City Guide 2018

The best places to eat and drink as you scurry from show to show this August. Some of them are so good that you'll consider ditching your next show so you can stay for another round.

feature (edinburgh) | Read in About 16 minutes
Published 24 Jul 2018
31737 large
El Cartel

Artisan Roast

Artisan Roast are very serious about their coffee, but for that you will be very grateful as you sip one of the best flat whites the whole of the UK has to offer. If you’re not serious about your coffee, AR will convert you to the winning team.

57 Broughton St, 138 Bruntsfield Pl @artisanroast

The Auld Hoose

A cross-breed of ‘old man pub’ and ‘rock bar’, this Newington pub two minutes from the Pleasance Courtyard covers both bases in style. Slick decor, a '90s metal soundtrack, a good drinks selection and ridiculous bowls of nachos await.

23-25 St Leonard's St @TheAuldHoose

BABA

Middle Eastern mezze are the order of the day at BABA, parked at the Book Festival end of George Street. A highly shareable menu packed with tasty Levantine dishes make this an ideal post-show pitstop.

130 George St @babaedinburgh

Baba Budan

Right across from Waverley station, Baba Budan is perfect for a straight-off-the-train sugar boost. Doughnuts are the main draw, coming in a host of exciting flavours and combinations. Grab one with a coffee to fuel up for a day of show-hopping.

1 Cranston St @bababudancoffee

Bannermans

The back room of Bannermans is one the favourite haunts of the city’s rockers, but the main bar is a much more laid-back environment. It’s cheap, there’s plenty of space and it’s right in the centre of town.

202 Cowgate @BannermansBar

Bar 50

Connected to the Smart City Hostel at the east end of the Cowgate, Bar 50’s ever-changing clientele makes for an interesting evening, and the decent drinks prices and reliable food menu keep everyone getting along like old friends.

50 Blackfriars St @smartcityhostel

Blue Blazer

The Blue Blazer is a ‘proper’ Edinburgh pub, in the best possible sense. Boasting one of the finest selections of real ales, whiskies and rums in the capital, the Blue Blazer’s walls have seen it all.

2 Spittal St @blueblazeredin

Bodega 

Fantastic tacos in super-chilled and extremely friendly surroundings, Bodega brings flavours from around the world together in wonderful corn tortillas. Oh, and their margaritas are immense.

36 Leven St @bodegatollx

Bramble

Arguably the city’s finest cocktail bar, and certainly one of the venues that elevated Auld Reekie into the global cocktail conversation, Bramble is a delightful drinking den. It’s dark, the hip-hop bumps loud from the speakers and the drinks are beautiful.

16a Queen St @BrambleBar

Brass Monkey

Tucked in between the Pleasance and the Bridges, Brass Monkey matches a great location with a relaxed atmosphere. Much of that comes from the mini-cinema in the back room, packed with squishy mattresses and enormous cushions.

14 Drummond St @brassmonkeybar

Bread Meats Bread

Incredible burgers, outrageous sides—try the poutine—and a great location. Bread Meats Bread offers ideal Fringe fuel and their vegan menu has come on leaps and bounds in recent times so now everyone can enjoy it.

92 Lothian Rd @BreadMeats_EDI

Brew Lab

Great coffee, superb sandwiches and soups, and cakes and teas from some of Edinburgh’s best producers all find a home at Brew Lab, with a strong wine and beer game thrown in as well.

6-8 South College St @BrewLabCoffee

BrewDog

The Ellon brewery dominates the taps alongside an ever-changing cast of guest beers, a great food menu and, as the name suggests, they are dog-friendly.

143 Cowgate @BrewDogEdin

Bryant & Mack Private Detectives

A top-notch one-room bar, Bryant & Mack is all dark colours, mood lighting, comfy seats and delicious drinks. The speakeasy vibe is complimented by the space itself – everyone gets their own little conspiratorial corner in which to plot away.

87 Rose St North Ln @BryantAndMack

Cameo Cinema

Famed for its atmosphere and charm, the Cameo shows everything from mainstream hits to arthouse fare to retro cult classics, and the cosy bar and homely foyer give the place a glow of old-school movie magic.

38 Home St @cameocinema

Checkpoint

Brilliant brunch until the early evening? A great drinks selection for the late-night? A shipping container, inside the bar? Checkpoint has it all – plus it's a venue for Assembly, and it’s within spitting distance of the Gilded Balloon and the Pleasance Dome.

