21 Festival Food & Drink Unmissables
A mix of the old and the new, here are our 21 unmissable food and drink experiences to try in Edinburgh, this August. As with last year, if you complete the full set, drop me a line and I’ll award you with a hearty handshake. And perhaps some sort of ludicrous prize. Maybe.
Matcha porridge – Brochan
I am not the world’s biggest porridge fan, but this hearty bowl of goodness not only looked splendid, it packed a delightfully complex flavour punch, which is not always the way with this traditional oaty concoction. Brochan is a relaxing café space, too, so we’d recommend it to you for a refreshing and nutritious start to the Festival day.
Vegan breakfast – BBL
Aside from being the purveyors of the best burgers in the city, BBL have developed an outstanding vegan breakfast. Making extraordinary things like their own vegan link and lorne sausage in-house, the super-friendly folks at this great little café have carved quite a niche for themselves.
Double pancetta roll – Maialino
A perennial favourite, Maialino’s bacon rolls are the best in the city. A visit to this William Street deli will set you up in grand style for the day ahead.
Sweetcorn fritters with poached eggs – Baba Budan
An excellent late breakfast/light lunch option, the corn fritters from Baba Budan are a gluten free option as well as being completely delicious. They also serve excellent coffee so make sure to swing by.
Super green soup – Strumpets
The delicious green soup from Strumpets is one of this August’s must-eats. The accompanying oatcakes are splendid, too. Take some time away from the Festival frenzy for a restorative visit to this elegant and charming cafe.
Puff-puffs – Forage & Chatter
These simple deep-fried doughballs come prior to the starters at the excellent Forage & Chatter. They are currently listed as Edinburgh’s hottest balls. And for good reason.
Pheasant kebab – Mangal at Salt Horse
There’s much to be said for the outstanding quality of Scottish game, but it’s rarely showcased at the heart of a kebab. However, the pheasant kebabs from Salt Horse, the fine craft beer purveyor, are not your usual late-night gristle fest. Served with outstanding flatbread, this is an absolute delight that’s just the thing for a quick meal on the go.
Raclette – Clark & Lake
So much cheese. Smashing new wine bar Clark & Lake has a menu packed with tempting bites, with their raclette – served atop tatties and cornichons or in a toastie – a splendidly gooey snack. Enjoy it with an excellent glass of wine – their full list is served by the glass – or with a well-crafted beer.
BLT burger– Jones & Son
In a new location outside Mary King’s Close, Jones & Son continue to sling the best street food burgers around. Their BLT is a particular favourite with me, but their whole menu is packed with class and there’s a decent chance of some diamond banter from Jones-in-chief Toby. I hear talk of secret menu items if you know the password…
Duck heart tartare – The Fat Pony
New from the canine stable of David Ramsden, The Fat Pony is a smart wine bar serving an ever-changing menu of beautifully crafted small plates. The notion of duck heart tartare may strike fear into some, but it’s a dish of consummate skill and panache.
Pancetta and gorgonzola friselle – Polentoni
Polentoni is a fabulous little Italian café on Easter Road. It serves some outstanding dishes with their baked goods hugely impressive. This cheese and bacon topped pastry has grown to be quite the snack-time favourite with me, so I’d strongly recommend you give it a go.
Crepe – Tupiniquim
A favourite of long-standing, the gluten-free crepes at police box café Tupiniquim are absolutely outstanding. During August there’s always something or other going on around the box, whether it’s music, dancing or just general fun times to go with the excellent grub.
Caldo verde – Union of Genius
You can’t survive August in Edinburgh without regular top-ups of soup from Union of Genius. Their café has had a smart recent refit so if you’re looking for an excuse to revisit that’s it. I hear rumours of Scarborough Fair soup in development but you may be on safer ground with the enduring favourite caldo verde.
Buffalo shrimp – Shrimpwreck at Bourbon
Having successfully made the transition from street food stall to permanent premises, Shrimpwreck is knocking it out of the park with their outstanding Buffalo prawns. The juicy beasties in crisp batter are wonderfully offset by well-judged hot sauce and excellent blue cheese dressing.
Build a Banh Mi – Gannet & Guga
This is an unmissable delight that is very much what you make of it. For £5 you can build your own banh mi sandwich, choosing the type of bread and all the fillings from a carefully constructed set of choices that guarantees you can’t end up with anything other than a winning combo.
Gold Millionaire Bar – The Pastry Section
There are some who don’t believe my regular assertions that I don’t have a sweet tooth. Thankfully none of them was there when I recently sampled the Gold Millionaire Bar from Stockbridge favourite The Pastry Section. It’s utterly sensational and one to try as soon as you can.
Cross Brew coffee gelato with Frangelico poached cherries – Mary’s Milk Bar
No list of this type would be complete without a mention for Edinburgh’s Mecca of queues, Mary’s Milk Bar. Bearing in mind my lack of sweet tooth, I had to take advice on this one with assurances given that their coffee gelato which incorporates Frangelico poached cherries is the current must-try item. Prepare for a glorious queuing experience in the build-up to trying it.
Harder, Better, Faster, Talisker – Dram & Smoke
Dram & Smoke’s second year at the Festival sees them return to the Biscuit Factory in Leith. This year, there’s an even stronger cocktail influence with a Campfire Cocktail Masterclass as part of the show. This stormer of a Talisker drink – available at the ground floor bar throughout the month – is crafted by cocktail supremo Euan Halliday and features a daring blend of Scottish favourites, including Irn Bru, Cross Brew and Talisker Storm.
Del Sol a Sol- Lucky Liquor
Lucky Liquor is a magical cocktail bar on Queen Street. Their new menu includes the legendary Kaiko Tulloch’s wondrous Del Sol a Sol, winner of the UK Olmeca Altos Tahona Society competition. It goes forward to the global final in September. Olmeca will be doing a takeover at Lucky during August with London bar Happiness Forgets so keep an eye out for details of that.
Toulouse – The Bon Vivant
The Bon Vivant is an outstanding place to eat and drink. On their latest cocktail list they have a twist on a drink that recently won their cocktail legend Miran Chauhan the national Peller ice wine cocktail competition. It’s a stylish and elegant beauty and you must try it.
3 Cs – Nightcap
Delivered in collaboration with fellow cocktail bars Bryant & Mack, the Voyage of Buck, Lucky Liquor and Panda & Sons, and masterminded by cocktail colossi Sam McGarry and Robbie Johnston, the 3 Cs is a canny blend of rum, sassafras liquer, genmaicha and lemon, with a popcorn garnish. Served in custom glassware, it’s your last stop in completing the 21 best things to eat and drink in August, this year.