Eating out at restaurants in Edinburgh isn’t always part of my budget, especially when it’s the second most expensive city in the country (after London). Yet cooking every meal for myself in my flat gets dull and sometimes I need a meal out. Here are my favorite cafes and restaurants to visit near my home.
My Favorite Cafes
My second home. Castello Coffee is just around the corner from me on the side of Bruntsfield Links. Their main location is in Edinburgh’s new town. Last year they took over the premises originally occupied by Black Medicine Coffee. The owner is a tattooed bad-ass who serves up some of the best-tasting cafe food around. Better yet, they use single-origin roasts from Allpress Espresso. They are up there with Brew Lab, Artisan Roast and Lovecrumbs (which use Steampunk roasts) as one of the best coffee houses in town. Some of their tables are a little low to be comfortable with the laptop, and the internet isn’t always the best, but otherwise they are a wonderfully comfortable cafe with the best view.
As to their meals, all their food is homemade, often cooked by the owner himself. In addition to their daily homemade soups, the menu includes poached eggs on sourdough (with optional avocado and salmon toppings), Greek yogurt with granola and berries parfait, bean and cheese quesadillas, and a full range of sandwiches. On the weekend, their menu expands to include items like French toast topped with strawberries, caramelized chocolate, lemon and maple syrup. My personal favorite was the sweetcorn fritters with avocado, poached eggs, lime and sriracha.
Update: Just in time for the 2018 Easter holidays, Castello has updated their menu. Several new items are now available. The french toast has upgraded to a churro french toast with chocolate stuffing, cinnamon sugar and maple glaze. I’ll have to try that one! The sweetcorn fritters have been replaced with huevos rancheros, and the granola parfait is now a banana split made with cinnamon granola, yogurt and fresh berries. They’ve also added an omelet and a curried “bubble n’ squeak” to the menu. That last one is a cabbage and potato cake with wilted spinach, feta and a poached egg. The Monday-Wednesday menu is a shorter version of this, but the same great quality.
Lattes are £2.50 for a regular and £2.90 for a large. Meals range from £4 to £7. Hours are Mon-Fri 7:30-5, and Sat-Sun 8:30-5. Location: 7-8 Barclay Terrace, Edinburgh EH10 4HP.
Update: In 2019, Cafe Class changed its name to Seven, but it’s still the same great cafe, the same menu and the same superb food.
The Scottish breakfast is my favorite morning food in the world (just above the Khai Jiew). In addition to the poached egg and British bacon (chewier than the crispy American variety), the breakfast comes with baked beans, sausage links, tomatoes, mushrooms, tattie scone (think potato pancake) and usually either black pudding or haggis (sometimes both).
So far, the best Scottish breakfast I’ve found in Edinburgh is at Cafe Class. They serve the works, sans the tomatoes, and include a patty of high-quality haggis. On the side is a thick slice of homemade bread and butter. Coupled with a latte made with Artisan roast beans, it’s damn near perfect. If you’re not a big fan of meat, you can get the vegetarian or even the vegan options, both of which feature vegetarian haggis, and have items like hummus, avocado and various veggies.
Some of the other dishes available are avocado or salmon bagels, homemade soups and several paninis, all made with high-quality ingredients. They also have a dozen homemade cakes and pastries available each day.
Yes, it was their use of my name that attracted me the first time. I’ve been going back ever since.
The full breakfast is £7.20. Maybe a little pricey for a budget traveler, but totally worth it and actually one of the cheaper places in town. There are only a handful of seats and reservations aren’t available. The best idea is to get there shortly after they open, especially if you’re going with a group. Hours are Mon-Sat 9-5 and Sunday 10-5. Location: 7 Home St, Edinburgh EH3 9JR.
Union of Genius
I found Union of Genius shortly after my first arrival to Edinburgh back in 2015. It’s been one of my favorites ever since. They serve the best soup in town, and their prices are really good. They also went through a full makeover last year, doubling their seating.
I love the layout of their menu. Each day, they serve six soups – two with meat, two vegetarian and two vegan. You can get a medium or a large (I always get the large). Nearly all their soups are gluten-free, and many are dairy-free (all of which are clearly displayed on the menu). They make their soup fresh each day from scratch, and once the soup runs out, there’s no more. Three of the soups will be the same all week, and three change daily.
There are also a few other options, such as salads and chillis. Along the wall are several gluten-free pastries and health food bars. They even have a picnic box available if you want to eat in the Meadows.
Read the full article I wrote about why It’s Smart to Eat at Union of Genius in Edinburgh!
