The humble burger has been rescued from the clutches of fast food conglomerates and greasy roadside venders in recent years, with gourmet beef patties and assorted toppings now the order of the day. From the best Edinburgh restaurants to pubs, steak restaurants and various other havens for meat-eaters, everyone's getting in on the burger act. Here's where to get the best meaty fixes – in brioche buns, with homemade slaw, natch – in Scotland's capital.
The creation of not one, but two, of Edinburgh’s Michelin-starred chefs, gastro pub The Scran & Scallie was never likely to disappoint. Mains include braised hogget shoulder and daily seasonal specials, such as game pie. There are pub staples, sure, including fish and chips, burgers and fish pie, but each is made to a standard worthy of their prolific owners’ ethos.
Burgers in this pretension-free, friendly Leith diner come piled high with pineapple and jalapeno salsa, fried onions, garlic butter, bacon, blue cheese and a bunch of other toppings – but they don’t come fast. The six or twelve ouncers here are the real deal, and take about 20 minutes to cook from scratch.
Hidden away on one of the New Town’s less frequented backstreets, the Cambridge is a very well established name in the city, around in its current form since the noughties. If you could imagine a farmhouse kitchen aesthetic transplanted into a Georgian townhouse with the occasional chic overtone then you’ll have a sense of what it looks like: robust wooden tables, chesterfields, bare stone fireplace, restrained colours and understated cornicing. It prides itself on three things: beer, burgers and televised sport, albeit in highly civilised style.
A cut above the bog-standard burger and beer joint – the best options are the venison burger, complete with gooey melted brie, red onions and tangy red berry chutney, and the Holyrood burger, with its beer mustard, sharp Hereford Hop cheese and sticky caramelised onion.
In autumn 2015 the Chop House Bar & Butchery opened on Constitution Street in Leith, priding itself on its steaks but also offering a fairly remarkable cheeseburger (more details on the Leith original, see website). It proved such a rampaging success that not even a year later, in August 2016, a sister restaurant opened at the arches along East Market Street in the Old Town. It’s a chic, metropolitan steakhouse fitted into a Victorian industrial space with booths and cocktail bar downstairs, restaurant upstairs.
56 North is well known for specialising in the increasingly popular 'mothers' ruin'. This is a style-bar-with-kitchen that offers gin masterclasses, has a list of the spirit that runs to several pages and even opens its car park as a gin garden in August, in association with Tanqueray. You can even select from a dozen tonics or mixers and 14 separate garnishes. And gin aside, its food is a cut above pub average with quality steaks and gourmet burgers starring on the menu.
An Edinburgh institution for 42 years, Bell's Diner has refused to fix what ain't broke, continuing to serve up the same delicious, unfussy burgers alongside towering ice cream sundaes and thick milkshakes. Admittedly, they're also still serving ropey iceberg lettuce and cress salads and (cover your eyes, hipsters) non-brioche buns.
As well as chilli cheeseburgers, smoky BBQ burgers and Mexiburgers (from £8.95-£10.95), Katie's Diner also serves Hawaiian and cajun twists, with chicken breast served with gooey cheese and a chargrilled ring of pineapple, and salmon rolled in cajun spices and served with Katie’s homemade coleslaw.
There’s a strong taste of America on The Huxley's menu, where they serve pancakes and blueberries, soft shell crab sandwiches with avocado and chipotle, lobster rolls, sloppy joes, and their signature hot dogs – which can be ordered naked, with chilli cheese, or Spanish (with manchego, smoked paprika and chipotle mayo). They do burgers too (from £7.50 with hand-cut chips), and a side order of their ‘frickles’ (fried pickles) and Spanish chillis with a hot sauce dip, which heat things up more than a couple of slices of limp gherkin ever could.
The King’s Wark has carved out a solid reputation for cooking using ingredients sourced from Scotland’s local larder. The menu includes the odd staple (fish and chips, steak burger), but the Wark does a great job of keeping things seasonal, with pigeon, duck and rabbit saddle all getting a look-in, too.
Burger Meats Bun brings a rough and ready approach to the world of gourmet burger-flipping. Despite basic surroundings, though, the burgers do not disappoint – the venison and haggis special is succulent without being suffocatingly rich, while the seemingly limited regular menu emphasises quality over quantity.