Amazing restaurants, great bars, boutique shopping and much more; Thistle Street's got it all going on. Here are eight absolute musts when you take a trip down the cobbles…
1. Treat yourself to lunch or dinner at Café St Honoré.
This Parisian style bistro is probably the jewel in Thistle Street’s crown. It’s actually just off the street or, as it more aptly promotes, ‘hidden down a cobbled lane’. With its ever-so-French exterior you might start questioning if you’re still in Edinburgh – especially if you’ve had a few. Step inside and this taste of Paris continues with a simple yet chic interior - black and white floor tiles, cabaret style chairs, wall mirrors and wine bottles aplenty. It may look and feel French but the menu is bursting with fine Scottish fare. No surprises there with champion of seasonality and sustainability, chef Neil Forbes at the helm. His menu even changes daily to match the seasons and availability of produce. An incredible, recent lunch-stop served up a mouth-watering trio of dishes: organic rare breed pork rillette with red onion jam, grey mullet with slow roast Isle of Wight tomato, fennel and basil, and rhubarb Eton mess. All were beautiful and undeniably tasty. A really good wine list that appeals to all tastes is on offer too, while the charismatic, attentive staff who clearly know their stuff are all part of the experience. But it’s the fresh sourdough bread that steals the show. Baked on the premises every morning – it's served warm and with its crispy crust is deliciously satisfying.
Café St Honoré, 34 North West Thistle Street Lane.
2. Shop Scandi-style at Kakao by K.
It doesn’t get much more effortlessly chic than this fashion boutique at number 45. Owner Karina Baldorf has been bringing a taste of Scandinavia to the street for over six years - earning her big fashion stripes and a loyal following. By handpicking a stylish mix of womenswear and accessories from around 15 labels including Gestuz, Pernille Corydon and Y.A.S, Karina’s covering good ground. This means the rails are stacked with everything from wardrobe staples to on-trend musts and unique one-off pieces, while the elegant cabinets showcase an array of gorgeous accessories and jewellery – including Karina’s own 'Design by K' range. Pop in to this boutique if you’re after impeccable style at a sensible price (it serves up a lower price point than many of the other neighbouring boutiques). You can also look forward to a cheeky glass of fizz while you browse – a very welcome Kakao custom. All of this matched with super-friendly and helpful service make it probably the perfect shopping experience – no wonder ladies with taste keep coming back for more
Kakao by K, 45 Thistle Street.
3. Enjoy a few drinks or ‘bites’ at The Bon Vivant.
With its exceptional drinks menu, stylish setting and excellent food – this is the place to be on Thistle Street. The space is also incredibly good-looking (much like its staff), with simple-yet-elegant décor, dim lighting and candle-lit tables. The bar area has an eclectic mix of table and chairs for eating and drinking, while the mezzanine is set for proper dining. Be warned though – this place is always lively and busy – so if you’re after a table, you’re well advised to book.The bar's popularity means it can sometimes get overcrowded, but it's all part of the experience and due to its restricted size the noise levels are kept from becoming overwhelming. The first-class food menu boasts a tasty set of 'bites' (small plates) - all part of the BV's 'informal and casual' dining experience, and just what you need to soak it all up. The chorizo in cider and the haggis bon bon are standouts but the menu changes daily so go in with an open mind and embrace the dishes du jour. Prices are also reasonable for the very high standard of food and drink. Come the weekend DJs play funk and soul and it’s a good mix of ages. All in all a great hideaway - whether you’re eating, drinking or both, you’ll definitely have a good time.
The Bon Vivant, 55 Thistle Street.
4. Have a pint in the Thistle Street Bar.
As Edinburgh drinking-hole institutions go, this one’s right up there as one of the (hidden) best. It's one of those compact (and bijou) bars that feels like a proper boozer and has a busy vibe. There's some comfy seating on the raised level but everyone tends to hang around the bar area, often spilling out onto the street. There’s also a cracking beer garden at the back that’s open all day. And if its real ale you’re after, you’ll be in the right place as it's always up for grabs alongside an impressive range of malt whiskies. Chin chin.
Thistle Street Bar, 67 Thistle Street.
5. Eat Mexican street-food style at El Cartel.
This Mexican street food joint from the guys behind neighbouring Bon Vivant has stepped up to fill a hole in Edinburgh's dining scene. The vibe is hip yet casual and the space is styled to match. Skull themes blend with tiny cacti in a sultry and pretty damn sexy setting. And the food? Well, it's mighty Mexicana in miniature, all traditional and homemade. Mmmmm. The current menu has five starters and eight tacos - the luscious steak and duck tacos are bursting with piquant flavour and will have you wanting more. In fact, everything you sample will have you contemplating whether you should just eat your way through the entire menu there and then. Heck, why not? The food’s that good! As are the insanely good margaritas (frozen - hurrah!) and the extensive tequila and mezcal menu. You can also finish off with some chocolate and chilli ice-cream - highly tasty and addictive. What more could you want? Except, maybe, a hipster-mariachi band to entertain you outside while you queue (no bookings here)...
El Cartel, 64 Thistle Street
6. Hit up Pam Jenkins for designer shoes and accessories.
This charming (and award-winning) boutique has become something of a Thistle Street stalwart. It's also the city's go-to destination for on-trend, designer shoes. That's because this stylish lady really knows her stuff. The shelves are stocked with the most prestigious shoe brands and the breadth of choice is hard to beat. You’ll find everything from Christian Louboutin to Jimmy Choo and Rupert Sanderson to Kate Spade. You can even get your hands on hot shoe label Aquazzura. It doesn’t stop at shoes either – you can spoil yourself further with designer bags and other accessories like covetable wallets and scarves.
Pam Jenkins, 41 Thistle Street.
7. Get kilted up at 21st Century Kilts.
Howie Nicholsby is the street’s kiltmaker extraordinaire. He opened his doors in 2009 and has been on a mission to give men a 'realistic alternative to trousers' ever since. You can walk in and buy off the peg or make an appointment with the man himself for the whole made to measure experience. It's not just tartan and tweeds either – his kilts embrace and maximise modern fabrics so you can have everything from leather to denim and PVC to camouflage. So, why not join the likes of Lenny Kravitz, Vin Diesel and Robbie Williams and get yourself fitted and ready to rock a 21st Century kilt? Women's and kids' kilts are available too.
21st Century Kilts, 48 Thistle Street.
8. Go veggie at Henderson's.
This vegetarian haven on the corner (at the Hanover Street end) is serving up more than just super-tasty veggie dishes. It's a restaurant, bistro, deli, bakery shop and gallery. It's also an Edinburgh institution, having been a face on the block since 1962. You can enjoy its canteen style offering during the day or make the most of its waiter service in the evenings. Its takeaway lunches from the deli upstairs are also something of legend. And you don’t have to be a meat-free diner to enjoy it - the food here really hits the spot. So, whether you’re a passionate veggie, a committed carnivore or happy to mix things up you’ll be happy... and full.
Henderson's, 94 Hanover Street.
There’s so much more to check out on the street including designer clothing boutique Jane Davidson, women’s denim clothing boutique ALC, Thai restaurant Dusit, seafood eatery Fishers in the City and the Pride Hair & Beauty salon, so get exploring!
See more things to do in Edinburgh from Time Out.