Guest blogger Athena Dennis takes us on a culinary tour of the city’s lesser-travelled streets…
Some of the best restaurants in Edinburgh require a bit of pavement-pounding, road-traversing and, in some cases, trekking through beautiful countryside to get to their front door – and are every bit worth the journey.
As an Edinburgh resident, I’m lucky enough to have had time to explore the city’s streets and hunt out the hidden gastronomic gems. I’ve listed a few of my favourites, all of which boast a great ambience, character-filled interiors and, of course, excellent food.
Perfect for visitors looking to enjoy an authentic Edinburgh experience, or for locals looking for a new restaurant to try, these hidden foodie treasures are certainly worth discovering for yourself (just don’t tell anyone I told you).
A stroll through The Meadows is always a pleasure, and on the opposite side you’ll come across famed brunch venue, Toast, which is under new ownership and has been reinvented as a terrific place to enjoy brunch, lunch or an evening meal.
The pan-seared sea bass I sampled was beautifully iridescent on the outside and succulent and flaky on the inside, and came served on a bed of seasonal vegetables that were bursting with summer flavours. A naughty but nice dessert of Cointreau and orange bread and butter pudding rounded things off in style. This one is just a 25-minute amble from the Royal Mile, and is well worth the walk.
This pub has retained its charming Victorian fittings, like stained-glass windows and mahogany wood furnishings, yet has been brought into 21st Century with quirky artwork, a laid-back service style, and a menu of exciting cuisine made using locally sourced fresh produce – not to mention the regular live music from an array of local bands, who play there six nights a week. All in all, it’s a recipe for success – no wonder generations of Leith residents have cited Nobles as their beloved local. It’s tempting to order a three-course meal, sit here for hours and watch the world pass you by – and it’s far enough from the city centre to be peaceful during the Fringe Festival, too.
The Sheep Heid Inn
This great inn is nestled behind Arthur’s Seat and is around 650 years old, making it the oldest pub in Scotland. There’s a skittles alley, a charming beer garden, and a cosy bar with dark oak and stone original features.
Try the slow-cooked pork belly and seared king scallops, or the healthy summery green salad with lobster tail, soya beans and mint yoghurt dressing. The pub is about eight minutes by cab from the Royal Mile – or you could take a meandering 40-minute walk from the high street, through the breathtakingly beautiful Holyrood Park and into Duddingston.
Pho Vietnam House Restaurant & Gallery
Pho is a small but beautifully formed Vietnamese restaurant with seating for around 12 people, and is a popular choice for both eat-in and takeaway meals. Booking is recommended to secure your spot, as locals love it here (myself included). The restaurant is located in the West End, around a 20-minute walk from the Royal Mile, so is the ideal place to take a break from the bustle of the city centre.
The owners’ love and passion for food and service is palpable. Try the namesake dish, a fortifying rice noodle soup that can be tailored to your taste with herbs, spices, meats, vegetables and other heavenly additions. There are plenty of other Vietnamese restaurants in Edinburgh, but I find this one hard to beat when it comes to authenticity.
Mrs Forman’s Bar & Kitchen
At the verge of the windswept Musselburgh golf course you’ll find Mrs Forman’s Bar & Kitchen, a pretty little button of a pub that has been serving Musselburgh locals since 1822. A regularly changing menu of seasonal produce is on offer, such as the superb Belhaven smoked trout paté starter. For mains, I can recommend the grilled sea bass with mussels, parsley, a light garlic butter sauce and new potatoes. Located around 25 minutes by car from the Royal Mile, Mrs Forman’s is the type of place that’s worth venturing out of the city for.
Athena Dennis is a freelance journalist, copywriter and editor living in Edinburgh. She’s a dedicated foodie and Gordon Ramsay fan, and loves discovering and writing about new restaurants, bars and pubs in the Scottish capital. You can see more of her work at www.athenadennis.com.