From the best street eats to the most innovative delicacies being plated up today, the Scottish capital has never been more of a vibrant foodie destination. Come with hungry hearts and minds and Edinburgh will never cease to delight and surprise.
1 African wrap from The Nile Valley Cafe
A stone’s throw from the University of Edinburgh campus, Sudanese joint The Nile Valley Cafe has been satiating the appetites of lecturers and students alike for years. Having made its name from its tantalising fusion of North African and Middle Eastern ingredients, the African wrap is perhaps the apotheosis of its signature flavour. A grilled tortilla binds together falafel that’s crispy on the outside and wonderfully herby on the inside, alongside feta, hummus and stewed ful beans, all lathered in a spicy sauce.
The Nile Valley Cafe, 6 Chapel Street, EH8 9AY, £8.
2 Katsu prawn bao from Bundits of Leith
The blessed bao is currently riding high in the street food scene, as chefs push the limits on the soft white bun’s inherent portability and versatility. But while others may focus on filling at the expense of the vessel, Bundits of Leith steam its hirata buns from scratch in-house, faithfully recreating the pillowy texture that’s key to the bao’s success. Its katsu prawn offering is filled with crispy breaded shrimp that’s been lightly fried, then drizzled with tart ponzu mayo and sweet chilli sauce – allowing every aspect of the great bao experience to truly sing.
Bundits of Leith, 48-52 Constitution Street, EH6 6RS, £4.50 for one or £8 for two.
3 Masala dosa from Tanjore
This popular Tamil eatery has for years remained Edinburgh’s undisputed dosa champion, and for good reason. Famous for its appealingly homespun south Indian fare, Tanjore’s masala dosa features a spicy blend of potatoes, tomato, peas and onion, ensconced in a lacy-thin wrapper made of ground lentil and rice batter. Served alongside this two-foot long package is a selection of subtly aromatic sambars and chutneys made from coconut, coriander and lentils, to name a few. Whether you’re a pour-over or a slice-and-dip kind of person, there’s no wrong way to eat a dosa – though one thing’s for sure: it’ll be gone before you know it.
Tanjore, 6-8 Clerk Street, EH8 9HX, £8.50.
4 North Sea crab from Noto
Sister to the much-lauded Scottish restaurant Aizle, chef-owner Stuart Ralston’s latest venture is a casual dining, small-plates affair inspired by his time working and living in New York City. There’s a strong Asian inflection running throughout the menu of Noto anche, and these varied influences come together in dishes that are deeply complex in both flavour and texture. One particular highlight is the North Sea crab, which comes served in its own shell and simply seeped in koji butter. The dish is accompanied by a few slices of sourdough to help soak it all up, as you’ll not want to waste a drop.
Noto, 47a Thistle Street, EH2 1DY, £ 9.
5 Marshmallow milkshake from The Marshmallow Lady
The Marshmallow Lady and her sweet bits of confectionery are a ubiquitous staple at Edinburgh’s markets, though her singular Marshmallow milkshake can only be purchased at her bricks-and-mortar location. Your choice of marshmallow – and these flavours range from vanilla to Irn-Bru, After Eights and passion fruit – is first toasted over a flame, then blended into ice-cream. The result offers a depth of flavour seldom experienced in sickly milkshakes of yore, with sweet, smoky notes of caramel pulling through every sip. It’s a dessert for all seasons, though there’s a hot chocolate version for the colder months too.
The Marshmallow Lady, 14 Rodney Street, EH7 4EA, £5.
6 Lanzhou beef noodle soup from Noodles Home
Chinese cuisine is having a real moment in the Scottish capital, as takeaway lo mein gives way to a more sophisticated appreciation of China’s diverse regional cuisines. Don’t let the unassuming interior and no-frills service put you off – Noodles Home’s take on this noodle dish from Gansu province is packed with heat and reeling with flavour. Swimming in a spicy clear broth are tender shaved beef, radish slices and enough coriander and scallion to coat a forest floor. But if beef isn’t your thing, fear not: the real star here is the fresh, springy noodles, which can be ordered hand-pulled or knife-cut in a variety of sizes for all the noodle dishes.
