Edinburgh Festival Fringe has started and we’re hungry to see all the new talent, all our old favourites, all the cool beer gardens, and to dance until Edinburgh’s 5am license permits! What a month August is in Scotland’s capital; the city transforms into a playground of artists and revellers alike, bars and cafés pop up everywhere, beer tents and street food stalls take over the squares and the city’s population doubles. It’s an incredibly exciting time but also a great time to see all that Edinburgh offers while the festival isn’t around. This year sees 2,695 shows take to theatres, pubs, nooks, crannies and gardens all over the capital and while we can’t think of an equal number of eateries, we’ve found the best few for you near some of the festivals most popular venues.
If you’re one of the many revellers travelling to Scotland this summer to take part in the Edinburgh Festival Fringe fêtes, we’ve done you a solid and sought the knowledge of one of the Fringe’s newest playwrights, Kat Woods, to bring to you a foodie guide to the Fringe. Kat Woods, playwright and producer of the multi-award winning Belfast Boy – her Fringe debut production – is bringing her eagerly anticipated play, Mule, inspired by the events of the Peru Two, to the Gilded Balloon stage this August. With a month of shows ahead of her, she’s already planning where to stress-eat and where to celebrate in joyous merriment when the crowd’s applause resounds as her curtain closes each afternoon. Over to you, Kat.
I always find myself in a fluster when going for a bite to eat before show time or for an evening meal during the Fringe. With Edinburgh’s population almost doubling, it’s easy to get lost in the sea of people and become rather irate when you can’t get to where you’re going in a reasonable time. Sometimes this leads to just picking up a Tesco meal deal in a bid to eat and move at the same time. Sacrilege! Imagine, in a city like Edinburgh, where the foodie scene is booming like never before, that we don’t take time to enjoy the culinary delights of the city that so graciously hosts us for an entire month. I made a conscious decision to change my ‘eat and run’ attitude on my last visit to Edinburgh and consequently discovered eateries that would rival that of my current home city, London.
Roll-up! Roll-up! Revealed here are the real stars of the show…
Paradise Palms – This little beauty opened the year that I brought Belfast Boy to the Fringe and for that reason it’ll always hold a special place in my heart. Sitting at their bar making my way through their all-embracing cocktail menu beneath the teddy bear collection hanging from the roof, surrounded by tropical vibes, neon lights, velvet curtains and art deco mirrors, washing my worries away as my production became an unexpected hit. Paradise Palms is everything you need in one venue; a bar, a diner, a record shop, an events space, with DJs spinning eclectic mixes on the regular. Aside from their super edgy bar, which opens onto the street in the Scottish weather permits, Paradise Palms in home to the aptly named vegetarian restaurant, The Lucky Pig. I’ve yet to try their culinary delights but as it’s right across from the Gilded Balloon, where Mule will be staged, I can only assume that I’ll become rather familiar with their menu.
41 Lothian St, Edinburgh EH1 1HB www.theparadisepalms.com
Perfect if you’re attending shows at the Gilded Balloon Teviot, Assembly George Square Theatre or Bedlam Theatre. (Psst. Paradise Palms is also a Fringe venue!)
Harajuku Kitchen – A gorgeously quaint, chic and stylish Japanese bistro, Harajuku Kitchen have avoided the garish white, black and red interior combo of other Japanese restaurant in the city, opting instead for soft wooden furnishings and hand-painted wall murals, which is one of the reasons that it’s my absolute favourite restaurant to visit for authentic Japanese cuisine. Kaori Simpson, the Chef Proprietor, was once the personal chef to the Japanese Consulate in Edinburgh! She blends family recipes with innovative flair to bring you sophisticated food, bursting with flavour. The sushi is fresh and the most ‘instagrammable’ that you’ll ever feast your eyes on, but if raw fish makes you a little squeamish, opt for the herby handmade pork gyoza or one the Tonkatsu curry.
Luckily for me, Harajuku Kitchen is near my show venue, but for those dashing around the city centre, you can pick up some of the umami pork or veggie gyoza, as well as chicken and or vegetable yaki soba noodles, at their street food stall that is taking up residency on George Street throughout the month of August as part of the Assembly Festivals. You can get 10% off at their bistro when you present your Fringe tickets!