3 Bristo Pl @checkpointedi

Chop House

If the Fringe is getting you down, may we recommend the Chop House’s frankly outlandish breakfasts or one of their incredible dry-aged steaks? Either way, luxuriate in their enormous orange chairs and take an extremely tasty break from it all.

East Market St @chophousesteak

City Art Centre

Set in the former Edinburgh fruit market, the City Art Centre holds over 4,500 Scottish works from across the artistic spectrum, while the shop and cafe are great options if the art all gets a little bit overwhelming.

2 Market St @EdinCulture

The City Cafe

If you’ve ever dreamt of going to an American diner in the 1950s, well... you can’t. Sorry. Luckily, The City Cafe is a pretty good alternative, with its chessboard-style floor and leather and chrome booths.

19 Blair St @thecitycafe

Civerinos

Their locations are great; just off the Royal Mile, and on the edge of the Meadows. The vibe is great; all fly-postered walls and marble statues. Above all else, the pizza at Civerinos is great: sourdough bases, brilliant toppings, and big enough to fuel even the most ill-advised of schedules.

5 Hunter Sq, 49 Forrest Rd @civerinos_slice

Cloisters

On the corner of the Meadows and Tollcross and set into the side of a church, this pub is packed with period features. A huge selection of beers and ales and always lively atmosphere make Cloisters a great spot for a pre- or post-show pint.

26 Brougham St @Cloisters_Bar

Cult Espresso

A welcome sanctuary from the Fringe, this split-level coffee shop just down from Summerhall pairs a stripped-back aesthetic with expertly-crafted coffees and a small but perfectly-formed food menu.

104 Buccleuch St @cultcoffeeedin

Dishoom

The best of a new crop to pop up around St Andrew Square recently, Dishoom’s take on the Irani cafes of Bombay offers delicious, casual dining in the heart of the Fringe action. Get the black daal; you will not be disappointed.

3a St Andrew Sq @Dishoom

Dough

You’re on the way from one show to another, you’re a bit hungover and you haven’t eaten in a day and a half. What you need is a slice of pizza – Dough have an extensive array of by-the-slice pies, all delicious sea water crusts and fresh ingredients. Go to them; they’ll see you right.

172 Rose St, 47 South Clerk St @Dough_pizzeria1

El Cartel Mexicana

The best Mexican food in Edinburgh can be found in the cosy confines of El Cartel. That’s cosy as in small. Be prepared for Kitson-level queuing to get yourself a spot but be assured that the tacos are more than worth the effort.

64 Thistle St @elcartelmexican

Eteaket

If you like tea, then prepare to spend a lot of time in Eteaket. The Frederick Street cafe is all about tea and cakes, with dozens of loose leaf blends on offer, all blended specifically for Eteaket and packed with all sorts of mad and exotic ingredients.

41 Frederick St @eteaket

Filament Coffee

Filament’s a brilliant modern coffee bar pretty much halfway between Summerhall and the Pleasance Courtyard. We know the Fringe gets tough; a flat white from these guys will help make it all better.

38 Clerk St @filamentcoffee

Fireside

A one-time pop-up that’s stayed popped-up, Fireside has turned the units at the end of the Waverley Arches into an outdoor courtyard and indoor bar and performance space that’s full of charm. It's also host to a range of Fringe shows, and it’s the venue for this year’s Fest launch party. Woo-hoo!

East Market St @firesidearches

Filmhouse

From challenging European cinema to Woody Allen retrospectives to the best of modern Hollywood, the Filmhouse truly shows it all, and their cafe-bar is pretty good for a Fringe pitstop too.

88 Lothian Rd @Filmhouse

Fruitmarket Gallery

The Fruitmarket Gallery is hard to miss, as you tend not to see too many huge pink signs in the Old Town. It’s just as well, as missing out on the great art, compact but well-stocked shop and brilliant downstairs cafe just wouldn’t be right.

45 Market St @fruitmarket

Forest Cafe

Having been booted from their former home on Forest Road a few years back, the Forest’s crew of volunteers have taken up residence in Tollcross and turned this former corner shop into a vibrant arts space. Expect art, music, poetry and anything else that comes to mind—plus vegetarian food—in the freest venue in the city.

