumpling, sorbet or a cheese selection for dessert. To be fair, initial reviews were mixed as Kilted Lobster found its feet – but when you pay the bill here you are supporting a good cause.
112 St Stephen Street, Stockbridge, Edinburgh EH3 5AD
Is this the single most important restaurant opening in Edinburgh in 2016 so far? Yes indeed. Norn only set up shop in May in premises once occupied by the Michelin-starred Plumed Horse, but it immediately had the London critics impressed, let alone those from Edinburgh. The chef-patron is Scott Smith, once of the illustrious Peat Inn in Fife, the raw material all comes from ethical and sustainable sources and the dishes are just fantastic.
You’re in set menu territory here (three for lunch, four or seven for dinner), so any visit is a rolling demonstration of the kitchen’s talent. Dishes have simple descriptions (like veal, sorrel, plantain; or hake, saltmarsh herbs, chard), but the flavours are clean and vivid, the presentation is beautiful and the food is so central to the experience that you hardly notice the neutral-at-best décor. Note: last time we looked at TripAdvisor, it had Norn at 766th out of 1,768 restaurants in Edinburgh. Ha ha ha, ha ha ha, ha. Try top ten.
50-54 Henderson Street, Leith, Edinburgh EH6 6DE
The Printing Press Bar & Kitchen
The George Hotel has been around since the late 18th century and occupies rather grand New Town premises; its interior was recently renovated, again, and along with the sprucing-up came the Printing Press Bar & Kitchen in October 2015; a reinvention of the former dining option on site, Tempus. The venue is like a modern reinterpretation of some classic, if imagined, diner from the 20th century; part New York, part Vienna perhaps.
There is a black and white checked floor, lots of leather, plenty of wood and a handsome ceiling; this is the opposite of improvised pop-up charm. Given that it’s part of a hotel, food is available all day: snacks, sandwiches, express lunches or afternoon tea. For dinner you might try sprouting broccoli with poached duck egg, hazelnut and sage to start; an 8oz sirloin from the Josper as a main, chips poshed up with truffle on the side; iced rhubarb parfait for dessert. Staff and menu have gathered praise since it opened; as a hotel restaurant with visual panache, it hits its mark.
21-25 George Street, Edinburgh EH2 2PB
Tony Singh’s at the Apex Grassmarket
One of Scotland’s best known chefs thanks to his regular TV appearances, Singh has also been a well-known restaurateur in Edinburgh for at least 15 years. His latest venture follows on from running a pop-up at the Apex Grassmarket Hotel during the 2015 festival; the idea gestated over the winter, then Tony Singh’s at the Apex Grassmarket opened as a permanent fixture in March this year.
In some senses it’s a head-twister given that the approach is fun and informal, but the venue is within a 20-year-old chain hotel. However, if you can cope with dining in the repurposed foyer then the food is a hoot. There's a dedicated children’s menu, while the grown-ups are looking at dishes where ‘eclectic’ doesn’t even begin to cover it: the BBQ Pork Doughnut, Vietnamese Chicken, Korean Burrito, Scottish Single Fish (in Harviestoun beer batter), Indian Furr Furr Crackers, Poutine (with Isle of Mull Cheddar curds), a prosaic, vegetarian Mug O’ Soup and a great deal more. Pick and mix? Go on. You know you want to.
Apex Grassmarket Hotel, 31-35 Grassmarket, Edinburgh EH1 2HS
Still hungry? Check out our list of Edinburgh's best restaurants.