35 Food & Drink Unmissables this Festival
I didn’t do one of these round-ups last year as I was about to head off on travels. Since my return, Lunchquest has effectively finished, but I’ve still been out and about a fair bit.
This list is far from comprehensive and is focussed on light and snackish eating and drinking, as is the predominant approach during the month, to hopefully keep you in decent fettle. I’ve loosely grouped them, but many are multi-faceted places with things to offer in multiple/all categories.
The best place for bacon rolls in the city for many a year, Maialino continues to impress with their outstanding sandwiches and warmly welcoming service. William Street, EH3 7LJ
Those who know me well will understand that I continue to try and fail to enjoy porridge. However, I can recognise a quality product made with care and attention and that’s what you get every time at Brochan. A bowl of porridge is a great way to start a long day of Festivalling as well as being a solid way to chase a hangover, so could be exactly what is needed on more than one August morning. Marchmont Crescent, EH9 1HG
BBL serves some of the best burgers in the city, but it is its all-day breakfasts – particularly the vegan variety – that have become an absolute Festival staple for performers and patrons alike at the nearby Pleasance courtyard venues. Pleasance, EH8 9TG
As the name suggests, Greek Artisan Pastries serves…Greek artisan pastries. With two sites – Portobello High Street and Bread Street – this is a good place to know about for a quick Greek artisan pastry on the go. Bread Street, EH3 9AL
Castello in Bruntsfield is where you’ll find me for breakfast most often during the year. Their excellence continues throughout August. Their Castle Street branch also remains an outstanding place for a coffee stop. Barclay Terrace, EH10 4HP
Lady Libertine, in the Edinburgh Grand, is a splendid place for cocktails or a nice glass of wine, but I find myself there most often during daylight hours sampling their fabulous breakfast dishes. With coffee from Machina Espresso, go and enjoy the likes of Merguez sausages with smoked bacon and beans. West Register Street, EH2 2AA
The lovely folks who run the Rose Theatre Café at other times throughout the year have hopped over to the St Stephen’s Church venue to pop up throughout August. Their signature brand of hearty and healthy dishes are worth seeking out to bring culinary sunshine to your cultural days. St Stephen’s Street, EH3 5AB
Across three sites – Portobello, Brunswick Street and Duke Street – 12T can be relied upon for bakery and coffee excellence. Grab a loaf of their excellent sourdough for hearty home-crafted sandwiches, too. Duke Street, EH6 8HU
Back for its third year of Festival trading, the continued collaboration between Ben Reade (Edinburgh Food Studio) and Ian Wilson (previously of Susie’s Diner) will once more offer balanced, refreshing and nourishing dishes during a month of excess when such things are often in short supply. Victoria Street, EH1 2HL
Well placed between the Pleasance, Teviot and George Square venue hubs, Soul Sushi is a great option for high quality, fresh and delicious food on the go. Aside from restorative favourites such as miso soup, I’m a big fan of their butternut squash sushi rolls. Nicolson Street, EH8 9EH
Get away from the madness of the city centre and head to Easter Road for Italian breakfast and lunch excellence at Polentoni. I very much miss the days when this lovely little café was halfway between my home and work which allowed for many a tasty treat to start the day. Easter Road, EH7 5RG
With a very handy newer branch near Teviot, El Cartel is a classic Edinburgh stop for a quick bite of quality Mexican, especially from their new takeaway taco window. Their Thistle Street mothership is always abuzz but will provide you with a welcome change of scenery from the Old Town’s Festival madness. Teviot Place, EH1 2QZ
Mana Poké has become a market and street food favourite in recent times, with consistently the longest queues at the recent Edinburgh Food Festival. For August, they’re popping up at perennial coffee favourite Brew Lab so make sure to pop along for fresh and zingy dishes. South College Street, EH8 9AA
Three.14 is a lovely little bakery café that’s well worth seeking out for a light bite, slice of cake, or quality cup of coffee. When a moment of calm is needed, this is the place to go. Dalkeith Road, EH16 5BS
If you need a sandwich in the city centre, Gannet & Guga is where you should go. Now also providing food at the new Fierce beer bar on Rose Street, you can munch a well-crafted sandwich will some local craft ales. East Market Street, EH8 8FS
The wonderful Brazilian food at Tupiniquim is always a strong Festival recommendation. This year they have expanded their operation to include evening service at Tupi Kitchen at the Doghouse on Clerk Street. As always, their food is gluten free but their quality transcends boundaries and is of hugely broad appeal. Clerk Street, EH8 9HX
The White Horse is my favourite place for seafood in Edinburgh. Their buck-a-shuck – oysters for £1 each Monday to Thursday 4-6pm – is an absolute joy, but their full menu is packed with excellent dishes including an outstanding revamped octopus dish, the always superb monkfish satay, and first-rate sesame tuna. Canongate, EH8 8AA
For street food seafood at the heart of the Festival’s George Square venue, give the excellent Shrimp Wreck a look, too.