10 Gillespie Pl, Edinburgh EH10 4HS www.harajukukitchen.co.uk
Take a break with Harajuku Kitchen if you’re attending shows at the Cameo Cinema, the Traverse Theatre or St. Michael and All Saints.
The Blackbird – I’m not completely sure that I want to share this one with everyone as they have the most amazing hidden beer and cocktail garden behind their bar and restaurant and I love that it’s a bit secretive. But, I think this bar is going to be one of the places to go this summer as it is only a five minute walk from the Underbelly’s Circus Hub on The Meadows, it serves great food and even better cocktails. Out back in the fabulous sun trap of a garden they serve drinks from a shed cum bar every Thursday to Sunday usually with a focus on a different drink each week – I’m looking forward to Mexican rum week 18 – 21 August. And look out for the orange bicycle (rumours have it that the orange bike above the door is a PokemonGo stop too!)
37-39 Leven St, Edinburgh EH3 9LH www.theblackbirdedinburgh.co.uk
Relax in the hipster-chic ambience of The Blackbird pre- or post shows at the Underbelly’s Circus Hub on the Meadows, Theatre Big Tops or CAV Nightclub.
Reekie’s Smokehouse – Hangover’s are aplenty throughout the Fringe with thanks to the 5am licensing laws, so it’s essential to have a go-to cure, somewhere really good up your sleeve for a restorative feast the next day to prepare you for another night of libations. Located near Arthur’s Seat – handy if you’re up for a post-night out hike – this Scottish BBQ joint is ideal for those times when you just want to eat everything. It is open from 11.30am until they sell out, usually between 6-8pm. It’s no frills exterior matches that of it’s laidback counter service but when you have a platter of melt-in-the-mouth BBQ’d meat (brisket, ribs, pulled pork, burnt ends) in front of you the basic surroundings become irrelevant. The icing on this BBQ’d cake is their homemade Irn Bru BBQ sauce! The Scots think of everything.
20 Holyrood Rd, Edinburgh EH8 www.reekiessmokehouse.co.uk
Your ideal spot for a food break when attending shows at Dynamic Earth, the Pleasance Courtyard or any of the venues that line the Cowgate.
Wedgwood the Restaurant – This award-winning gem of a restaurant is bang in the middle of the festival action right on the Royal Mile, but it feels a million miles away once you step inside. They’ve also had a refurb early this year so I am looking forward to checking that out. This place is ideal if you are looking for something a bit more special but don’t want to blow your entire festival budget in one go! And if you are looking to try some haggis when you are in town, then this is the place to go, Chef Paul Wedgwood manages to elevate it beyond the humble “haggis, neeps and tatties” and incorporate it into his dishes in the most delicious ways! The lunch menus again are incredible value – you can have two courses for £14.75 or three courses for £18.75.
Royal Mile, 267 Canongate, Edinburgh EH8 8BQ www.wedgwoodtherestaurant.co.uk
Right in the thick of the madness on the Royal Mile, visit Wedgwood between shows at St. Gile’s Cathedral, the Tron Kirk, Canongate House, or even if you’ve just been brave enough to walk the length of the mile from Edinburgh Castle to Holyrood Palace and need to take a breather.
Treacle – This is where I take my veggie and vegan friends when they come to town as every section of their healthy menu (with an Asian slant) has something for veggies and vegans, but it means non-veggies can eat happily too, so everyone’s a winner. What I love about Treacle, apart from its Broughton Street location, is that it is a bar that doesn’t do bar or pub food. The menu has loads of proper salads and tasty Asian style dishes. It’s where I go if I am hankering after a Ramen and it’s the best place in town for a Bahn Mi and they do a great vegan version with Roast cauliflower, cashews, radishes and zucchini in this amazing chilli glaze. Also they make some of the best cocktails in town – so there’s still room for a bit of indulgence.
