Edinburgh’s culinary scene is ever-evolving. More Michelin star chefs are moving in while eclectic independent eateries set trendy precedents for savvy foodies. There’s no shortage of high-end, fine dining options, whether in grand historic settings or tucked away in the city’s charming nooks and crannies. Here’s where to find the best meal experiences in the Scottish capital.
Number One Balmoral
For the ultimate in sartorial elegance, the Balmoral is Edinburgh’s go-to spot. The large hotel envelops you before you’ve even entered, from its prestigious location at the top of Princes Street and North Bridge. Its premier restaurant gained a Michelin star in 2003 and has four AA rosettes. Number One’s modern Scottish menu had been developed by Chef Mark Macdonald. Art and design are central to the restaurant’s ambience. The striking lacquered walls are a bold red and yellow textile accents add vibrancy, contrasted by soft grey woollen upholstery.
Follow more of Edinburgh’s Michelin stars out of the city centre and to Leith, where some of the best eateries lie. Tom and Michaela Kitchin set up on the waterfront in 2006, followed by a swift succession of plaudits and prizes. Their philosophy ‘from nature to plate’ ensures an ever-changing selection of seasonal dishes. As well as a la carte and affordable lunch menus, the chef offers a ‘surprise tasting menu’ and celebration of the season. Game, fish and seafood are all locally sourced highlights, including lobster freshly caught in almost doorstep waters. The interior is dark, sophisticated and designed not to pull focus from the magnificent food.
It’s fine food with a regal view at Castle Terrace, a sister restaurant of The Kitchin, with the same overarching philosophy. Chef Patron Dominic Jack has brought his French training and experience to Scotland with a menu that’s creative and full of surprises. Imaginative dishes like fish and shellfish lasagna with langoustine bisque delight and tasting menus are available for both meat and fish lovers and vegetarian diners. The colour scheme is muted with warm brown hues, while the bar area offers cosy armchairs and a wood stove. Visitors love the location, as it sits nestled beside Edinburgh Castle.
Staying in the Shore area of Leith, you’ll find another big player on the Michelin starred foodie scene. Wishart was born in the city but has trained under Albert Roux, Michael Roux Jnr and Marco Pierre White. The cooking style is classically French – expect lots of feather-light souffle. And menus range from four courses to eight, as well as a lighter lunch option and wine pairing suggestions (discovery or classic). For those who like to be clued up on their cuisine, the restaurant holds occasional cookery demos, such as ‘learn then lunch’. There’s more muted decor here – soft greys, whites and contemporary wood panelling all helping to draw focus to the plate.
The grand Georgian architecture of Edinburgh’s New Town is perfect to house fine dining establishments such as Paul Kitching’s five-star establishment. The 38 seater restaurant boasts many period features alongside contemporary yet sumptuous furnishings. There are never more than three choices per course here, but as these change weekly, it’s a brand new experience every time. The unusual dish names such as Paul’s Been to Cordoba, Aries the Ram and Hot Dog Fish appeal to many diners in search of a quirky approach. And if you can make an overnighter of it, there’s the option to book one of the onsite bedrooms.
This is an intimate hidden contemporary-styled gem and recently awarded a Michelin Star, tucked away where the Old Town meets Southside. During the day, light pours into the airy whitewashed room from the large skylight. Condita has six tables and food is prepared for the number of diners booked in (no walk-ins allowed). The vibe is leisurely, so expect to be in for the night, as you soak up the experience, rather than having a quick bite. The range of organic wines is a boon, as well as the pre-dinner method Champagne. Presentation is imaginative, with meals arriving on pebbles, wooden spoons and artfully arranged. Much of the produce comes from a walled-garden in the Borders, which accounts for the proliferation of perfectly fresh herbs.
The Little Chartroom
Another charmingly teeny contemporary restaurant is The Little Chartroom. As its name suggests, there’s a nautical theme going on, with striking blues contrasting with crisp white rustic walls, tongue and groove and wooden furniture. Ahead of the lunchtime session, brunch seekers can pop in for some divine Puddledub bacon, a mimosa or a Rwandan batch brew coffee. The menu’s eclectic and contemporary, with some international influences. The Little Chartroom is upmarket, yet bohemian and a little bit hipster, placing it perfectly for Edinburgh’s discerning younger foodies who prefer to stray from the mainstream Michelin star path.
An exciting concept from chef Sean Clark, The Table is Edinburgh’s first interactive fine dining restaurant. All guests sit together and face the kitchen – not each other. Two chefs cook the food for the single sitting of the night and encourage conversation and questions about the preparation. This place doesn’t cater for tastes, allergies, dietary requirements or dislikes – so don’t ask to swap your side. But then that’s the charm of it. The menu is set, with multiple courses called things like ‘Golden Wonder Cheese and Onion’, ‘Oh Deer’ and ‘Werther’s Not Original’. Not only is the food exemplary, but it’s also the coolest place in town to eat.