141 Lauriston Pl @foresttweets

Fortitude Coffee

In Fringe terms, Fortitude is a perfect fit – brilliant coffee, delicious sandwiches and excellent cakes from local heroes Lovecrumbs, all on the literal doorstep of The Stand comedy club. Seriously, it’s right next door.

3c York Pl @FortitudeCoffee

Gilded Balloon

This Hogwart’s-style building is actually the oldest purpose-built students’ union in the world. Bought and paid for by the students in 1889—clearly they had a bit more cash back then—it’s a warren of big and small performance spaces, bars and cafes.

Teviot Pl @Gildedballoon

The Hanging Bat

A huge and ever-changing range of some of the best beers from all over the world, a mini-brewery at the back and super knowledgeable bar staff make this the place to get your ‘serious beer’ on during the Fringe.

133 Lothian Rd @TheHangingBat

The Hive

This wild and cavernous Cowgate venue is a notorious student haunt for good reason. If you only know The Hive for its Fringe programming, you haven’t lived; head down for a late-night drink and you’ll find an all-action party spot that’s for not the faint-hearted.

3 Niddry St @clubhive

The Holyrood 9A

Gourmet burgers and good beer are the order of the day at the 9a, just down from the Pleasance. Given that their burgers are delicious and they’re right next to one of the Fringe’s biggest venues, they can get busy – just know that the wait is worth it.

9a Holyrood Rd @holyrood9a

Hula

Bright and breezy, Hula does a great line in fresh fruit juices with exotic and outrageous blends that you never would have considered, as well as great coffee and healthy food.

103-105 West Bow @hulajuicebar

Joseph Pearce’s

A bohemian bar with a cool crowd powered by aquavit-based cocktails and Swedish cider. Entertainment comes from the regular art exhibitions, live music, DJ sets and a weekly jogging club. Healthy.

23 Elm Row @JosephPearces

Lovecrumbs

An inventive sweet and savoury menu, tables made from old pianos, and a literal window seat give Lovecrumbs an anarchic air that turns the act of going for coffee into an adventure.

155 West Port @hellolovecrumbs

Lowdown Coffee

A small but perfectly-formed Scandi-style basement beneath George Street, Lowdown is a calming environment from which to escape the madness of the street above.

40 George St @coffeelowdown

Machina Espresso

One of a batch of Edinburgh coffee shops roasting their own beans, Machina’s own blend is a smooth, fruity espresso. Grab it in a flat white, pair it with a pastry or enormous sandwich and consider yourself ready for a day of shows.

2 Brougham Pl, 80 Nicholson St @MachinaEspresso

Maki & Ramen

A lovingly decorated and charming hole in the wall off Nicholson St, the menu is, as suggested, half sushi and half noodle. Expect quality in presentation, ingredients and execution. Try the Master Chef Soyu burnt garlic ramen – you will not be disappointed.

13 W Richmond St

Mary’s Milk Bar

A cute little gelateria inspired by the milk bars of the 1960s but with the flavours brought right up-to-date, Mary’s has quickly become an Edinburgh institution. If the sun is out (it will be at least once, promise), get yourself down here for a hit of delicious, creamy gelato. You’ve earned it.

18 Grassmarket @MarysMilkBar

The Mosque Kitchen

A Fringe institution and all-round winner, the Mosque Kitchen serves up delicious curry all day long with huge plates of spicy goodness starting at just a few quid. If you haven’t been yet, go now.

31 Nicolson Sq

Mother India’s Cafe

At Mother India, the tapas-style menu means that the breadth and variety of your dinner is limited only by your ability to share with friends. And they’re your friends, so if you ‘accidentally’ elbow them out of the way for the prawns they’ll understand.

3-5 Infirmary St @Official_MIndia

National Museum of Scotland

One of the UK’s top museums, the NMS has a plethora of fascinating galleries holding items from across the ages, and is also home to the first cloned mammal: a stuffed Dolly the Sheep. Entry is free. For lovers of nice views (and delicious food at the acclaimed Tower restaurant), head to the seventh floor roof terrace for a look across the city. The food isn't free.

Chambers St @NtlMuseumsScot

National Portrait Gallery

The Scottish National Portrait Gallery (also free entry) aims to provide "a unique visual history of Scotland, told through the portraits of those who shaped it". Two floors of exhibition space, a gift shop and cafe await inside.

