In spite of Scotland's reputation for questionable foodstuffs (haggis is genuinely delicious once you overlook how it's made), Edinburgh is a culinary wonderland, with Michelin-starred restaurants living cheek-by-ethically-sourced-jowl with student-friendly Indian restaurants and perfect pizzerias. And whether you want to try one of Edinburgh's best cheap eats or one of its fine dining restaurants, there's certainly a lot of choice. Check out our list below to see which restaurants best fit your taste.
Since The Gardener’s Cottage opened its doors in 2012, chef and co-owner duo Ed Murray and Dale Mailley have earned themselves some serious culinary kudos. Their ethos is simple: create a great sense of place, with seasonal food, that connects the diner, the producer and the landscape.
Locanda De Gusti launched on the other side of Edinburgh some years ago, moved to up-and-coming Dalry Road in 2014 – less than five minutes’ walk from Haymarket Station – and now enjoys an enviable reputation for its food and service standards. Chef Rosario Sartore is from Naples, so the cooking has a pronounced Southern Italian style, with lots of great seafood, while the décor puts diners in mind of a bright, polite farmhouse kitchen.
A talented chef and a showman – he’s been on the telly – Greenaway brings both professionalism and fun to fine dining. He burst on the Edinburgh scene in 2011 at Picardy Place then moved his restaurant to North Castle Street in 2013. Here the interior colour scheme is predominantly pale blue and the furniture modern, but it somehow fits in a building that’s very much part of the Georgian New Town.
That it took Castle Terrace just 15 months to bag a Michelin star hints at the shiny gold standard you can expect from it. Sure, if you’re after a weekend table you’ll have to book a few months in advance, but your efforts will be rewarded by a top-notch culinary experience.
Chef Scott Smith used to work at the Michelin-starred Peat Inn, across in Fife, but he opened Norn with his wife Laura in spring 2016 in stripped-back premises. It's a simple, neat space with a self-conscious absence of interior design – although the effort that goes into the food more than compensates for the lack of decorative panache. With three courses at lunch (two choices per course) and a kind of tasting menu affair in the evenings (four or seven courses), Norn is clearly not your typical starter-main-pud kind of place. The kitchen takes its cue from suppliers who have an ethical, seasonal and sustainable approach, so menu items come and go depending on time of year and the quality of what’s available day-to-day, week-to-week.
Launched in 2015 this restaurant has one table – a breakfast bar affair immediately adjacent to the open-plan kitchen – and caters to a maximum of ten in an evening at one sitting. The environment is swish, you interact with the chefs as they cook and it’s hard to know where fine dining ends and performance art begins. The main man is Sean Clark, chef-patron with an illustrious CV, although he can’t do everything so he has help at the stove. For its fans however, the Table rates among the best dining experiences ever.
The approach may sound überfoodie but, once explained, it’s simple enough. Chef Stuart Ralston and front of house supremo Krystal Goff opened here in 2014 pursuing the concept of bistronomie: fresh local food, informal surroundings but a tasting menu you would normally expect in a much swankier environment. Aizle does have the look of a fresh, bright bistro however while up on the wall there is a board of the latest ingredients. From that, Ralston whizzes up a five-course menu.
The creation of not one, but two of Edinburgh’s Michelin-starred chefs, gastro pub The Scran & Scallie was never likely to disappoint. Couple its top-notch cuisine with its Stockbridge location – one of Edinburgh’s most affluent stomping grounds – and you have a sure-fire winner.
Not for nothing is a trip to The Witchery still considered destination dining in a capital bursting with younger, hipper models. It remains unashamedly old school, attracting moneyed Edinburghers and tourists who are more than happy to pay a few extra quid to eat in such charming historic surrounds.
Dishoom has been a contemporary London success story since the original launched in 2010 near Covent Garden. It draws on the idea of the Irani café, like those in Bombay opened by Iranian immigrants back in the day. There used to be hundreds in that city but they have faded away since the 1960s so Dishoom itself is an exercise in Indo-nostalgia, presented as a concept eatery for the 21st century.
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. 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.
Right in the heart of studentsville, on the Southside of the city, Field stands apart from the so-so eateries that surround it. In the kitchen, chef Gordon Craig’s plan is a simple one: take the model of what makes a great Michelin-starred restaurant and strip it right back to its basics.
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. The French angle got sidelined long ago in favour of locally sourced Scottish produce, cooked expertly, slavishly following the principles of Slow Food.
Timberyard is a very special spot on the Edinburgh restaurant scene – mostly because it nails so many of the things required for an excellent meal out. It’s a family-run business, and owner-operators the Radfords – along with their extended team of local growers, breeders, producers, suppliers and foragers – have you in very safe hands.
There’s a lovely relaxed feel here, from the contemporary décor to the modern Scottish menu. The dinner menu is rich in choice, with signature dishes like lobster thermidor crème brûlée among the popular choices. For dessert, it has to be the sticky toffee pudding with Caol Ila whisky butterscotch.
Despite competition from other Thistle Street eateries, and the growing number of Thai restaurants in Edinburgh, this compact, stone-walled spot remains popular (it opened in 2002) because of the quality of the cooking. Beautifully balanced Thai, Japanese, Chinese, French and Vietnamese flavours are neatly dolloped over Scottish produce.
Mother India began as a café in Glasgow in the ’90s, and this Edinburgh outpost popped up in 2008, serving Indian food in tapas portions. There are some 50 dishes on offer, some giving a fresh twist to Indian restaurant staples – the chicken tikka comes in two variations, with nuts or peppers and tomatoes.