Let’s face it, during the Fringe you want to pack in as much as possible, especially if you are only visiting for a few days but don’t forget to schedule in some time to eat between shows. You’ll need the energy.
The following are my top tips for how to get the best out of your Fringe experience, allowing enough time to enjoy the wonderful food Edinburgh has to offer.
- Plan your day. I’ve been known to use a colour coded spreadsheet, broken down into half hour slots. Yes, most friends think it’s over the top but it keeps me on track and lets me know when I’m at a show, when I’m travelling between venues and when I’m eating!
- Don’t pack too much into one day. You’ll become ‘fringed out’. Three shows a day, broken up with some coffee and food stops is a good bet with perhaps the odd exhibition thrown in for added culture.
- Allow time to travel between venues. Whether you’re on foot or using public transport, expect your journey to take longer than normal during the Fringe with all the visitors in town. So add on another 10 minutes to ensure that you get to your venue on time.
- BYO – We all know drinks can often add a huge amount to your restaurant bill so if you are trying to keep costs down, choose one of the many Bring Your Own restaurants that Edinburgh has or choose to have a tee-total day! You may even remember that performance you’ve just seen.
- To book or not to book – Edinburgh gets really busy during the Fringe so if you can book a restaurant reservation, then do. However, many restaurants don’t let you book during the fringe so sometimes it can be a case of taking pot luck. Remember to allow enough time to get to your restaurant after your show finishes.
On the hoof or graze a bit longer
There will be times that you just need to grab a quick bite to eat between shows (on the hoof) or you might choose to break up your day by grazing a bit longer and lingering for a proper meal.
These are my favourite places to refuel during the Fringe around George Street Gardens that offer tasty and relatively healthy options, although if you want deep fat fried and food served between a bun that’s also on offer. It just isn’t my cup of tea.
There’s so much on offer that it would be impossible to list everywhere but this is where you will find me hanging out during the Fringe and are handy if you are seeing shows at Assembly at George Square, Assembly Roxy, Underbelly at George Square, Underbelly Potterow, Underbelly Circus Hub, Gilded Balloon Teviot, Gilded Balloon at the Museum, Gilded Balloon at the Counting House, The Festival Theatre, The Space on Nicolson Street, and Zoo Southside to name but a few. None of the cafes or restaurants will be more than a 10-15 minutes walk away, even during the Fringe.
Assembly and Underbelly at George Street Gardens
Both of these venues have various food outlets and bar in their separate spaces so it’s not difficult to get food on the hoof.
My favourite is Umami Spice Girl. Selling hot and delicious food from the shiny Spice Girl truck, Michelle is ably assisted by her partner Ed. This is their first year at the Fringe and will be where I will be eating most.
Alplings, also based in Assembly Gardens serve Alpine vegetarian bread based dumplings (cheese, spinach and beetroot) goodness married in sauces (parmesan buttermelt , horseradish,mushroom and gorgonzola ), served with salads.
The Mosque Kitchen on Nicolson Street offers a quick, value for money option. From £5.50, you can eat a plate of rice and delcious curry. It’s not licensed but you can get some healthy juices and lassis.
Also on Nicolson Street, is 10 to 10. Not great for large groups, it serves Indian food and is a good place to grab a quick bite, which will not cost the earth. Their chana masala is particularly good.
If you want to guarantee three of your five a day, head to Red Box Noodle Bar on West Nicolson Street West, where you will be served a trio of three vegetables stir fried, with your choice of noodles, meat and sauce for under £8. I lived off this for a month when I was working at the Fringe.
Illegal Jacks on St Patrick Street (through the arch for a shortcut if you’re coming from Potterow) has resurfaced after closing down on Lothian Road after a flood. For £7.50, you can enjoy a burrito and a soft drink and other Tex-Mex food.
Around the Meadows, there’s lots of good options for food on the hoof. At Tupiniquim, Edinburgh’s ‘Brazil in a Box’, serve sweet and savoury (gluten-free) crepes, pressed fruit juices and coffee from an old police box.
At Forrest Road, the Union of Genius sell hearty soups with bread from Manna House from their small shop. Their meals on wheels soup van, Dumbo, based on George Square, serves four soups daily too.
Peter’s Yard on Middle Meadows Walk is a good place to grab a Swedish pastry and a great coffee. They also do savoury smörgåsbord , which are open sandwiches.
And restauranteur Malcolm Innes’ latest offering to the Edinburgh food scene is Wildmanwood on Marshall Street, where you can feast on Neopolitan style wood fired pizzas or if you’re feeling healthy, some delicious salads including a venison rarebit salad. His other eateries including The Apartment, The Outsider, Checkpoint and Ting Thai Caravan, have always been noteworthy affairs, so this is worth checking out.
At the Gilded Balloon at Teviot, there is the Gilded Garden, which has a variety of food stalls serving everything from burgers, to stir-fries to crepes. It’s worth checking out the new Amphion cafe and bar, inside Teviot, which serves counter meals or the Library Bar, the latter which serves some great sharing nachos.
And where to choose if you want somewhere to linger more than 30 minutes and have a more leisurely sit down meal. My favourites include: Mother India on Infirmary Street, where you get a twist on tapas, with Indian food replacing Spanish. You can’t book during the Fringe but the queues move relatively quickly.
I didn’t think there was anywhere to beat Mother India or Kushis for an Indian but I’ve recently discovered Shri Bheemas. Serving South and North Indian cuisine, it’s opposite the Festival Theatre. Don’t be put off by the scaffolding currently adorning the building. You will get one of the best curries you have ever eaten and great customer service. Their menu also caters for people with allergies, listing each dish and what allergens they contain.
Beirut Restaurant on Nicolson Square is a regular haunt. Serving Lebanese food, the portions are huge so make sure you have an appetite. It’s also BYO.
Checkpoint on Bristo Square, open from 9am to midnight, describes itself as a place to eat, a place for coffee, a place to drink and a place for all of it and more. The Times described it as one of the ‘coolest 25 restaurants in Britain’. It’s also very handy if you’re seeing a show at Assembly Checkpoint.
Opposite at Hotel du Vin, there’s a complete sanctuary from the hustle and bustle of the Fringe. Set a 1-minute walk from the National Museum of Scotland so good if you are seeing shows from the Gilded Balloon at the Museum, this 1743 boutique hotel, housed within a former asylum, is also a 13-minute walk from the 11th-century Edinburgh Castle. You can enjoy a glass of wine or meal in their courtyard dining area, or have a delicious meal and great wine in their restaurant serving French cuisine or just enjoy a drink in one of their two bars.
I’ve only started to scratch the surface with what’s on offer food-wise. One thing guaranteed is you won’t go hungry when you’re here for the fringe. Look out for further posts on where to graze during the Fringe.