Edinburgh is a vibrant and cosmopolitan city, and this is perfectly reflected in its wide choice of restaurants. You can expect to find every type of restaurant, from every corner of the world, as well as good old traditional Scottish fare. Independents snuggle comfortably beside big-name chains, some are on the main tourist streets, and some are tucked away in side streets. From budget to luxury, from home style to fine dining, Edinburgh has every size, shape, and variety of restaurant you can think of. Here are some of the must-try restaurants I’ve discovered on my trips to the city in no particular order.
Burgers And Beers
It’s often said that if you want to be a successful restaurateur, you need to specialize. At Burgers and Beers, they do exactly that. Burgers and Beers has the most extensive burger menu you’ll find in Edinburgh, and they proudly boast “Scotland’s Best Burger,” which I don’t doubt for a minute. Situated on Edinburgh’s popular Royal Mile, Burgers and Beers is a welcoming no-fuss grill house with some interestingly named burgers on the menu! You can order a Frying Scotsman, an Anna Nicole Smith, or a Good Morning Vietnam. The drinks menu keeps things closer to home and features an impressive selection of Scottish ales and cocktails made with Edinburgh gin.
Pro Tip: You can watch the burgers being made, and the chefs are open to customizing a burger just for you. So, if you like the sound of something on the menu, but you want to swap an ingredient out for something else, let them know. They’ll make it however you want it, and you could end up creating your own signature burger!
Monteith’s Cocktails And Kitchen
Also on The Royal Mile, adorned with fairy lights, is Monteith’s Kitchen and Cocktail Bar. This is a cozy basement hide-out that serves incredible cocktails and small plates at the bar and a full seafood and steak menu in the restaurant. Monteith’s has a tucked-away feel to it, and you’ll believe you’ve stumbled upon a secret basement restaurant no one else knows about. It’s calm and cozy, but don’t be fooled, it is popular and gets busy. Monteith’s remains my number one cocktail bar to date and serves the best cocktails I’ve ever had!
Pro Tip: Book a table ahead; the restaurant is small and fills up quickly. Alternatively, relax by the bar while you wait for a table, there’s plenty of cocktails to work your way through and you’ll barely notice the time while you sip an Islay Brew or a Hedgerow Spritz.
The Mussel And Steak Bar
If you needed a reminder that you’re not far from the sea in Edinburgh, The Mussel and Steak Bar will serve it to you. This feels like a seafront restaurant, and though it might appear to be no-frills, the food here is incredible. If you like seafood, a bowl of rope-grown Scottish mussels with a glass of crisp, cold white wine is just about perfection. Choose your sauce, from curry coconut and coriander, white wine shallots and cream, or whiskey bacon and cream. For something simpler, the beer-battered fish and chips is amazing. If you prefer steak, you can choose from rib-eye, fillet, sirloin, and picanha, all with a choice of sauces.
Pro Tip: This place is perfect if you haven’t booked ahead and you want somewhere with great food and lots of space for walk-ins. There’s plenty of seating space in this light and airy restaurant; we walked in off the street at lunchtime and were seated within minutes.
Empires is a true hidden gem. A bohemian Turkish restaurant tucked away on St Mary’s Street, just one minute’s walk from the busy Royal Mile. Even once you’re on this street you might not notice it’s there, but seek it out and you won’t be disappointed. Behind its modest, unassuming small door and window is an opulent Turkish wonderland. Turkish lamps hang in clusters from the ceiling, the cozy seating is covered in soft Turkish furnishings, and your tea is served to you in traditional Turkish tea sets and beautiful little glass cups. The menu is a wide selection of meze dishes and a small list of main courses. The food is lovingly created, and the staff is happy to help you with meze choices.
Pro Tip: Empires doesn’t have a liquor license and operates on a BYOA policy. So, if you want something stronger than Turkish tea, nip to the supermarket first and take in your own wine. I would recommend trying the tea regardless; it’s so good and worth it for the Turkish tea set alone!
Giuliano’s Italian restaurant is situated opposite The Playhouse Theatre, quite fitting as there is something of the theater about this authentic Italian eatery. There’s a long history of Italians living in Scotland, and in this restaurant, you can get a feel for how these two nations meld and complement each other so well. The Italian staff all wear Scottish tartan uniforms, and they serve their food and drink how they make it, with flair and performance. There’s a lot of choice on the long menu at Giuliano’s, and everything is reasonably priced. You can also choose one of the restaurant’s set menus, which change with different holiday dates and times of the year. But the one set menu that is always offered is the pre-theater menu, three courses for just 19.95 pounds. So you can enjoy a traditional Italian meal served to you by born performers before you head out to enjoy a not-too-different form of entertainment at the theater.
The Bon Vivant
The Bon Vivant, on Thistle Street, is fine dining in beautiful surroundings. This is a restaurant with a short, specialized menu of tapas bites for the bar and a handful of carefully selected mains and desserts. The food here is sumptuous, but the most impressive thing about The Bon Vivant is their ability to adapt and keep offering something special amid uncertain times when they cannot be open. The Bon Vivant At Home is an initiative by the restaurant to bring diners into the experience of creating the food with the chefs and staff, making it a collaborative and intimate event. Order from the At Home menu, pick up your Bon Vivant At Home box and then make the meal at home. Don’t worry if you’re not much of a cook -- this basically means popping the items in the oven to complete their cooking process, though you can add your own ingredients and put your own spin on the dishes if you like. You can even choose from the restaurant’s “finish at home” cocktails to really round off your evening.
A little out of the city center, in fashionable Leith, is The Kitchin. Opened in 2006 by husband and wife team Tom Kitchin, chef, and Michaela Kitchin, hotelier, The Kitchin is a French/Scottish fusion restaurant, using French techniques on local produce. The pair are passionate about sustainability and sourcing local Scottish produce for their menus, and their passion shines through in their beautifully presented dishes. You might struggle a little bit if you’re vegetarian and especially if you’re vegan, but this is an ultra-modern restaurant with a cozy, luxurious atmosphere, and the location by the water in Leith is stunning.
Pro Tip: The Kitchin is especially great if you want to dine in privacy for a special party or event. Private dining is a fairly new addition. It gives you the opportunity to enjoy a special evening with up to 20 guests while still enjoying the intimate ambiance of the restaurant.
Miro’s Cantina Mexicana
The first time I visited Edinburgh, I was told Rose Street is the place to go for pubs and bars. Instead, this lively street directly behind the main shopping parade of Princes Street is where I discovered the authentic Mexican restaurant Miro’s Cantina Mexicana. Miro’s has been an Edinburgh favorite since 1991, and many people in the city consider it an institution! This cozy, homey restaurant is where you’ll find your Mexican food comforts such as nachos, chilli, burritos, and churros. They also have an impressive selection of vegetarian and vegan options. And best of all, after a good Mexican meal, you can roll straight into one of those many bars on Rose Street!