Almost impossible to imagine five years ago but Leith’s Great Junction Street is becoming one of Edinburgh’s food and drink hotspots. As well as The Little Chartroom restaurant and Mistral bar and wine shop on nearby Bonnington Road, both Razzo pizzeria on Great Junction Street and Bittersweet aperitivo bar on Henderson Street offer something different. The same could be said of Aurora. Having started life as a decent bistro, it has morphed into a contemporary, even experimental, boutique restaurant offering innovative, seasonal tasting menus. Unexpected flavour combinations are a key motif here. Think crab, chimichurri, corn and watermelon or Ethiopian beef tartare with plantain and malt. Around £120 per person for tasting menu and matched alcoholic drinks.
187 Great Junction Street. Tel: 0131 554 5537
The Little Chartroom
Arguably the hottest culinary ticket in town, The Little Chartroom has stepped up a gear since moving from Leith Walk to Bonnington Road. Thoughtfully sourced, carefully devised and beautifully presented by chef Roberta Hall-McCarron, the dishes are always an enjoyable talking point. A typical starter might be mushroom custard with shimeji, hazelnut, wild garlic and leek followed by beef with watercress, hashbrown, haggis and rainbow chard. Or cod with elderflower butter sauce, peas, Jersey Royals and nori. Expect to pay around £100 a head for a three course dinner with paired wine. If getting a booking proves difficult, try Eleanore. Run by the same team, it is The Little Chartoom’s successor in their former Leith Walk premises.
14 Bonnington Road. Tel: 0131 556 6600
There are a number of ways to experience Heron on The Shore in Leith. You could go the whole hog and order the tasting menu plus matched wine, from £130 per person. Or you could go lounge lizard and sip a Negroni Bianco while grazing from the bar snack menu. Think monkfish cheek with koji and bonito or some cured meats from East Coast charcuterie. There is also an a la carte menu. Whichever option you choose, don’t miss out on the sourdough with brown crab butter.
As is fashionable at the moment, the menus list ingredients for each dish – cod, mussels, cider kohlrabi would be typical – but give little away about the preparation or manner of cooking. A dinner last year indicated a confident hand in the kitchen and dishes that made the most of seasonal produce. On that visit, a stand-out starter of veal sweetbreads, girolles and celeriac purée with veal jus made a stunning celebration of autumn.
87-91a Henderson Street. Tel: 0131 554 1242
Stuart Ralston’s flagship restaurant in the Garden Room at The Kimpton Charlotte Square is named after the Scots word for a glowing ember or spark. Having sparked into life in 2014, Aizle rose quickly into the top tier of inventive Edinburgh restaurants. Hyper local and hyper seasonal, the restaurant does not have a menu as such but rather an ever evolving list of ingredients which are used to create an ever changing six course tasting menu. A recent dish was hogget and BBQ lamb belly, with wild garlic miso, salt baked kholrabi and herb emulsion, all accompanied by crispy lamb sweetbread with black garlic. Not that the same dish is likely to be on the menu by the time you read this. As their website puts it, everything is ‘subject to change daily, according to availability, micro-climates and quality assurance’. If you like being surprised then this is for you. The tasting menu is £65 with paired drinks an additional £60.
Slightly more conventional but with its own sense of quirk, Noto on Thistle Street is Aizle’s younger sibling operation with lower price points. It specialises in sharing plates such as chicken yakitori with umeboshi (Japanese plums) and egg yolk. A reservation here may be easier to arrange than at Aizle.
38 Charlotte Square. Tel: 0131 527 4747
Pitt Street Market
If the other venues listed here as places to have a spree are at the more rarefied and indeed pricey end of Edinburgh’s dining scene then The Pitt offers whole heap of fun for a whole lot less moolah. Established in 2015, The Pitt is a cheerful, colourful and boho mix of street food, Edinburgh craft beers, live music, sound systems and pop-ups all housed in a yard and warehouse on Pitt Street. Open Thursday to Sunday during August, it is child and dog-friendly. We’ll have a fried, buttermilk-marinated chicken burger and a Volcano IPA from Barney’s Brewery. A little off the main festival drag, The Pitt is well worth the detour for anyone seeking a break from the more ruthlessly commercial aspects of the festival.