Take me to Edinburgh!
With an ever-evolving, innovative and exciting culinary scene packed full of rich culture, heritage and only the finest locally sourced ingredients, Edinburgh has no shortage of culinary expeditions for those looking to immerse themselves in a true journey of flavour. Whether you’re searching for a fine dining culinary experience or to eat at one of the capital city’s trendiest street-food locations – Edinburgh truly has it all.
From popular, crowd-pleasing favourites like Dishoom to hidden gems like El Cartel, there are incalculable amounts of top-notch eateries tucked away amongst the cobbled ‘nooks and crannies’ of this charming medieval city. Ranging from high-end, premium dining locations to casual, buzzing spots for the savvy food lovers amongst us, here is Panoptic’s take on some of the very best dining experiences the capital has to offer.
Ting Thai Caravan
It would simply be criminal to write an Edinburgh food guide without mentioning the hidden – or not so hidden – gem that is Ting Thai Caravan. First firing up their woks in 2012 at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Ting Thai Caravan’s unrivalled authentic Thai street food quickly rose to success after they opened their Teviot Place restaurant. The family of Thai chefs have since opened a second sister restaurant on the same street, named Saboteur, serving up S.E Asian and Vietnamese dishes and launched a second Ting Thai Caravan – which can be found on Lothian Road. Word on the street is that they are venturing to Glasgow next…
It’s industrial interior complete with exposed brick walls and ceiling pipes, canteen-style dining furniture and fun electronic wall fixtures only compliment its reputation as one of Edinburgh’s edgiest spots and make for a relaxed and fun dining experience for its guests. The fresh, vibrant and unmatched flavours of this much loved Edinburgh eatery make it an absolute must visit when in the city.
Arguably home to Edinburgh’s very best pad thai, Ting Thai’s exciting menu features inventive small plates and drool-worthy mains, with their twist on traditional Thai cuisines typically found on the streets of Thailand. Top picks include the ‘Moo Yang’ – caramelised sticky pork with sesame, honey, coriander, palm sugar, nam pla and chilli pickle; ‘Khao Mun Gai Tod’ – shallow fried battered chicken with ginger, chilli, grated coconut, cucumber and shallot ajard, two brothers sauce and jasmine rice; and finally, the ‘Gaeng Pha Talay’ – a spicy red jungle curry with king prawns, mussels, squid and hold basil, green peppercorn, kra chai, chilli, long bean, babycorn, lime leaves and nam pla.
Central to Ting Thai Caravan’s manta is authenticity – it’s intimate, casual and quirky approach to dining paired with its unbeatable fresh, vibrant flavours and ridiculously reasonable prices make this the ultimate spot for savvy food lovers amongst us. Oh – and don’t forget to order the sweet potato crispies and fresh roti with chilli jam massaman on the side!
Set up on the waterfront of Leith in 2006, The Kitchen earned its first Michelin star just one year later amongst several other prestigious awards including ‘Best Restaurant in Scotland’ and ‘Best UK Restaurants’. With a philosophy of ‘from nature to plate’ at its core – The Kitchen celebrates the freshest, finest Scottish seasonal produce and its passion for Scottish culture and heritage shines through its innovative plates. It’s sophisticated, subdued interior with subtle hints of teal and a huge window pane which allows diners to peer into the working kitchen makes the perfect atmosphere for letting the flavourful food take centre stage. Did we mention, it is owned by the youngest winner of a Michelin star – Tom Kitichin, who is also the head chef.
Offering diners a contemporary gastronomic experience of seasonal British cuisine heavily influenced by Scottish heritage, premium quality ingredients and French cooking techniques, The Kitchen has an ever-changing array of seasonal plates featuring locally sourced fish, seafood and game. Although, the real show stopper here is The Kitchin’s ‘Surprise Tasting Menu’ – whereby diners are invited on a journey through the unique seasonal Scottish larder and its produce.
With its close attention to detail, strong emphasis on flavour and premium ingredients – the delicately prepared and beautifully presented dishes served up are the ultimate treat for food lovers looking to immerse themselves in a gastronomic expedition which pays homage to the true flavours of Scotland. Is it worth the trip out of the city centre to the sunny shores of Leith? Most definitely.
Located on the buzzing, trendy George Street in central Edinburgh, BABA can be found adjoined to the corner of the Kimpton Charlotte Square Hotel. However, this mezze, charcoal grill and cocktail bar is most certainly a George Street dining institution in its own right. Inspired by the vibrant and fresh flavours of the Levant, BABA’s take on Levantine cuisine offers guests a unique, incredibly moreish dining experience designed to be shared with friends and family. It’s colourful, quirky Lebanese-inpsired interior studded with greens, turquoises, burnt oranges and topaz, complete with rustic communal tables, bold textiles and wall fixtures make you feel as though you have left Edinburgh and been transported straight to the Middle East. BABA combines flavours from the Middle East with a Scottish twist, serving up inventive, robust and tempting small plates alongside unique, delicate cocktails.
