Edinburgh's best French restaurants
This is elegant, decadent dining at its best, with Scottish ingredients laying the foundation for both traditional and modern French cuisine.The menus change with the seasons, but the lunch, à la carte and various tasting menus are always available. Each is a cornucopia of flavours and surprises, from playful amuse bouches through to robust, intricate mains and artful, mouth-watering desserts. The matched wine package is a necessary, if costly delight.
Operated by Michelin star-winning chef brothers Chris and Jeff Galvin, this is a high-end French restaurant whose affectations are entirely in keeping with a place which is decked out smartly and clearly keen to attract an upmarket clientele. Keen to give the impression that the customer has been transported to the centre of Paris for their brasserie meal, the tiled, well-lit space is adorned with crisp white tablecloths and decorative bottles of wine, even as the customer-conscious food design offers a lunchtime prix fixe menu, a special children’s selection and a private dining option.
Since opening in the home of a former clockmaker in 2008, L’Escargot Bleu has fitted in nicely among trendy coffee shops, independent booksellers and award-winning butchers. Step through the bright blue door, and you’re met with vintage posters of Edith Piaf and full-sized French liquor ads. Blackboards adorn the walls, scrawled with the day’s specials, which vary from traditional French classics to more surprising dishes from Berkmiller’s childhood. Floor-to-ceiling windows and cosy tables at the front of the restaurant create ample occasion for a cosy tête-à-tête, while the bustle of the open kitchen to the rear adds further to the bohemian Frenchness.
Café St Honoré has been around for donkeys, but still, quite rightly, comes up in conversation as one of the nicest spots for a smart bistro meal in the centre of Edinburgh. It’s on a cobbled side street behind Thistle Street, and looks like a chic Parisian bistro inside, with heavy linen tablecloths, mirrored walls and monochrome floor tiles. The chefs follow the rules of the international Slow Food movement seriouslybut despite the earnest attention to detail, the foodie swottiness doesn’t feel overbearing – it just makes for some outstandingly fresh ingredients, cooked in rich, warming sauces.
If you hadn’t guessed by the ruddy great Eiffel Tower adorning the wall of the café space, there’s a French influence at large here – though the flaky brekkie croissants and pains au chocolat are as popular as the traditional breakfast fry-up or black pudding butty. All day ‘snacks’ range from the likes of croque monsieur to grilled paninis and salad. It’s the menu du jour though, available at lunch and dinner, that offers the tastiest scran, and best reason to loiter here.