Bars, Restaurants and Entertainment in Edinburgh
Finding somewhere to have a drink in Edinburgh, or as the Scots say “have a wee swallie”, is one of the easiest things to do; regardless of whether you want a quiet drink in a local, a sophisticated wine bar or a full-blown ‘anything goes’ party atmosphere. The same is true for restaurants with cheap eating places in the student areas of the city, a swathe of good value mid-priced restaurants throughout the city and some of the best and most expensive cuisine in Scotland also on offer. Apart from the international festival in the summer there are always top class shows, plays and gigs on offer in this capital city.
Pubs and Bars:
The Bow Bar is in the Grassmarket area of the Old Town on West Bow. The fact that it is mentioned in just about all the guide books going means that this is a place you can rely on. Originally brewed here as a ‘house-beer’, the pub is famous for being the home of Deuchars IPA, now produced by the Caledonian Brewery. However, my reason for drinking here is that they serve Timothy Taylor Landlord as well. Being only a one-room bar the place is very popular and can get very busy, so if you want to have a session there - get in early to claim a seat. In the New Town area and famous for being the favourite place for “Inspector Rebus” to have a tipple, the Oxford Bar on Young Street is another small drinking venue in the city. Located just off Charlotte Square, inside it is laid out like a Victorian parlour and has ‘Robbie Burns’ memorabilia all over the place. Ian Rankin is reputed to drink their regularly and you can contribute to story lines on the pubs website. Heading north away from the city centre on Cumberland Street is the Cumberland Bar. It claims to pour the ‘best pint’ in Edinburgh, which might be to do with the fact that they still have- and use - some of the traditional Scottish tall fount pumps. This is a split-level bar in a Victorian tenement, there are usually several guest beers but best of all - this is another venue for a pint of ‘Landlord’.
Whilst the Scotsman and the Balmoral hotels have excellent restaurants and top-class chefs if I were to eat in an Edinburgh hotel restaurant I would choose the Witchery by the Castle every time. With two restaurants to choose from - the Secret Garden and the Inner Sanctum - I prefer the Secret Garden, especially on a crisp autumn or winter evening when the lighting effects can be appreciated at their best. The food is, of course, equally good in either restaurant and you can get a three course meal for under £40 a head, excluding drinks, but if you need to budget for a meal out then perhaps this isn’t the place to go. The wine list is as comprehensive as the menu. Whilst you can get a good wine with your meal for around £30 the wine list has over 1000 available bins. At the Balmoral Hotel you could have Michelin starred chef James Bland cook for you, three course dinners here start at around £60 a head, again excluding drinks. Whilst the wine list includes a 1988 Chateau Le Pin at a staggering £1000 a bottle the thought of a 1993 Tokay Pinot Gris Clos Jebsal at £135 a bottle is tempting. As for the Scotsman Hotel, I think the thought that they have a room with 399 malt whiskies to choose from - is probably a compelling reason for visiting there at some point.
Top of the range restaurants that have more accessible prices are; the Atrium restaurant on Cambridge Street, where a three course dinner can be had for under £30; here the roast duck is a house speciality. Alternatively you could try the Restaurant Martin Wishart at The Shore, Leith. No guesses for who the chef is here, but again he’s Michelin starred and well known for his game and fish dishes.
If you fancy getting out of the city then a visit to the Cramond Inn, in the suburb of Cramond on the banks of the river Almond is a great place to have a lunch-time meal and a drink. Top class ‘home-cooking’ and an atmosphere that is a sheer joy. Back in the city, David Bann’s on St Mary’s Street is a popular restaurant with vegetarian diners.
It is simply not possible to list all the entertainment venues and opportunities for this capital city. However, top off the list must be the Edinburgh Festivals and the best known Edinburgh International Festival which is held annually in August. If you seek something more energetic then Edinburgh is home to the best “drum’n’bass” nights in Scotland at the Honeycomb club on Niddry Street. Alternatively, Henry’s Jazz Cellar on Morrison Street is all you could wish for in a jazz club, being in a small and dark basement. With plenty of indoor and outdoor arenas the big touring bands can always be accommodated. Edinburgh has four main permanent theatres: The Edinburgh Festival Theatre, The Royal Lyceum, The Stand and The Traverse. The Festival Theatre on Nicolson Street is the main one and produces shows ranging from: drama, ballet, opera and dance to folk concerts.