The Fringe is almost over for another year (sob!) but here are our favourite places to dine in Edinburgh, whether you’re here during a festival or not.
Le Roi Fou
Le Roi Fou (which means ‘the mad king’) opened last spring to much acclaim, winning New Restaurant of the Year and Classic Cuisine Chef Of The Year at the Scottish Food Awards. Tucked away just off Broughton St in New Town. A calm, relaxed space awaits, with ‘salon bar’ at the front, and ‘bijou’ room at the back, altogether accommodating 30 diners. A red velvet bench lines one side of the room, pretty oil paintings dot the walls, and design touches such as light-wood chairs add a contemporary touch.
Run by French chef Jerome Henry, previously of Les Trois Garcons in London, there’s a tasting menu, a prix fixe pre-theatre menu (perfect during the Fringe) and a la carte. All make fine use of local ingredients – Isle of Skye scallops, Loch Fyne oysters, Hebridean salmon, Gigha halibut, fresh vegetables from wonderfully named Phantassie farm up the road. The sommelier is knowledgeable and chatty, and will point you in the direction of some stunning wines. I tried a stunning 2013 Bandol blanc, a 2014 Maury dessert wine, and a vinho verde from the Lima Valley in Portugal, which goes beautifully with the scallops. The skin-on ‘pommes frites’ were excellent – salty and moreish – and the profiterole-style bread that arrived with a Gruyere and tapenade butter was superb. Dessert options include classic affogato, Valrhona dark chocolate fondant and a cheese board of Scottish and Swiss cheeses with homemade biscuits. I’ve never seen Welsh rarebit on a dessert menu before, but it’s there, should your appetite not quite be sated. All in all, a must-visit whilst in town.
1 Forth Street, Edinburgh (0131 557 9346, www.leroifou.com)
Not for nothing does this Royal Mile bistro continue to be popular with critics and visitors. Since it opened in 2007, it’s won a raft of awards – not least Food & Travel magazine’s best UK restaurant outside London, as well as The Sunday Times’ top 100 UK restaurants. The philosophy of co-owner and head chef Paul Wedgwood has always been to create the perfect atmosphere, coupled with great food and service. Not many places succeed in this aim, or even get close, but Wedgwood hits the bullseye.
The ambience is relaxed, peaceful and convivial. The menu features plenty of local, wild and foraged ingredients, plus there’s a dedicated vegetarian and vegan menu for our plant-loving friends. And the wine list includes English, Portuguese, Corsican, Romanian and Hungarian labels, alongside the usual New World names. I particularly enjoyed a 2016 Bacchus from Albourne Estate in Sussex. There’s the option of ‘deciding time’ – a glass of champagne and canapes while you peruse the menu, which is such a good idea you wonder why all restaurants don’t follow suit. But it’s the service that’s the cherry on the cake. The staff run a very tight and happy ship, pulling all the strands together beautifully – managing to be chatty, friendly, knowledgeable and highly professional – just how you want them to be. Wedgwood deserves all the praise heaped on it, and you simply cannot visit Edinburgh without booking a table here.
Royal Mile, 267 Canongate, Edinburgh, EH8 8BQ (0131 558 8737, www.wedgwoodtherestaurant.co.uk)
Over in the portside neighbourhood of Leith, a short taxi ride from the city centre, is new kid on the block, Borough, where ex Norn chef Darren Murray whips up colourful, seasonal dishes with a twist, such as cep agnoletti, smoked haddock rarebit and venison with pumpkin and pepper sauce. Desserts include interesting flavour combinations such as strawberry, goats milk and sorrel, and custard tart with cherry and meadowsweet. The decor and look of the dishes wouldn’t look out of place in Scandinavia – contemporary, minimalist, with plenty of attention to detail.
Cocktails include the Borough Brooklyn Negroni, made with Brooklyn gin, and the wine list features a New Zealand pinot gris, a sparkling wine from Burgundy, and Montepulciano d’Abruzzo from Tullum, Italy. Independently owned and run, Borough has become a hit with locals and tourists alike since it opened this summer, so be sure to add it to your itinerary – you won’t regret the trip.
50-54 Henderson St, Leith, Edinburgh, EH6 6DE (0131 629 2525, www.boroughrestaurant.com)
This Mexican joint does excellent tacos. There are two branches in town – one on Thistle St and another on Teviot Place near the University. Be prepared to wait until a table becomes free.
Caravan and Saboteur
Two more good options on Teviot Place. Both restaurants do a ‘sun up’ and ‘sun down’ menus. Caravan is Thai, and Saboteur Vietnamese. Bother have a no reservation policy so be prepared to queue.
This coffee shop does one of the best flat whites in town – as well as delicious mint tea and salads. It gets very busy during the day, but come in the evening and enjoy a glass of wine on one of the comfy sofas. Has free wifi and workstations for laptoppers. I wish all coffee shops were like this.