I’ve always wanted to write a wee ‘Guide To Edinburgh’ style post, but I’ve never felt like I had the authority to do such a thing. You see, Alex and I are thoroughly creatures of habit – we go to the same places time and time again because why change a good thing, hey? I occasionally entertain notions that I’ll start trying new places just to see if they’re worth adding to my ‘guide’, only to end up at the same coffee shop/pub/restaurant I always go to. So I always decided not to write a guide. Until today. This will hardly be the most comprehensive guide to Edinburgh, nor will it even include all the places I’ve been to and like in Edinburgh. It will be exactly what it says on the tin – my tried and true favourites.
Favourite Pub: The Antiquary, St. Stephen’s Street, Stockbridge
When Alex and I first arrived in Edinburgh, our plan was to try a new pub every Sunday and sample ALL the Sunday roasts Edinburgh had to offer. The Tic was our first choice, because it was close and had good reviews. 11 months later, it’s still our regular Sunday haunt. In fact, we haven’t tried a single other pub (well, Alex has, but we don’t talk about that). This little gem tucked away in Stockbridge is exactly what you’d expect from an Edinburgh pub – cosy, lots of exposed beams, and a lot of whisky on display. It’s also named for a Sir Walter Scott novel, which, I’ll be honest, was part of the reason I wanted to try it. What we didn’t expect was just how great it really is. Obviously we’re now a bit biased, but the staff there are incredibly friendly, and always up for a laugh, which made us feel right at home straight away. Most important, though, is the food. Oh my goodness the food. There isn’t a single thing we’ve had that we haven’t absolutely loved. Think classic British comfort food with a gastropub flair, as we Aussies would say. A huge part of the menu is based on game, all sourced locally and sometimes still with shot, but there are dishes to suit those not so keen on venison or pheasant (*cough* mum). Our personal favourite dishes are the Pheasant Balmoral – ballotine of pheasant stuffed with haggis and wrapped in bacon, accompanied by either potatoes parisienne or classic roast veggies (mine), and Venison Pie (Alex). If you’re ever in Edinburgh and looking for a classic British pub with great atmosphere and incredible food, the Tic is the place for you.
Favourite chain: La Favorita, Blackhall/Leith/Morningside
During my first week in Edinburgh at the start of my exchange, my AirB&B host informed me that La Fav makes the best pizza in Edinburgh. You can dine in at their restaurants dotted across the city, but Alex and I only get takeaway. We’re huge pizza fans (who isn’t), and la fav is what my parents would undoubtedly describe as “proper Italian pizza” – great dough, lovely tomato sauce, not too much of each topping, always cooked to perfection. Proof of their ‘Italian-ness’ (sorry Angela) is the time I once ordered pizza with parma ham. The pizza arrived with no parma ham on top, but a packet of what I assumed were serviettes. I thought they’d just forgotten my parma ham, and tucked in without another thought. It turns out that the ‘serviettes’ were in fact my parma ham, packaged separately to be placed on the pizza before eating, because apparently that’s the correct way to do it. All of their pizzas are great, but Alex and I are huge fans of three in particular: The Tricolore (chicken, potatoes, pancetta, pesto), The Flying Pig (pulled pork, bbq sauce, corn, pancetta, chicken, red onions) and the Hot Star (salami, chicken, ricotta, nduja, chillies, red onion). So. Good.
Favourite coffee shop: Waterstones, Princes Street, New Town
There are so many gorgeous coffee shops around Edinburgh, so trying to choose my favourite wasn’t easy. The cafe on the 2nd floor of Waterstones, though, has to win. The building is stunning, with views over the castle and exposed period detailing, their hot chocolates are AMAZING, they serve my favourite cupcakes (see below), and it’s inside Waterstones, which is pretty much my fave place ever. What more could you want?
