Fine dining? Easy. You select the Edinburgh restaurants with a Michelin star then write them down in alphabetical order. Sorted. It's true that Edinburgh is disproportionately blessed with these elevated establishments: for a city of just under half a million souls it has five.
If you start just behind Edinburgh Castle at Dominic Jack's Castle Terrace then walk via the Balmoral Hotel where Brian Grigor is head chef at flagship restaurant Number One, down towards Leith, passing Paul Kitching's 21212 en route, into the heart of Leith to find Restaurant Martin Wishart and finally locate Commercial Quay where Tom Kitchin has the eponymous Kitchin then you have passed five venues with five Michelin stars between them in a stroll of less than 5km. From Kitching's remarkable creativity to Jack and Kitchin's fresh approach, from the sheer consistency and class of Wishart to the Franco-Scottish quality of Number One they are all excellent in their own way.
But what about the others - those fine dining restaurants without a Michelin star? Not every good restaurant in the city has the stellar imprimatur of quality from a French tyre manufacturer. There are some other seriously good fine dining venues that shouldn't be missed - we've put a few of them on the list below. But if you don't want anywhere fancy? Then give Edinburgh's best cheap eats a go.
Edinburgh fine dining restaurants
'But it's only a vegetarian sort of bistro,' carp the purists, 'it's got tofu noodles as a main course, it can't be that good.' David Bann took vegetarian cooking by the scruff of the neck in Edinburgh some years ago and remains peerless in the craft and inventiveness he brings to his eclectic range of meat-free dishes. Yes the venue looks like a swish, modern bistro and maybe there isn't a Master of Wine sommelier advising you over your choice by the glass but the cooking is as good as this genre gets in Scotland. Three courses might bring olive polenta with roast vegetables and goat cheese curd to start; chilli pancake with grilled sweet potato, courgette and chocolate sauce as a main; apple, cinnamon and calvados tart for dessert; bottle of biodynamic Austrian pinot noir to wash it all down.
Ondine opened in 2009 to immediate praise and has been regularly cited as one of Edinburgh best restaurants ever since – probably its very best seafood restaurant. An attractive first floor venue with central bar and impressive contemporary design, chef Roy Brett picks and grabs from across the planet to bring starters as conceptually far-flung as squid tempura with Vietnamese dipping sauce (although it will be Scottish-landed squid) to the down-home archipelagic simplicity of oysters from Carlingford Lough, Lochailort or Loch Fyne. There is a mighty fruits of the sea option, an equally mighty roasted shellfish platter while other mains range from fish and chips to whole grilled lemon sole with brown shrimps and capers.