TOM AND ALLAN's EATING-OUT GUIDE
 
for
 

THE EDINBURGH AREA

 

Based on their personal experiences.

 

Eating places reviewed: Vittoria on the Walk (++) Eatalias (+) Simply Sandwiches (+), Sheraton (+) Café e Cucina (++) Deep Sea Fry (+) Giovanni’s (+) Khushi’s (+) Gurkha Brigade (+) Shezan (--) Passage to India (-) Omar Khayyam (+) Jolly’s (+), Elm Rose Café (--)Mama Roma (--) Giuliani’s (-) Ferri’s (-) Valvona and Crolla, Elm Row (---) Le Ciero (+) La Rusticana (=) Blue Moon (+) Mezz (+) Playfair(-) Frankie and Benny’s (+) Filling Station (+) La Tasca in the Omni Center (++) Slug and Lettuce (=) Pizza Hut (-) Walkabout (+) Conan Doyle(=) La Favorita (+) Taste of Italy (-) Vittoria on the Bridge (+) Pizza Express (+) Albanach(--) Mithras (+) Bank Hotel (--) Calton Highland Hotel (+) Spoon (+) City Restaurant (+) Brasserie (+) La Petite Folie (+) Cafe Andaluz (+) Hendersons (+) Fruit Market (+) Jimmy Chung’s (=) Radisson Inn on Royal Mile (+)Phuket Pavilion (+) Pearce’s (-) Treacle (+) Café Renroc (++) Merlin bar (++) Pine Garden (+) Waiting Room (+) Howies (+)Fishers on Thistle St.(++) The Shore (+) Fishers on the Shore (+) Mussel and Steak (++) Phuket Pavilion (+) Pearce’s (-) