(Cambridge Street, EH1. Tel: 0131 221 1222)
Blue lacks the fizz that it had when it opened and the modern, stylish interior is no longer so unusual in Edinburgh. But the food remains pretty good and the location is excellent for the Usher Hall and Lyceum Theatre. It's one of those useful places where you can go and have a quick bite or a full meal.
Ye Olde Peacock Inn
(Newhaven Village, EH6. Tel: 0131 552 8707)
On the seafront, almost opposite Edinburgh's now defunct outlet of the "Harry Ramsden" chain is this pub where discerning locals go for Fish and Chips. The chips are a bit soggy, one gets a horrible mixture of peas and sweetcorn as an accompaniment, but the fish itself is top-quality.
(99-101, Dalry Road, EH1. Tel: 0131 313 4404)
Decent food on Dalry Road! Hard to believe but just opposite the excellent La Partenope (see below) is this little cafe serving modern "blue-style" food at very reasonable prices. It was not at all bad, but we have not been for some time.
The Scottish Cafe and Restaurant
(The National Gallery, Edinburgh, EH2. Tel: 0131 226 6524)
Victor and Carina Contini (of Centotre) are now involved in this. It must be worth a try, but we haven't yet.
(121, Hanover Street, EH2. Tel: 0131 225 6215)
Just south of Queen Street, a small basement entrance conceals a substantial seating capacity in this cafe-cum-restaurant. They make a lot of their fair-trade and organic sourcing but it's not just lentils: there's Buccleuch beef and other top-class meat too. We really enjoyed a recent lunch of Tapas - it's one of those "anything from a snack to a full meal" outfits. The food is generally good although the service can be rather lax.
(24, Deanhaugh Street, Stockbridge EH4. Tel: 0131 332 0414)
Tiny, friendly basement restaurant serving mediterranean food. There's a real chef cooking fresh ingrediants and most of it is reasonably well done - not bad for the area, but not inspiring either. This was a good option when they were BYOB but now they have a license.
The Bon Vivant
(55, Thistle Street EH2 1DY Tel: 0131 225 3275)
What a pleasure to find properly cooked food without huge pretensions at a very reasonable price. A recent meal included small portions of black pudding, lovel arancini and a nicely-balanced lamb stew that had been properly degreased. There is a sensible wine list too with a fair selection of Champagne.
If you are looking for a light lunch in the New Town, don't forget Glass and Thompson under Cafes below. Also, don't forget Valvona and Crolla under Italian Restaurants.
Several pubs on the shore at Leith serve more or less reasonable food, particularly fish. Most are open on Sundays.
More Expensive Restaurants
(10 Cambridge Street, EH1. Tel: 0131 228 8882)
Like many places, this has been up and down a little over the years, but on average it has been one of the better serious eating options in town over the last decade or so. Conveniently central too.
Restaurant Martin Wishart
(54 The Shore, Leith. Tel: 0131 553 3557)
The food and service remain very good, although Martin is spreading himself around a bit more with his Cooking School and a venture on Loch Lomond. We hope this does not effect standards here. It is modern British cooking with quite a lot of shellfish, foie gras and other luxury ingredients. Wine mark-ups are hefty but the growers are well-chosen and one can drink quite well without absolutely breaking the bank.
(The Vaults, 87 Giles Street, EH6. Tel: 0131 554 6767)
In a gorgeous old building in the port of Leith, this has changed hands again recently. The new owner is a whisky enthusiast and collector of great note. There is a new chef in place, and the standard remains pretty high.
(31 Jeffrey Street, EH1. Tel: 0131 557 3032)
Jean Michel Gauffre has decided to return to the stove having been executive chef at a top city hotel. His restaurant specialising in the food of the Languedoc fills a gap in the city: it is not trying to serve smart, intricate dishes, but rather traditional French country food made from high-quality ingredients.
Cafe St. Honore
(34 Thistle St Lane North, EH2. Tel: 0131 226 2211)
Just makes it into the serious eater section - a bit cheaper than some, but a decent dinner usually - although we have not been for a long time. This made an appearance in one of Ian Rankin's Rebus thrillers.
(Balmoral Hotel, Princes St. EH1. Tel: 0131 557 8740)
We hear that Jeff Bland is still cooking very well here although the location in the basement can be a bit soulless. This is still one of the top couple of places in the city.
