After a massive transformation in the last year or so, every chain and its dog has signed a lease in St Andrew Square.
First there was Costa, YUKKKKKK!!!!! Then there was TK Maxx, which frankly lowers the tone of the entire New Town. And please, PLEASE don’t get us started on The Ivy.
But enough bitching … If you’re en route to Edinburgh Playhouse, here are five of our favourites:
Big on taste and atmosphere, Gaucho boldly delivers Argentinian steak to the good folks of Edinburgh. Walk through its bar on ground level, and you will soon arrive at what feels like a Hollywood nightspot circa 1940.
While the décor may not be to everyone’s tastes, we love the drama of it all. Mind you, the ambient lighting meant no one at our table could actually read the menu. But smart phones at the ready, we were soon ordering up a storm.
We began with a series of cocktails, leading us to make three conclusions: Gaucho makes amazing cocktails; the Rhubarb Blush with its rhubarb vodka, Chambord & lemon juice is hugely seductive; and at £11 a pop, ordering drinks at this restaurant is an easy road to poverty.
Not wishing to run out of money, we moved our focus to the entrées. The first thing to catch our eye: the homemade sausages – wild boar, haggis and Argentine chorizo – all of which are extremely tempting.
But, we’re pleased to say, we went for the 48 Hour Dry Aged Provoleta – a pan fried cheese with honey, basil cress and spring onion that will blow your mind.
Next came the main event: 500 grams of sirloin steak spiral cut, marinated in garlic, parsley and olive oil. Oh my, it was f**king delicious, as were the desserts that followed. Our particular favourite: the hot salted dulce de leche cheesecake with toasted marshmallow.
Overall, we think the food’s top notch, the atmosphere’s fab, and the staff make great recommendations. Our only quibble is price, especially when it comes to the vino. But if you’re feeling flush, well then, bon appetit!
4a St Andrew Square, EH2 2BD
Now this really is a great addition to Edinburgh’s food scene. Mexican style street food that’s utterly moreish, a kitchen regularly open late, and cocktails which are surprisingly good. Seriously, what more could you ask for?
Our usual gameplan runs like so: sit down, and instantly order the faultless guacamole, along with several margaritas and perhaps a Wahaca Mule – which combines ginger beer, fresh lime and an all-important hit of tequila.
This allows us to take our time deciding the main event. After all, does one dive into a rather large burrito? Or opt for a series of smaller dishes? So you can explore such flavours as roast sweet potato & feta, smoked salmon, and slow-cooked smoky black beans & cheese. Hint: there is no wrong answer
As for the dessert, assuming you still have room, look no further than the Churros y chocolate. That’s Mexican doughnuts by the way, and once dipped in the warm, rich, gooey chocolate they are fabulous beyond belief.
16 South St Andrew Street, EH2 2AU
3. The Forth Floor @ Harvey Nicol’s
While we can’t really afford to shop here, and aren’t that acquainted with the menu, we are big fans of the view. So when the mood takes us – which is often – you’ll find these Social Bitches in the Brasserie, more specifically at the bar.
Here you can enjoy gazing wistfully upon St Andrew Square, George Street and Edinburgh Castle. Move out on to the balcony, weather permitting, and you can also get a peek at the beautiful Firth of Forth.
No doubt the food is just as lovely, but we can only wax lyrical about our standard order: a bottle of Harvey Nicol’s house champagne (moderately priced at £55), and a generous bowl of giant green olives. Both are the perfect treat after a hard day, or the perfect beginning of a night on the “toon”.
30 – 34 At Andrew Square, EH2 2AD
By now the entire population of Edinburgh has either been to Dishoom, or at least queued outside for a table. Inspired by the Irani cafes of twentieth century Bombay, it arrived here in the capital amidst impossible levels of hype, but somehow it never fails to impress.
For a start the atmosphere is fabulous, dark wood, chandeliers, and family photos everywhere you look. Add to that the super-friendly staff, and you have an environment that makes you feel instantly at ease.
Though of course, the final piece of the puzzle is the food. A never-ending series of small dishes means you can be a total fat bastard and easily sample half the menu in a single sitting. From your first Lamb samosa to the House Black Daal, and the gorgeous Awadhi Lamb Biryani you really can’t go wrong.
But while we’re enormous fans of the food, we’re even more excited by the Permit Room, Dishoom’s rather hip cocktail bar. Not only does it serve a wonderful take on an old fashioned – using a smoked oak barrel to age the rum, pineaple syrup and bitters – it’s also open to 3am. Giggety!!
3a St Andrew Square, EH2 2BD
Okay, so it’s not exactly on St Andrew Square, but trust us you’ll be glad you walked the extra 30 seconds required to get here. All that’s visible from the street is a single door, but head inside and you’re guaranteed a great night out.
Set over two levels, and in fact two separate bars, Nightcap offers a labyrinth of alcoves, an eclectic crowd and cocktails until three in the morning. It also boasts a simple but delicious menu, making it a perfect venue both pre & post theatre.
Serving the same menu as Feed, their chicken wings, baby back ribs, and their burgers made from grass-fed beef never fail to please. They even offer two vegie burgers, served in a sesame topped vegan bun. We also love the fact the pulled pork burger is affectionately called the Kermit.
Our first visit here was literally for a nightcap on the way home. Four bottles later, we were accosting strangers (not literally) and uttering things such as: Oh my god, this place is amazing, I love YOU!!!
No doubt you will love it too.
3 York Place, EH1 3EB