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Eat your way around Edinburgh

Consider this the ultimate guide to the city’s best bites.

Krystin Arneson
By Krystin ArnesonApr 4, 2024 4 minutes read
Dinner at Number One at The Balmoral in Edinburgh, Scotland
Dinner at Number One at Tthe Balmoral in Edinburgh, Scotland
Image: Courtesy of The Balmoral

Edinburgh continues to cement its reputation as a culinary capital—and what’s on the menu in this breathtaking Scottish city goes way beyond pub lunches, haggis, and full Scottish breakfasts (though all of those are revered as well). While I return time and time again to my favorite haunts, there’s a constant stream of newcomers making their marks. The food scene is also quite accommodating to a range of dietary needs, with plenty of restaurants offering gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan options as a matter of course (or courses).

From chefs who are proudly putting new spins on old traditions to what seems like a citywide focus on using seasonal, local produce, this utterly charming capital is host to several foodie-favorite spots worth a try. My guiding star tip: Book a table in advance if the option’s available, because these rightfully fill up fast.

For a splurge

Number One at The Balmoral

Dinner at Number One at The Balmoral in Edinburgh
Dinner at Number One at The Balmoral in Edinburgh
Image: Courtesy of The Balmoral

A classic choice for a celebratory dinner out in Edinburgh, Number One is located in the ultra-swank Balmoral Hotel. Inside you’ll find an immaculately appointed dining room—think wood paneling, crimson walls, cozy booths. Here, they’re serving up some of the best food in the city, with creative twists on local products, like hand-dived Orkney scallops served alongside leek chowder and Shetland salmon with soy, sesame, peanut, and coriander. It’s no wonder Number One is both a Michelin Guide entry and carries a rare five-bubble rating on TripAdvisor with nearly 2,000 reviews.

What to order: The seven-course tasting menu and wine flight pairing is the best way to get the full impact of the kitchen’s creativity and gain an appreciation of the seasonal, local ingredients they use.

Fin & Grape

Dinner at Fin & Grape, Edinburgh
Dinner at Fin & Grape, Edinburgh
Image: Courtesy of Fin & Grape

Focused primarily on fish and wine, Fin & Grape is off the tourist track and frequented by locals in the know. Located in the charming Bruntsfield neighborhood, it’s been serving up some of the city’s best seafood since 2020—and word to the wise, you’ll definitely want to make a res in advance of your lunch or dinner here. The menu changes, but whatever time of day you go is going to be fantastic: For lunch, you can choose one, two, or three courses, maxing out at just over $20 for the full trio. Each and every dish elevates regional seafood to its highest potential, and it’s not afraid to get a little playful, either.

What to order: There’s an option for a set menu come dinnertime that includes four small plates, a market fish to share, vegetable accompaniments, fries, and a salad. But we’d suggest tucking into the a la carte sharing plates on offer—think British bluefin tuna with olive, lemon, guanciale, and horseradish, or roasted sprouts with Kilduff farm squash, miso, hazelnut, and ossau iraty, an Occitan-Basque sheep’s cheese.

Noto Edinburgh

Cured Trout at Noto, Edinburgh
Cured Trout at Noto, Edinburgh
Image: Management/Tripadvisor

This tiny, ultra-popular restaurant in Edinburgh’s New Town has a prestigious Bib Gourmand award, a Michelin designation indicating excellent value for money. Chef Stuart Ralston—who worked alongside Gordon Ramsay and is one of the city’s most exciting chefs (he has three other acclaimed spots here)—shines at Noto Edinburgh with a focus on British-with-a-twist small plates and incredible cocktails.

What to order: Anything here will be a winner, but I love the small plates that marry comfort foods with a bit of excitement. Recent standouts include confit halibut with winter squash and nori; short rib, maitake, cherry mustard, and celeriac; and, as a British-inspired finish, the Yorkshire rhubarb with hibiscus meringue.

For a casual bite

Seven - Neighbourhood Cafe

Breakfast at Seven Neighborhood Cafe, Edinburgh
Exterior of Seven Neighborhood Cafe, Edinburgh
Breakfast at Seven Neighborhood Cafe, Edinburgh
Image: Management/Tripadvisor

Edinburgh has a strong scene of casual but delicious cafes and Seven, located in buzzy Old Town’s Tollcross, is a real crowd-pleaser, with some great takes on old classics. Expect elevated cafe food (the avocado toast is a highlight) and robust lunch and dinner menus, as well as excellent cakes that are their own reason to make a stop here.

What to order: The haggis roll is a real winner, but if you’re coming in for an energy top-up and want something sweet, any cake you choose will check the boxes.

Cafe Marmalade

Exterior of Cafe Marmalade, Edinburgh
Breakfast at Cafe Marmalade, Edinburgh
Cafe Marmalade, Edinburgh
Image: Dave_Connelly/Tripadvisor (L), MeganPatricia96/Tripadvisor (R)

Frankly, it should be illegal to leave Scotland without trying a full Scottish fry-up breakfast—and while the traditional version is quite meat-centric, there are a plethora of vegetarian and vegan options in Edinburgh now. Located near Leith’s waterfront, the homey Cafe Marmalade doesn’t just have great food but incredibly friendly owners who give locals and travelers a cozy welcome and generous portions of homemade food, vegetarian or otherwise.

What to order: This is the perfect place to try a full Scottish breakfast, which features expertly done haggis as well an array of eggs and tomato-sauce-soaked beans. A vegetarian version is also available (some, like myself, even prefer the veggie haggis over the real stuff).

Chez Jules

Charcuterie at Chez Jules in Edinburgh
Charcuterie at Chez Jules in Edinburgh
Image: Frédéric G/Tripadvisor

Chez Jules was a go-to when I was a (fairly broke) student for a few reasons: the fantastic prix-fixe menu, delicious food, and French vibes that felt like a vacation even during term time. Plus, it’s a cozy, subterranean institution tucked within one of the city’s most popular shopping areas. Expect excellent steak frites, coq au vin, and other indulgent comforts, plus house wine that’s excellent value for the money. The lunch menu (served from noon to 4 p.m.) is really where this place shines—prices have barely changed in the past decade—but it’s also open late if you happen to find yourself at one of the area’s nearby pubs or cocktail bars.

What to order: Order the fixed-price, three-course lunch menu to really get your money’s worth here. You can’t go wrong starting with the French onion soup or terrine, but when it comes to planning your courses, take note that you’ll also be getting a salad, bread and butter, pickles, and pate or rosette de Lyon to round off your choices. For your mains, the coq au vin is fantastic—it’s exactly what you wish your imaginary French grandma cooked. (And if you’re here for dinner, the half-Scottish-lobster and rib-eye combo is the move.)

Krystin Arneson
Krystin Arneson is a travel writer who covers culture, wine, food, and other interesting/beautiful/interconnected facets of our everyday existence. She now lives in Spain after seven years in Berlin. Krystin's work appears in the BBC, CNN Underscored, National Geographic, Glamour and other outlets. She holds an MSc. in Cultural Studies from the University of Edinburgh and journalism and international studies degrees from the University of Missouri.