Harvey Nichols Fourth Floor
(30-34 St Andrews Square, EH2. Tel: 0131 524 8350)
Quite an ambitious restaurant with stunning views in an area of town where decent meals are not so easy to find. The standard here is pretty decent, if not quite among the best of the city. The wine list is extensive and expensive, but at the time of writing all wine above 13.50 is available for retail price on Tuesday evenings. There is also a "bistro area" with a cheaper, less ambitious menu.
(78 Commercial Quay, Leith, EH6. Tel: 0131 555 1755)
This is really very serious competition to the nearby Martin Wishart, and some feel it benefits from the Chef's being in the kitchen most of the time. Really first-class food meriting its Michelin star. Lunch is a bargain.
(2 George IV Bridge, EH1, Tel: 0131 226 1888 )
Roy Brett, who had a good reputation at "Dakota" is now right in the centre of town. This is a seafood restaurant with a couple of meat courses, and the execution with fish is very, very good.
Glass and Thompson
(Dundas Street, EH3. Tel: 0131 557 0909/9888)
Reliable Italianate snack menu, with olive oil on the table. Smartly designed place, with newspapers to read, and it serves one of the few really decent coffees. Good place for Sunday lunch.
The Elephant House
(21 George IV Bridge, EH1. Tel: 0131 220 5355)
Lots of elephants, and coffee of a sort. Worth it, just about, for the view of the castle, but they are a bit inclined towards playing continual loud Muzak.
(Rose Lane, Stockbridge, North Bridge, etc)
The best of the chains by a way for coffee - and indeed rather better coffee than everything else in town except one or two places we mention.
National Gallery of Modern Art and the Portrait Gallery
Don't forget these if you are looking for a decent light lunch. The first is a little out of the centre (but there is a pleasant walk to it along the Water of Leith) and the second very central, on Queen Street just by St Andrews Square.
(37 St Stephen's Street, EH3. Tel: 0131 226 7533)
This little cafe cum deli is tucked away in Stockbridge - an area with an abundance of lunching places, but almost none we feel more than luke-warm about. Spiro is great: there's a fixed selection of Panini (well worth trading up to the foccacia I feel since the standard bread is a little weak) and a couple of soups and salads of the day. Everything is simple, made from fresh ingredients and is completely honest. You can just tell that the owners know and care about food.
Wellington Coffee, Press Coffee, Kilimanjaro
(33A George St EH2, 30 Buccleuch St EH8, 104 Nicolson St EH8 respectively)
The espresso revolution has hit Edinburgh. These three cafés are under the same ownership, they are using coffee from Square Mile Roasters, as favoured by lots of top London estblishments, and the quality is a way above what we have had before in the city.
(27 Simpson Loan, Edinburgh, EH3)
This Swedish café around the central University area is a splendid addition to the Edinburgh scene. Brilliant bread baked on the premises, and soups and sandwiches too. The ice cream is great in the Summer.
Valvona & Crolla
(18 Elm Row, EH7. Tel: 0131 556 6066)
The Italian deli Valvona & Crolla is a great Edinburgh tradition. The café seems less exciting than when it first opened - we feel it is less consistent and perhaps other places have caught up too.
Valvona and Crolla Vincaffe
(11 Multrees Walk, Edinburgh EH1. Tel: 0131 557 0088) J
Just by Harvey Nichols, V&C's town centre restaurant and cafe has served us some good meals, but we do get the feeling too that somebody needs to be keeping more of an eye on standards. The food in the restaurant is not necessarily complicated, but well-executed Italian dishes made simply from really good ingredients. Not cheap, but very good. The wine list is excellent, with relatively reasonable mark-ups so one can drink pretty well too. There is a good range by the glass too, with open bottles preserved by a high-tech inert gas system. The cafe on the ground floor is good for a quick snack and a glass of wine or just a coffee.
(103 George Street EH2, Tel: 0131 225 1550)
Italian Cafe serving a range of mainly simple dishes (pizzas, etc) and a few hot dishes of the day. We have heard the occasional moan from friends but when we have gone we have had usually had a good meal. A dish of grilled butterflied Langoustines on our last visit was delicious.
(8, Conference Square, EH3. Tel: 0131 221 7789)
Very serious, rather expensive, but very high-quality Italian food. There is a cafe area too with less ambitious food at more reasonable prices. Thisis another place we have not visited for a while and so are not sure how it is doing these days.