Noodles Home, 14a Nicolson Street, EH8 9DH, 0131 556 7777, £9.80.
7 Truffle Chick from Butta Burger
With a tagline of “decadence delivered”, the bar was always set high for Butta Burger, originally a takeaway-only service that began life in lockdown and promised hungry residents a little extra oomph to their burgers. Butta Burger’s singular dedication to its burgers and fried chicken finds its masterstroke in its Truffle Chick, wherein crispy buttermilk-fried chicken breast is lavishly garnished with crispy onions, melted American cheese and lashings of fragrant truffle mayo, then sandwiched between a soft sesame bun. Butta Burger has now set up shop in a prime city centre location, so that even when Covid eases, it’s happily here to stay.
Butta Burger, 137 George Street, EH2 4JY, £12.
8 Bruce Bogtrotter-inspired chocolate cheesecake from The Little Chartroom
The great Roberta Hall-McCarron made Scotland proud by taking her fish dish all the way to the banquet on this year’s Great British Menu, but it’s her Matilda-themed chocolate cheesecake from last year’s series that really whets your appetite at The Little Chartroom. Luckily her creation translates most deliciously from screen to plate, with sharp, tangy and locally sourced sea buckthorn lifting through layers of decadent cream, cream cheese and chocolate, sprinkled generously with cocoa nibs and served alongside a scoop of cleansing sorbet.
The Little Chartroom, 30 Albert Place, EH7 5HN. The restaurant will be relocating to its new location on 14 Bonnington Road in October. As The Little Chartroom’s menu rotates due to seasonality of ingredients, the cheesecake will not always be available to order, £9.50.
9 St Andrews Bay smoked lobster from Dean Banks at The Pompadour
The announcement of chef Dean Banks’ prestigious new residence at the Waldorf was feted by many in the Edinburgh food scene, with its promise to source local, sustainable ingredients at the heart of its fine-dining experience. Run by an experienced and passionate kitchen brigade, the seasonal tasting menu at The Pompadour highlights the best of produce from Scotland’s land and sea, including the signature dish, a Kingdom of Fife crustacean, flavoured with heady mirin butter and dulse.
Dean Banks at The Pompadour, Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh – The Caledonian, Princes Street, EH1 2AB, a supplemental course as part of the £85 per person tasting menu, plus market price per half.
10 Seared hand-dived scallop, prosciutto, peas, broad beans and roe emulsion from Ten Hill Place Hotel
We couldn’t have a list of Edinburgh eats without one of Alan Dickson’s own dishes. Happiest when cooking with fresh, local produce, Dickson believes scallops are one of the best ingredients Scotland has to offer. This starter is a refreshing twist on the classic scallops, peas and bacon. “We use the roe not only to minimise waste but because it adds a great depth of scallop flavour to the sauce. Finishing the sauce with summer peas and broad beans brings a burst of freshness and topping with prosciutto gives the perfect hint of saltiness.”
Ten Hill Place Hotel, 10 Hill Place, EH8 9DS, £11.00.
Need a place to make your base on your Edinburgh eating odyssey? Ten Hill Place – the city’s largest independent four-star hotel – is quite the culinary destination in its own right. Helmed by executive chef Alan Dickson, who was chef of the year in Scotland in 2017, its menu celebrates the bounty of Scotland’s natural larder, with a focus on fresh, local produce.
Think small-plate fritters made from local producer Campbells Prime Meat’s own haggis; elaborate entrees of Scottish salmon ceviche, peperoncino rosso, mango, coriander and lime or braised lamb neck and garden vegetables; and quintessentially Scottish sweet treats such as whisky panna cotta with Scottish berries. For more information and to book now, visitare tenhillplace.com or explore Surgeons Quarter Travel