Queen St @NatGalleriesSco

The Nile Valley Cafe

The falafel; oh man, the falafel. This unpretentious Sudanese cafe would be our number one choice for an ad-hoc Fringe lunch. Pick up their Africa wrap (falafel, feta cheese, broad beans, hummus and spicy peanut sauce) and all your comedy hang-ups will disappear in a cloud of chickpea-based positivity.

6 Chapel St

Panda and Sons

Just down the street from the Book Festival at Charlotte Square you’ll find a barber shop purportedly run by a large bear. Spoiler alert: this is a front for one of the city’s most interesting cocktail bars. If you need somewhere to hide out mid-Fringe, this is a good place to start.

79 Queen St @pandaandsons 

Paradise Palms

A genuine lynchpin for Edinburgh’s creative community, Palms has a bit of everything. It’s a performance space, a record shop (and record label), a veggie diner and a hugely fun dive bar. Go at least once this Fringe, you won’t regret it.

41 Lothian St @edinburghpalms

The Pleasance Dome

Year round, this is one of Edinburgh University Student Union’s venues. Come August time it’s not only a major festival venue, but also the site of some serious hanging out, coffee drinking, snack munching, morning, midday and evening boozing and star-spotting.

1 Bristo Square @ThePleasance

Salt Horse

Salt Horse features what may be one of the most comprehensive beer selections in the capital. A brilliantly eclectic and impressively dense range that will literally take you the whole month to work through. They also have one of the city’s most charming beer gardens, but we’ll leave it at that, as it’s the kind of thing you want to keep to yourself.

57-61 Blackfriars Street @salthorsebar

Sneaky Pete’s

It’ll make your Fringe flat seem like a palace, but what Sneaky’s lacks in area it makes up for with energy. A huge range of weekly and monthly club nights, a beautifully clear sound system, and an ever-present crowd of the city’s most discerning and nicest clubbers make Sneaky’s a great shout every night of the week.

73 Cowgate @sneakypetesclub

Summerhall

A venue the size of a former Veterinary school takes a lot to fill it. Thankfully Summerhall has the right idea, packing the place with lots of little goings-on. In addition to a vast Fringe programme of theatre, comedy and live music, there are exhibition spaces, two cafes, an onsite micro-brewery AND gin distillery, and they even have room for the Fest offices. Hiya!

1 Summerhall @summerhallery

Ting Thai Caravan

Totally affordable, incredibly tasty and more than a little exciting, Ting Thai Caravan is in many ways the perfect lunch spot. Get down early for a seat at the canteen-style benches and pore over a Thai menu with more variety and quality than you can shake a chopstick at.

8 Teviot Pl

Ting Thai Saboteur

South Asian street food with a great range of veggie options, Saboteur is right round the corner from its illustrious sibling, but doesn’t yet suffer from the mammoth queues of  Ting Thai Caravan. We say get in while you have the chance.

19 Teviot Pl

Traverse

Widely considered to be the top theatre in the UK for new writing, ‘The Trav’ is the place to go for exciting new productions by the country’s best theatrical talent. That applies equally in August. Just as importantly, it’s got a cafe and bar downstairs with absolutely no phone signal but plenty of delicious light bites and meals.

10 Cambridge St @TraverseTheatre

Under the Stairs

Hidden away in the heart of town, Under the Stairs is exactly that – a comfy little bar/cafe tucked under the stairs on Merchant Street. It’s the perfect blend of shabby hipster chic and homely cosiness.

3A Merchant St @UTSedinburgh

Ventoux

Inspired by the Tour de France's favourite mountain of the same name, this Tollcross bar is a lovely local hangout that’s filled with fish tanks on the shelves, bikes hanging from the ceiling and an impressive host of German beers behind the bar.

2 Brougham St

Vittoria

One of few Edinburgh landmarks without its own postcard, Vittoria is a genuine institution. Great Italian food, decent prices and waiters who can liven up even the most stilted of evenings make it well worth checking out.

113 Brunswick St, 19 George IV Bridge @VittoriaEd

Wee Red Bar

The Wee Red Bar may be located on ECA territory, but this isn’t your average student disco. A near-constant stream of grassroots gigs take up the evenings and the wide range of club nights keep things interesting until the early hours.

74 Lauriston Pl

Whistlebinkies

If you like some music with your drinks then Whistlebinkies in the centre of town is a good choice. There’s always something going on and its open until 5am, so if you don’t want to head home but also don’t fancy the clubs, you know where to go.

4-6 South Bridge @thebinkies