(14 North West Circus Place, EH3. Tel: 0131 220 0333)
Victor and Carina of Centotre now have a Cafe in Stockbridge. The food can be pretty good, but the quality is a bit mixed.
Beware of Italian restaurants in Edinburgh; it is mostly overcooked, supermarket pasta with regulation Brit-Ital sauces. One that stood out a bit from the crowd was Librizzis but we haven't been there for a good while. Beyond this, Hanover Street has a mass of pizza and pasta joints serving the usual cliches to about the usual, poor standard.
Dusit Thai Restaurant
(49a Thistle Street EH2, Tel: 0131 220 6846)
This is just the best Thai food we have eaten in Edinburgh, and we haven't had much better anywhere else. Fresh, clear flavours are evident in every dish and we get the sense that high-quality ingredients are being used. This perhaps has elements of Thai-fusion rather than plain traditional Thai and it is none the worse for it.
Songkran Thai Restaurant
(24a Stafford Street, EH3. Tel: 0131 225 7889 and Gloucester Street, Stockbridge, EH4. Tel 0131 225 4804)
These two restaurants provide a pretty good Thai meal in about the usual British way. Certainly they are good and perhaps just a bit better that we have had recently from the very decent "Siam Erewan".
(48 Howe Street, EH3. Tel: 0131 226 3675)
The menu seems to stay much the same but style changes a bit, presumably as chefs come and go. Generally pretty decent Thai food. The cheap and cheerful "Erewan Express" in Rose Lane does a decent lunch too. We hear reasonable reports of their new venture just off St Andrews Square, too.
We've not been eating Indian out for a while but we've heard Khushi's recommended.
(45 St. Patricks Square, EH8. Tel: 0131 662 1807)
An alternative to Kalpna just across the road. Similar quality, different style (and no buffet lunch).
(9 Hanover Street, EH2. Tel: 0131 225 2131)
Ancient Edinburgh Institution that is perhaps not what it once was. We once overheard someone ask: "Could you tell me what is in the courgette and butter bean bake", which sums it up quite well. Large array of healthy looking vegetarian dishes, that don't always look appetising to the carnivore.
(2/3 St Patricks Square, EH8. Tel: 0131 667 9890)
Another Edinburgh favourite that periodically appears in the national press, and seems to maintain its high standards year after year. Buffet lunch for five pounds is a bargain too. (Better by far than most of the non-veggy Indians.)
David Bann (56-58 St Mary's St, EH1. Tel: 0131 556 5888)
More or less serious restaurant prices for a pretty good vegetarian version of fine food. A lot of dishes tend towards oriental or at least fusion cooking. The style is quite individual with some odd mixtures, some of which work well, others a bit less so. Overall, worth a try, particularly if your tastes tend towards the vegetarian. The wine list is not inspiring.
Fine Food Shops
(30a Victoria Street EH1, 205 Bruntsfield Place EH10, Kerr Street EH4)
Iain Mellis is one of Britains foremost Cheesemongers and all the shops have a fantastic selection of British and Irish cheeses in peak condition. The Bruntsfield and Stockbridge (Kerr Street) stores also have continental cheeses and a good range bacon, hams and salamis, and other groceries.
Shaw's (formally Ian Proudfoot)
(6 Learmonth Avenue, EH4. Tel: 0131 315 2056)
Not everybody even has a local butcher now, and we are very lucky to have this shop. The lamb and beef are excellent, at least partly because they are properly hung. Pheasant and venison are also first class. Recently taken over but there still seems to be a comitment to quality.
Valvona & Crolla
(19 Elm Row, EH7. Tel: 0131 556 6066)
Famous Edinburgh Italian delicatessen, not cheap for everything, but a great collection to browse in. Good coffee and a huge selection of top Italian wines. Also good for lunch - see above.
The Farmers Market (Saturday mornings, Castle Terrace)
There are some good stalls here that we visit most weeks. Craig's Tomatos (in season) and Ballencrief Pork are excellent. We are huge fans of Carrols Heritage Potatoeshttp://www.heritage-potatoes.co.uk, particularly the Red Duke of Yorks and the Shetland Blacks. If you visit, don't fail to try some freshly cooked potato crisps from the Crisp Hut (http://www.crisphut.com) - these are special dieters crisps: once you have tried them you can no longer eat any others.
Herbies (66 Raeburn Place, Stockbridge, Edinburgh. Tel. 0131 332 9888)
Really pleasant little neighbourhood deli. Excellent very rare roast beef and lots more.