Utilising vibrant flavours and only the freshest ingredients like pomegranate, harissa, tahini and rose – Baba’s innovative small plates are made for sharing but you might just want to keep them all to yourself. From mezze plates like their signature baba ganoush with pomegranate and mint; to their beetroot hummus with whipped feta and pistachio dukkah; to plates from the charcoal grill like their slow-cooked lamb shoulder with rose harissa, preserved lemon, mint and pomegranate – you can see why sharing these moreish plates could be a struggle. If the sound of those hasn’t got your mouth watering already, this Lebanese institution also offers a selection of tempting sides including their blackened sweet potato with saffron creme fraiche and harissa; and their heritage tomatoes with mint, pistachio and pomegranate molasses.
Enticing both locals and tourists alike since its opening, BABA’s signature earthy, full rounded and colourful flavours bring diners back time and time again. Aromatic, fresh and super tasty – BABA’s moreish plates combined with its vibrant and bold interior make it the perfect spot for those looking for a unique and fun dining experience. Looking to immerse your taste buds in a taste sensation? You know where to go. In the words of BABA – mix, match and don’t be shy about sharing!
Tacos, tequila and good vibes – well-established eatery El Cartel is the perfect relaxed and friendly spot for pretty much any occasion – from casual lunch dates to those celebrations that just call for some margaritas. Now home to not one, not two, but THREE restaurants; the original El Cartel can be found tucked away on Thistle Street, while its sister restaurants can be located on the buzzing Teviot Place and the charming Old Town’s Roxburgh Court. The authentic, colourful decor of these institutions studded with bright blues and ruby reds make El Cartel effortlessly fun, vibrant and cool. Their Thistle Street venue even boasts Gothic stained glass windows adorned with bottles of mezcal to really complete the look.
This innovative Mexican street food style eatery serves up some of the most sensational Mexican dishes made for sharing, paired with authentic Mexican beers and must-try margaritas. Not only is sharing style, small plate dining a fun and exciting way of eating, but it’s also perfect for those who struggle to choose just one dish off a menu, and trust us – you will want to try every single one of El Cartel’s!
Their signature hand-pressed tacos are an absolute must-try – our favourites include the duck carnitas – crispy confit duck leg with jalapeno, roast pineapple and pecan salsa; and the baja cod – battered cod with pomegranate, adobo crema and pico de gallo. However, the tacos aren’t the only thing that brings its loyal diners back. El Cartel also serve up a selection of innovative, mouth-watering ‘antojitos’ made for sharing, including charred street corn on the cob with crema, mayo, chile and hard sheep’s cheese; and fried chamoy chicken wings with apricot and lime glaze to name a few.
Whatever you do, don’t leave this place without trying their iconic guacamole. Perfectly ripe avocado studded with juicy pomegranate seeds which compliment the salty sheep’s cheese generously crumbled on top – this isn’t your standard guac and chips – instead it’s served up with crunchy plantain chips ideal for scooping up that moreish dip. Their constant rotation of innovative frozen margarita flavours are also a must – sunshine yellow apricot and tangy blood orange are among our favourites.
Trust us on this one, if you’re taking a trip to the capital city and are a lover of the fresh, colourful and tempting flavours of Mexico – El Cartel is a gastronomic Mexican street food institution that is not to be missed.
Situated on the bustling St Andrew Square alongside many other well-established eateries like The Hawksmoor and The Ivy, it’s safe to say this final recommendation is not quite a hidden gem… it is no secret that Dishoom is an incredibly popular crowd-pleaser. This Bombay cafe entices flocks of tourists and locals alike all year round with its inventive style of cooking and use of fresh, fragrant ingredients that pay homage to the old Irani cafes of Bombay. Seriously, it’s incredibly rare to see this place without a queue of eager diners lined up at the entrance waiting patiently to grab the next available table.
From their iconically rich, dark and deeply flavoured “house black daal” which is simmered over 24 hours for extra harmony; to their tempting and flavourful chicken berry biryani which pays homage to Britannia’s chicken berry pulao – a slow-cooked, aromatic pot of chicken, ginger, garlic, mint, coriander and rice; to their rich, silky chicken ruby curry redolent with spice and flavour – Dishoom’s menu is full of mouth-watering, robust and flavoursome dishes with a satisfying kick for the spice lovers amongst us.
Oh, and if that hasn’t got you drooling at the mouth, Dishoom’s all day menu isn’t the only thing that gets this old Irani institution booked up weeks in advance. Their unique, innovative and quite frankly delicious breakfast menu offers diners everything from authentic Bombay breakfast staples to British favourites with an Iranian twist, like their naan breakfast rolls – hand baked to order in the tandoori oven, Dishoom’s naans are graced with cream cheese, chilli tomato jam and fresh herbs, to be wrapped around your choice of smoked Ayrshire bacon, cracked black pepper Shropshire sausages, fried eggs with saffron-yellow, runny yolks or spicy vegan sausages… Ok, our mouths are drooling too now. Oh, and don’t forget to order a side of the masala beans with that.
So, next time you’re in the city, take yourself (and your taste buds) on a gastronomic expedition back to old Irani and explore the rich, fresh and fragrant flavours of Bombay.
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