One of the welcome features of the food scene in Edinburgh over the last 15 years has been the appearance of weekly food markets, not only bringing fresh produce into the heart of the city but also serving as hubs for innovative street food. Throw in the fact that we have some seriously good food shops with four walls and a roof, and your larder-needs should be in pretty good shape, to say the least. But if you're the kind that prefers to let other people do all the legwork then Edinburgh's positively awash with superb restaurants, too - from breakfast and brunch right through to swanky spots for dinner. Either way, it's very easy to be well fed in our fine city. So go and be so.
Edinburgh food shops
Since opening here in 1993, Iain Mellis has led the people of Edinburgh away from rubbery supermarket cheddar to the bright uplands of artisan and farmhouse cheeses from Britain, Ireland and elsewhere in Europe. His small, cool cavern is a great place to sample before you buy. For other branches, see website.
A traditional Scottish fishmonger trading since the 1940s, Armstrong’s survives on the quality of its produce, its service and the expertise of staff. Not only can you get all the expected fresh fish and shellfish here like cod, haddock, langoustine, mussels or oysters but they also source more exotic, foreign-landed species.
Award-winning and family-run, Crombies is simply a very good butcher’s shop. The beef is locally sourced from West Lothian and the pork is from the Scottish Borders while the selection of black pudding, haggis, other meats, pastries and pies is excellent. The signature product is sausages – over 40 types range from the traditional (pork) to the downright creative (whisky, hog and wild thyme).
You could argue all day about Edinburgh’s best butcher but a great case can be made for George Bower. The business has been trading since just after World War II, it can source game that is hard to get anywhere else (partridge, rabbit or woodcock for example), its conventional butcher meat and poultry is excellent plus there is cooked meats, farmed goat, fine sausages, venison, wild boar and more.
In the south of the city, among the baronial tenements of Marchmont, Eddie’s is simply a brilliant place to buy fresh crustacea, fish and shellfish. In business for nearly 30 years, usually you’ll find langoustine and lobster here, still twitching; clams, mussels, oysters and scallops; familiar fish that will taste Michelin class if cooked correctly; plus relative exotics like snapper or swordfish. The salmon and tuna is ‘sushi grade’ of course.
A combination of café, delicatessen, greengrocer and wholefood store in repurposed, neo-rustic premises, Earthy has a commendable commitment to fair trade, organic farming and seasonal food. Here you can find anything from brassicas to locally baked sourdough bread. This isn’t Asda, however, so don’t expect anything to be stacked high or sold cheap. For other branches, see website.
Edinburgh’s wholefood wonderland, Real Foods has everything from gluten-free granola to organic, unscented lip balm. Some foodstuffs like rice, other grains or muesli are sold directly from the sack – others are pre-bagged and lined up along the shelves. There are oils and vinegars, nuts and dried fruit, beers and wines, fresh produce, bread, sweeties, toiletries and a great deal more.
This is an Italian deli, an award-winning wine merchant and an icon of Edinburgh food shopping. Founded in 1934, the store has excellent cheese and cured meats, freshly baked bread, fruit and veg from Milan, antipasti, cakes, coffee, sweets and cookshop items. There is a caffé bar at this branch as well, but for other outlets and restaurants around the city, see website.
Edinburgh food markets
If you like your Saturday lie-in and you’re never up early enough to get to Edinburgh Farmers’ Market, the Grassmarket Weekly Market starts later and finishes later so it’s a decent alternative. It’s smaller but still has enough grocery stalls to meet your culinary needs, plus street food and crafts that make for happy browsing. Saturdays 10am-5pm.
A resounding success since it was launched in 2000, this award-winning market is based along Castle Terrace, off Lothian Road. Among dozens of stalls you find basics like bread, cheese, fish, fruit, meat and vegetables but also upmarket produce and some fantastic street food like buffalo burgers and hog roast rolls. Saturdays 9am-2pm.
Launched in 2011, this market quickly established itself as a weekly favourite at the corner of Kerr and Saunders streets, by the Water of Leith. As well as top-class foodstuffs and crafts, look out for innovative street food from the likes of Babu Bombay Street Kitchen. Why not complete your laidback foodie trip out by taking a (surprisingly bucolic) riverside walk. Sundays 10am-5pm.
Launched in 2011 on the pedestrian strip in front of St Mary’s Cathedral, near the York Place tram terminus, this isn’t the city’s biggest street market but it is enormously handy. If you’re anywhere near the top of Leith Walk it’s worth the detour for the fruit and vegetable stall alone. Saturdays 11am-5pm.