A regular soup is £4 and the large is £4.60. Hours are 10-4 Mon-Sat, although they might run out of soup before 4 and will close if they do. Closed Sunday. Location: 8 Forrest Rd, Edinburgh EH1 2QN.
Artisan Roast…or Fortitude…or Wellington…Or…
Edinburgh is one of the best cities I’ve ever been to when it comes to third-wave coffee, and there are too many cafes to choose from that make their own specialty roast beans.
My Favorite Restaurants
MUM’s Great Comfort Food
When it comes to authentic Scottish food, there are quite a few good restaurants in Edinburgh. Three are particularly good and I enjoy visiting when I can afford them, although I guess that technically makes this list 7 long.
Each of these three has their specialties. MUM’s has a great selection of sausages for their bangers and mash, and their steak and ale pie is absolutely massive. Most of their servings can easily be shared between two people.
I mentioned Beehive in my article about the Edinburgh Food Tour, which was the first time I visited. I’ve since been back several times for their Cullin Skink (smoked haddock, potatoes and leeks in a cream sauce base). Theirs just might be the best in town. Both Beehive and MUM’s have a great haggis, neeps and tatties starter if you need to try it for your first time. Update: I’ve learned that Beehive changes their menu every six months, and both the cullin skink and the haggis, neeps and tatties are no longer available, or at least not at this time. Here’s hoping they bring them back onto their menu soon!
Finally, there’s City Restaurant, which is renowned for its fish and chips. You can either get a flaky or a crispy coating. My dad loves to get their salmon steak, which is easy for him to eat without his teeth.
All three restaurants have plenty of other options including burgers, soups and full haggis dinners. City Restaurant also has a selection of pizzas and pasta. I’ve never had them so I can’t comment.
I love Thai food. When I lived in Chiang Mai, Thailand for four months in 2017, I ate nearly every breakfast and lunch in the small hole in the wall restaurant behind my condo. The Khai Jiew (Thai omelet) was one of my favorite meals, and I’ll never get tired of Pad Thai. When I found a Thai restaurant just down the street from my flat, I couldn’t resist visiting, even if the prices are considerably more than the few pence I would pay in Thailand.
Thailander is run by Joe, his partner Somruedee and her son Game. Somruedee and Game are from Chiang Mai themselves and have brought their cooking skills to Edinburgh. While the ingredients in Edinburgh might not be identical to Thailand, there is a Thai market not far away where they get their spices, teas and other products. They also use Thai cooking implements like the big cast-iron woks over gas flames.
Obviously, my first dish there was Pad Thai, and I’ve returned several times to get it again. I’ve also tried their Pad Khao (with rice instead of noodles), satay, deep-fried prawns and even their mango sticky rice. Everything was delicious and reminiscent of Thailand. Sadly, I have to say the mangoes in the UK just aren’t the same as Thailand where they are so much softer and juicier. I’ve had a few cups of their Thai tea as well which prompted me to get my own bag from the market and learn how to perfect it at home.
Although advertising as a takeaway, Thailander is also a restaurant with three tables available. These do fill up so reservations are a good idea. Starters are £4.25 or £4.75, and meals range from £6 to £9. Hours are Tues-Fri 12-3 and 5-9:30 and on Saturday 5-10. Closed Sunday and Monday. Location: 25 Brougham St, Edinburgh EH3 9JT.
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For more budget options and restaurants in Edinburgh, here’s some further reading:
- Best Places to Eat in Edinburgh on a Budget
- How to Find the Best Brazilian Crepes in Edinburgh
- The Village Hotel in Edinburgh is So Much More Than a Hotel
- There’s a Cat Cafe in Edinburgh!
- Enjoying the Happiest Place in Scotland at Edinburgh’s Chihuahua Cafe
For other activities in Edinburgh:
- Begin Your Journey in Scotland with a Secret Food Tour in Edinburgh
- What the Da Vinci Code Didn’t Show You About Rosslyn Chapel
- Camera Obscura in Edinburgh Brings Out the Kid in You
- Experience the Underground Preservation of Mary King’s Close
- Escape Edinburgh: The Most Fun Activity in Edinburgh’s New Town
- Finding the Best Ghost Tours in Edinburgh
- 9 Free Attractions to Visit in Edinburgh
- 10 Activities for The Perfect Day Trip from Edinburgh
Here’s some extra reading to save hundreds on your next vacation or stage of your journey.
- 5 Steps to Book Cheap Flights
- Hostels: To Book or Not to Book
- Is Workaway Worth it for the Traveler?
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