39-41 Broughton St, Edinburgh EH1 3JU www.treacleedinburgh.co.uk
Refuel at Treacle if you’re going to events at the Edinburgh Playhouse, The Famous Spiegeltent, The Stand Comedy Club or The Mansfield Traquir.
The Stockbridge Restaurant – A family-run restaurant, this is where I go when I want to escape the Fringe mayhem for a relaxed dining experience. Nestled on the basement level of Edinburgh’s beautiful, cobbled St. Stephen’s Street, The Stockbridge Restaurant serves the most delectable Scottish cuisine in a cosy and relaxed setting. The proprietors, Jane and Jason, are a power couple on the restaurant scene in Edinburgh. Jason has won 2 AA rosette’s and is in the kitchen every night, meaning that diner’s are always feasting on award-winning dishes, all made with local ingredients, may I add. Jane is the friendly face welcoming you as you descend down the steps to this romantic, decadent, culinary grotto. A wine connoisseur and the woman to go to if you want to know a thing or two about Scottish gin, she has comprised one of the finest drinks list of any restaurant in Edinburgh. They pride themselves in offering fine dining without the pretention, or the hefty price. It’s ideal for a date, if you find yourself the time to indulge in one between shows. If not, they’re also open for lunch throughout the festival and they offer a stellar BYOB option on a Sunday night. Perfect for us underpaid artists who want the Möet lifestyle of a Tennent’s budget.
54 St Stephen St, Edinburgh EH3 5AL www.thestockbridgerestaurant.co.uk
Retreat from the madness to the basement of St. Stephen’s street when attending shows at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, St. Stephen’s Church or the Vintage Mobile Cinema.
Hamilton’s Bar and Kitchen – If you are visiting Edinburgh, it is likely you’ll enjoy some of the local libations at some point, so it is important to have a go to stop for breakfast, for the morning after, where you are guaranteed something to set you up for another day of shows. Hamilton’s does a breakfast for everyone which is why I like it so much! Whether you are feeling like making up for the over indulging then there’s the good old Avocado on sour dough toast with poached eggs or French toast with peaches, yogurt and mint. But if you want to go full on fry up these guys do a proper Scottish version with the full works including black pudding, haggis and potato scone. And being a bar they do a blooming great Bloody Mary!
16-18 Hamilton Pl, Edinburgh EH3 5AU www.hamiltonsedinburgh.co.uk
The perfect stop to refill between shows at The Stockbridge Church, Edinburgh Academy or Galerie Mirages.
Norn – Norn only opened this year so I must admit I haven’t yet tried it but it is on my hit-list for this year simply because it is receiving some incredible reviews. The Guardian’s Marina O’Loughlin gave it 9/10 and she’s usually on the money. And I love any excuse to escape the hustle and bustle of the city centre and head to Leith. The menu is totally local and seasonal and depends on what has arrived in the kitchen or what the team has foraged, they have a sommelier who specialises in natural wines (less of a hangover, I hope!) They have a great three course lunch menu Wednesday – Saturday which at £20 is great value. Or you can go all out for a four or seven course menu for dinner for £40 and £65 (there’s an option to add matched wines too).
50-54 Henderson St, Edinburgh EH6 6DE www.nornrestaurant.com
Take a moment for a Guardian pick between shows at the Biscuit Factory, Coburg House Art Studios or Out of the Blue Drill Hall.
Mule written and produced by Kat Woods
The story of the Peru Two, the Scottish and Northern Irish belles caught smuggling drugs at Jorge Chávez International Airport in Lima, Peru, first grabbed the Norther Irish writer’s attention in 2013 when the girls were plastered across the headlines of the national press. Recent developments in their much-followed case have given this play a well-timed, yet coincidental, focus. As seen before in Belfast Boy and Wasted, Woods uses her vibrant imagination and astute humour to bring to the stage a raw and cautionary tale of manipulation and treachery – a hot pick for this years Fringe according to the Guardian.
When: 3 – 29 Aug (excl. 17)
Where: Gilded Balloon, The Balcony
Time: 1.30pm, running time 55 mins
Ticket price: Mon-Thu £10, Fri-Sun £11, £8 concession