Geographically, my chosen restaurants are in two main areas – the heart of the city and the waterfront. Both are easily accessible, it really just depends on your mood. The central restaurants are a stroll from most city centre hotels and the waterfront area is just a short bus or taxi ride away. If you have time I would say do both during your stay as you will see that Edinburgh has many different facets and places to enjoy.
George Street with the exception of Cent Otre is populated by chains All Bar One, Browns, Starbucks etc. Cent Otre is worth seeking out as are these others.
Howies: great Scottish food.
There are two Howies in Edinburgh. One at the foot of Calton HIll at the east end of Princes Street and one in the beautiful medieval Victoria Street a minute from Edinburgh Castle. Both offer set price lunch and dinner, informal atmosphere and most importantly of all an ever changing menu specialising in locally sourced Scottish fare. Waterloo is a grand Georgian building with private dining room and full wedding licence. Vic Street a 600 year old room emanates old town charm.
Booking is essential at weekends.
(www.howies.uk.com 29 Waterloo PLace, Edinburgh EH1 3BQ 0131 556 5766 or 10 Victoria Street 0131 225 1721)
The Shore: an Edinburgh favourite
(3 The Shore, Leith, Edinburgh; 0131 553 5080; http://www.theshore.biz)
The Shore overlooks Edinburgh’s Waterfront and has a brilliant atmosphere. Authentic old Dock side bar with top comfort food in a charming wee restaurant adjacent to the bar or a wee table in amongst it all – your choice. A genuine old watering hole with locals perched at the bar to prove it. Reminiscent of another era. owned by Jake & Tia Millar – the least pretentious people in town, they will look after you brilliantly. The Shore is very relaxed indeed.
Food you might like to wrap your gums round includes ham hock cakes with poached egg and hollandaise (I always have this I confess it is an addiction) a cracking steak and kidney pie and an excellent wine list including a selection bottled specially for them South Africa. It is a local favourite well worth making the effort to find.
Musos amongst you note live music three nights a week and jazz on Sundays. Plus, £8.75 for a two course lunch is hard to beat. The Shore is open seven days a week.
Ondine: seafood and eat it
(2 George IV Bridge, Edinburgh EH1 1AD; 0131 226 1888; http://www.ondinerestaurant.co.uk)
If you love seafood this is your Edinburgh destination. Next to the Missoni Hotel just off the Royal Mile the award winning Proprietor and chef, Roy Brett is ever present and overseeing this jewel in the foodie crown of the city. A prodigy of celebrity chef and food God Rick Stein this man knows his onions. All ingredients are sourced ethically with the name and practically the DNA of each supplier. Although a sefood restaurant Roy provides great meaty options for those who can’t resist the call of the beast. An easy walk from all centrally located hotels this is some of the best seafood Scotland has to offer.
They do a good set lunch deal but if you can push the boat out – pun intended – this is your top port of call for a memorable dinner in Scotland’s capital. Ondine is open seven days a week.
Harvey Nichols: a perfect summer venue
(4th Floor, 30-34 Saint Andrew Square, Edinburgh EH2 2AD; 0131 524 8388; http://www.harveynichols.com)
I confess I am generally not a fan of the big business offerings, but this is the exception. The location is superb and from this elevated position and glass walls you get remarkable views across the city as you enjoy some great food. From a warm muffin and coffee in the morning to something more substantial and sophistiicated it’s all here. There is a balcony which opens – a bonus on warm and sunny days – but with weather this unpredictable this is far from a dead cert.
Yo Sushi and Chocolate Lounge also reside on this floor but it’s the Harvey Nichols 4th floor Brasserie you are aiming for, for great food in a lovely light, bright room.
Cent Otre: an all day favourite
(103 George Street EH2 3ES; 0131 225 1550; http://www.Centotre.com)
In the heart of Edinburgh’s popular George Street this impressive old banking hall has been converted into a light, vibrant, buzzy, authentic Italian cafe/restaurant. Run by Victor and Carina Contini, part of the legendary Valvonna and Crolla family,it is not the cheapest option in town but this is modern Italian food at its best. Freshly made pastas, platters of antipasto, warm foccacia from the oven or a bowl of olives with a cold glass of Prosecco help banish all memories of a stodgy lasagne, artex walls and ‘O Sole Mio’ being delivered from a man with a rotating bow tie. There coffee and muffins and smoothies make it a great breakfast option too. Now an Edinburgh institution. Seek out a pavement table on a sunny day – it’s the perfect people watching spot. Booking at peak times essential.
Cent Otre is open seven days a week.
Restaurant Martin Wishart: my favourite Michelin-starred restaurant in town
(54 The Shore; 0131 553 3557)
In Edinburgh you are truly spoilt for choice as we have quite a few Michelin-starred restaurants. This one is my favourite. The restaurant is elegant, service impeccable and the food? Stupifyingly good. It’s a special occasion place but if you’re here for a celebration weekend you could do no better than to treat yourselves to some food by this talented chef
£27 for a three course lunch of this standard is excellent value. Of course you can run riot with the tasting menu – what the hell – you’re on holiday!
L’escargot Blanc: French bistro food at its best
(17 Queensferry Street EH2 4QW; 0131 226 1890; )
Come to Scotland and eat French bistro food at its best. This restaurant is great value for lunch or an early tea as they do a plat du jour for £7.50 which, value wise, is hard to beat. Meals are served in individual cast iron pans and casserole dishes. Beef, veal, game, fish are served and, in the case of their sister restaurant Le Petit Bleu in Broughton Street, horse! Oui! It’s true. Tuesday is Raclette night for the cheese fiends in your life and day to day this place just oozes French charm. Their homemade terrine tasty and chunky arrives with a large stone pot of home pickled gherkins which you fish out with wooden pincers. Quaint, authentic and quite shocking when you leave and remember you are actually in Scotland not in the heart of rural France. Bon Appetit. L’escargot Blanc is shut Sunday.
Where to stay
The Bonham Hotel at 35 Drumsheugh Gardens is a 48 room boutique hotel owned and run by local businessman Peter Taylor. It is tucked away in the heart of Edinburgh’s West End and is surprisingly tranquil despite being literally one minute’s walk from where it all happens. This traditional Edinburgh townhouse building has a stylish and modern interior making it the perfect location for your trip to the city. An added bonus is that the Restaurant at The Bonham is a favourite with locals and visitors alike making eating in a pleasure. Rooms cost from £100 for two.
The Apex on Waterloo Place. Modern, clean, locally owned, right in the heart of the City. Next door to Calton Hill one of Edinburgh’s main landmarks and 1 minute from the main drag and shops.
The Balmoral on Princes St. the flagship hotel of the Rocco Forte group and a real bobby dazzler. Marble floors, a champagne bar, a michelin starred restaurant and a Hadrians a lovely brasserie too – this is luxury which you will pay for but if I had the money this is where I would stay for sure.
Serviced apartments are a great option for families and those who want to do their own thing. This is no shrine to IKEA though The Fraser Suites are the very height of luxury and just off The Royal Mile beside Edinburgh Castle, Holyrood Palace and the historic HIgh Streets myriad of attractions.