No list of this type would be complete without the soupy delights of Union of Genius. In the highly likely event that the weather is a bit ropey at various points during August, Union will provide you with all the warming nourishment you could need with their excellent soups, chillis and salads. Forrest Road, EH1 2QN
Whiskers is open all day serving a range of culinary delights matched with a banger of a drinks list. At the heart of Stockbridge, it’s not short of competition but has grown to be a real favourite. Raeburn Place, EH4 1HL
Having opened just over a year ago, 83 Hanover Street now feels like a very settled piece of the city centre dining furniture. A great favourite of mine to pop in for a couple of dishes and a glass of wine while sitting at the bar, their blend of Chilean flavours with Scottish produce across a small plates menu is an absolute winner. Hanover Street, EH2 1EE
It’s open late, it’s ridiculously good value, it’s loud and lively, and the service is…on their own terms. Chez Jules is so often what I’m looking for when in need of a substantial bite – steak frites, coq au vin etc – in the city centre. Hanover Street, EH2 1DJ
Burgers and pizza
There has been a little explosion of new pizza places in recent months with Razzo the best I’ve sampled. Their shop on Great Junction Street is fast becoming a mecca for fans of Neapolitan style pizza of which I am one. I hear strong reports on their pasta, too, and during August they could be just the delivery option you’re looking for when a quiet night away from the crowds is required. Great Junction Street, EH6 5HX
For other pizza options, I’m not sure (I will update) where Wanderers Kneaded are trading this month, but their street food pizza van is usually in the Meadows at the foot of Marchmont Road during the week. They are very much worth seeking out. Civerino’s latest branch, The High Dive, is also handily placed for post-Pleasance munching. Pizza Geeks have stalls at several of the main Festival venues, in addition to their permanent premises in Haymarket, so are also worth checking out.
Toby Jones frequently adopts the minimalist approach to promoting his burger pop-ups so I was given to believe he’d be expanding his usual weekend pop-up at Century General Store to five nights a week during August. But then I hear he’s maybe doing seven days at the newly opened Portobello Tap. Maybe check out his social media for the real answer. Whatever the case, he serves some of the best burgers in town so make sure to pop along. Other good places for a burger include Bread Meats Bread, Feed and Salt Horse (also splendid for beers).
Just along from Polentoni is the coffee shop delight that is Little Fitzroy. It’s dog-friendly, vegan-friendly, and just plain friendly with a regularly rotating selection from the best coffee roasters in Edinburgh and beyond. But not on Tuesdays; never Tuesdays. Easter Road, EH7 5PJ
Cheapshot has recently become my most local espresso stop, as it’s just next to where I’m now working. They have been showcasing excellent Williams & Johnson beans of late and always serve things to a highly pleasing standard. And they couldn’t be better located for those flitting in between Teviot and the Pleasance. Marshall Street, EH8 9BU
Lowdown is a top-notch city centre purveyor of coffee excellence from their elegant George Street brew bar. Although very centrally located, stepping down their stairs transports you to a joyful little oasis of calm. George Street, EH2 2LE
Fortitude is widely cherished as the best place for coffee in Edinburgh. Their operation now encompasses a roastery as well as the York Place café, so don’t be surprised to see their beans in use at various other top-notch places. York Place, EH1 3EB
Gooseneck is currently my most frequently visited coffee stop as it’s about halfway between home and work. Serving coffee from Arbroath roastery Sacred Grounds, alongside in-house baked delights to nibble on, I’d strongly recommend a visit particularly before or after a trip to the Lyceum Theatre, which is just over the road. Grindlay Street, EH3 9AP
It’s sometimes easy to forget how great the Bow Bar is. Serving splendid cask, keg and bottled beer with an outstanding range of whiskies, too, it’s a lovely spot for a couple of restorative ales or an evening catching up with friends in a spot that’s both always buzzing but still comfortably relaxing. West Bow, EH1 2HH
Dragonfly has enjoyed a bit of renaissance in recent times. That continues with some excellent drinks on their current list and some highly skilled bartenders on hand to keep your tastebuds constantly tantalised. West Port, EH1 2LD
Lucky’s quarter 25 menu launched on 1 August with some absolute bangers gracing the list. My personal favourite is the Primrose Hill, but the Gariyaldi is likely to prove popular. Lucky, like many bars in the city, will be open a little later than usual with the opportunity to enjoy some of the finest cocktails you’ll find in the UK until 3am each day. Queen Street, EH2 3NH
Johnnie Walker Highball Bar
Atop Waverley Mall, Johnnie Walker has set up shop with a highball bar showcasing some smartly crafted cocktails. Keep walking their way.
Kin matches outstanding service with fresh and innovative drinks. The ideal pre and post-dinner spot – I’m there after dining at Le Roi Fou with stunning regularity – or for a full evening of entertainment, look out for cocktails on tap, top chat, and excellent tunes. Barony Street, EH3 6PD
Hidden beneath small plates restaurant Sonder, Camera is a quality hideaway for stylish and sophisticated cocktails. It’s very well placed for post-Summerhall bevs, in particular. South Clerk Street, EH8 9PT
Nauticus has captured the hearts of Leith drinkers with its power-packed blend of local spirits, diamond banter and juicy Tennent’s. My standard tipple there is a glass of Leith Sherry from the Port of Leith Distillery, although a torrent of Pilot’s Hush Hush is also a fairly frequent weapon of choice. Duke Street, EH6 8HR