Edinburgh: my favourite restaurants

by Alison Craig

Edinburgh is full of great restaurants to suit all budgets. Scottish food is world class and the restaurants highlighted here all have one thing in common - they are fabulous!

Geographically, my chosen restaurants are in two main areas - the heart of the city and the waterfront. Both are easily accessible, it really just depends on your mood. The central restaurants are a stroll from most city centre hotels and the waterfront area is just a short bus or taxi ride away. If you have time I would say do both during your stay as you will see that Edinburgh has many different facets and places to enjoy.

Urban Angel: modern with fab food

(1 Forth Street, Edinburgh; 0131 556 6323; www.urban-angel.co.uk)

Close to Edinburgh's main drag and right in the heart of the area known as the pink triangle, Urban Angel ticks all the boxes for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Seasonal and mainly organic food is produced in a clean, stylish urban environment. It is child friendly, hangover friendly and boasts top Bloody Marys to assuage the heaviest head and driest mouth. French toast with free range bacon and maple syrup, homemade cakes and muffins, homemade organic muesli, coffee and smoothies ensure the perfect start to any day; hangover or not. A blackboard displays daily specials. There is an even more urban Urban Angel in Hanover Street that is also excellent but this one wins out for its airy rooms which are perfect after a late night!

Urban Angel is open seven days a week but doesn't start serving alcohol until 12.30 on a Sunday.

The Shore: an Edinburgh favourite

(3 The Shore, Leith, Edinburgh; 0131 553 5080; www.theshore.biz)

The Shore is a genuine old watering hole with locals perched at the bar to prove it. This is an excellent bar overlooking Edinburgh's waterfront and the food is top notch. Choose between a bar table or a seat in the elegant intimate dining room complete with linen tables cloths and upholstered banquette reminiscent of another era. However, there is no pretention; The Shore is very relaxed indeed.

Robust comfort food is the order of the day including ham hock cakes with poached egg and hollandaise, a cracking steak and kidney pie and an excellent wine list including a selection bottled specially for the owners in South Africa! All this makes The Shore a local favourite well worth making the effort to find.

There is live music three nights a week and jazz on Sundays means you can while quite a few hours away in this lively atmospheric spot. Plus, £8.75 for a two course lunch is hard to beat. The Shore is open seven days a week.

Ondine: seafood and eat it

(2 George IV Bridge, Edinburgh EH1 1AD; 0131 226 1888; www.ondinerestaurant.co.uk)

Ondine serves seafood at its best. Situated next to the Missoni Hotel – but not connected – Ondine is a new addition to the Edinburgh dining scene. Proprietor and chef, Roy Brett, has made a real impact since opening in September last year having been a prodigy of food guru Rick Stein. The emphasis is on sustainability and they are well versed in exactly where every item has come from. Ondine also caters for the carnivores with cracking meat options too. You can stroll here from any centrally-located hotel and enjoy some of the best seafood Scotland has to offer. They do a good set lunch deal but if you can push the boat out – pun intended – this is your top port of call for a memorable dinner in Scotland's capital. Ondine is open seven days a week.

Harvey Nichols: a perfect summer venue

(4th Floor, 30-34 Saint Andrew Square, Edinburgh EH2 2AD; 0131 524 8388; www.harveynichols.com)

I confess I am generally not a fan of the big business offerings, but this is the exception. The location is superb and from this elevated position and glass walls you get remarkable views across the city as you enjoy some great food. There is a balcony which opens - a bonus on warm and sunny days - but with weather this unpredictable this is far from a dead cert.

Yo Sushi and Chocolate Lounge also reside on this floor but it's the Harvey Nichols 4th floor Brasserie you are aiming for, for great food in a lovely light, bright room.

Cent Otre: an all day favourite

(103 George Street EH2 3ES; 0131 225 1550; www.Centotre.com)

Originally a bank you will find this cracking restaurant/café in the centre of Edinburgh's popular George Street. Run by Victor and Carina Contini, part of the legendary Valvonna and Crolla family, this is modern Italian food at its best. Freshly made pastas, platters of antipasto, warm foccascia from the oven or a bowl of olives with a cold glass of Prosecco help banish all memories of a stodgy lasagne, artex walls and 'O Sole Mio' being delivered from a man with a rotating bow tie. It's not cheap but it has become an Edinburgh institution. Pavement tables go quickly - it's the perfect people watching spot. Booking is essential. Dinner costs from £35 lunch for two plus wine. Cent Otre is open seven days a week.

Restaurant Martin Wishart: my favourite Michelin-starred restaurant

(54 The Shore; 0131 553 3557)

Edinburgh has a few Michelin-starred restaurants. This one is my favourite. The restaurant itself is elegant, welcoming and the food stupifyingly good. It's a special occasion place but if you're here for a celebration weekend you could do no better than to treat yourselves to some food by this talented chef

£27 for a three course lunch of this standard is excellent value. Of course you can run riot with the tasting menu – what the hell – you're on holiday!