Favourite bite to eat: The Baked Potato Shop, Cockburn Street, Old Town
A staple since my very first visit to Edinburgh (way back in 2014), The Baked Potato Shop on Cockburn Street specialises in some of the best baked potatoes I’ve ever eaten. It’s exclusively veggie/vegan, but there are so many options that even the non-veggies amongst us (me included) don’t feel the need to complain. I usually opt for the simple yet timeless cheese and garlic butter, whilst Alex goes all out with coleslaw, sour cream, cheese, and garlic butter. The actual shop is tiny with only one bench to eat in, but on a (relatively) nice day there’s nothing better than taking your baked tattie, sitting in the Princes St Gardens or along the Royal Mile, and digging in. One piece of advice though: a “small” is one large baked potato. A medium is one and a half. A large is never necessary. Trust me, I made that mistake once.
Favourite on the go snack: On The Roll, George Square, Old Town
My favourite thing about Edinburgh’s Christmas Markets (which up until now I’ve only experienced in January) is the availability of bratwurst. I love bratwurst. However, during the rest of the year when there aren’t multiple options open along Princes Street and George Street, On The Roll is my go to stop for when I’m craving a bratwurst. It’s a little stall set up in George Square, on the Edinburgh uni campus, so not exactly convenient for me anymore, but if I find myself on that side of town, I’ll happily be lining up, cash in hand, for my bratwurst.
Favourite Sweet Treat: Cuckoo’s Bakery, Dundas Street/Bruntsfield
Truth be told, I’m not actually that into cupcakes. They’re great, yes, but I can think of countless desserts I’d like more than an cupcake. Except, perhaps, for the cupcakes from Cuckoo’s Bakery. My flatmates and I discovered the wee Bruntsfield shop during my exchange, and let me tell you it was a life-changing experience. Their cupcakes are something else entirely, and are completely home grown. Alongside staple flavours like vanilla, raspberry and white chocolate, and black bottom (chocolate cake and cheesecake), they have one or two weekly specials, which have included whisky-raspberry-oatmeal sponge for St. Andrew’s Day, maple pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving, Jammie Dodger (Alex’s favourite), and lemon meringue (my favourite). They also make incredible brownies (oreo caramel brownies), scones, and “cuckies” (filled biscuits). When we first arrived we were staying literally 5 minutes away from their Dundas Street shop, and let’s just say we ate a lot of cupcakes in the first two months here in Edinburgh. Now, it’s a bit more of a hike, though they are sold at our local Waterstones (coffee, cupcakes, and books? Yes please). Even if you’re not in Edinburgh, you should check out their instagram because OMG CUPCAKES.
Favourite Guilty Pleasure: Wagamamas
There is absolutely nothing exclusively Edinburgh about Wagamamas. It’s a chain found all over the UK, and even in other countries. But it’s a firm favourite of Alex and I, so it deserves to be somewhere in this blog post. Wagamamas serves delicious Japanese(ish) hot dishes – think ramen, curry, donburi, gyoza etc, either dine-in at their restaurants or as takeaway. I fucking love a good Wagamamas, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. Give me a chicken teriyaki donburi and some fried duck gyoza and I’m happy as can be. Although it hardly compares to my dad’s Japanese feasts, it’s still bloody good.
Honourable Mention: Starbucks
Like Wagamamas, I can’t write this blog post without mentioning Starbucks. Yes, I am that basic bitch who instagrams her seasonal Starbucks selections, and I don’t even care. Alex loves a good hazelnut latte or mocha, but for me it’s all about the Christmas-time fudge hot chocolate. I genuinely love it more someone should love a seasonal drink from a coffee chain. (The rest of the year I settle for vanilla hot chocolates – still good, but not quite as good). I don’t care how much people judge it, Starbucks is a firm Edinburgh (and let’s be honest world-wide) favourite of mine, and that won’t change any time soon!
So there you have it, the not-so-definitive list of some of my favourite food/drink spots in Edinburgh. If you made it this far, congratulations. This was a beefy one. But worth it, I hope, either for suggestions of places to eat or just an insight into my day-to-day life. If you’d like me to write more posts like this (favourite _ in Edinburgh), let me know!