Café Fish: casual, fun, modern

(North West Circus Place,  Edinburgh EH6 6DE; 0131 225 4431; www.cafefish.net)

Moved from Leith to Stockbridge in Edinburgh's New Town - July 2011 - this restaurant serves fresh seasonal fish at great prices. Crab,
clams, creel-caught langoustine and diver scallops are among the items to tempt your palate and, at £10 for a two-course lunch, you'll have some money left over for their delicious house Sauvignon Blanc. Café Fish is in a traditional Edinburgh high-ceilinged room but the stainless steel bar and fittings give it a modern twist. Young, smiley staff, excellent value and well produced food make it worth the trip off the beaten track to find.

L'escargot Blanc: French bistro food at its best

(17 Queensferry Street EH2 4QW; 0131 226 1890; www.lescargotblanc.co.uk)

Come to Scotland and eat French bistro food at its best. This restaurant is great value for lunch or an early tea as they do a plat du jour for £7.50 which, value wise, is hard to beat. Meals are served in individual cast iron pans and casserole dishes. Beef, veal, game, fish are served and, in the case of their sister restaurant Le Petit Bleu in Broughton Street, horse! Oui! It's true. Homemade terrine arrives in a great slab with a small jar of home pickled gherkins to the side. Quaint, authentic and quite shocking when you leave and remember you are actually in Scotland not in the heart of rural France. Bon Appetit. L'escargot Blanc is open seven days a week.

Where to stay

The Bonham Hotel at 35 Drumsheugh Gardens is a 48 room boutique hotel owned and run by local businessman Peter Taylor. It is tucked away in the heart of Edinburgh's West End and is surprisingly tranquil despite being literally one minute's walk from where it all happens. This traditional Edinburgh townhouse building has a stylish and modern interior making it the perfect location for your trip to the city. An added bonus is that the Restaurant at The Bonham is a favourite with locals and visitors alike making eating in a pleasure. Rooms cost from £100 for two.

Alison Craig

I am a writer and broadcaster from Scotland. I have been lucky enough to live and work in Edinburgh for most of my adult life and I love it. Aesthetically I believe it to be the most beautiful city in Europe. Culturally rich, it is buzzing with great restaurants, bars and lively venues. Music, art, history and architecture are everywhere and, frankly, shopping is a joy. The choice is dazzling from the local cheesemonger, antique jewellery shop and hidden boutiques to the high-end world-renowned designer shops. It’s all here and what’s more I’ve made it my business and passion to know where you can find the Edinburgh that interests and excites you. You can enjoy Edinburgh on a shoestring or a Platinum card once you have the information...it’s entirely up to you. http://alisonsdiary.com is my daily blog, all about Edinburgh Scotland and life!

My Edinburgh

Where I always grab a hot drink: There are endless choices but for a top skinny latte with homemade cakes my favourite is Cent Otre on George Street. Situated in a converted bank building, it has a sense of grandeur as well as some remarkably tasty cupcakes and a zingy atmosphere thanks to the warm Italian hospitality that abounds.

My favourite stroll: If the weather allows, I love to walk along the Water of Leith, starting at Stockbridge and heading towards the Modern Art Gallery - you could be in the middle of the countryside. Keep an eye out for the Antony Gormley sculptures en route and the resident heron.

If it’s too darn cold and wet, The National Gallery on the mound in the centre of Princes Street has a permanent stunning collection of art with a top class coffee shop and gallery shop to browse too. When the weather clears, you are in the heart of everything.

Where to be seen: In Harvey Nichols' cocktail bar all year round. On warm days, on Oloroso roof terrace and dancing in Lulu.

The most breathtaking view: From Edinburgh Castle ramparts, the top of Calton Hill or Arthur's Seat. Both Calton Hill and Arthur's Seat take a bit of puff to get to and if time is tight then head for the Castle from where the city of Edinburgh is laid out at your feet.

The best spot for some peace and quiet: The Royal Botanic Gardens are stunning and are a lovely place to sit and watch the world go by. There are several vantage points from where you can look out over the city if gazing at your navel becomes tedious.

Shopaholics beware: So many shops, so little time! If you are restricted to one day, go along Thistle Street from end to end, back along George Street, along Rose Street and finish on Princes Street. Phew! End to end shops, all in a square mile - great.

Don’t leave without...walking top to bottom or bottom to top of The Royal Mile with Edinburgh Castle at one end and Holyrood Palace at the other. Right along this street you will find myriad treasures architecturally and culturally as well as some eccentric quirky little shops for this and that.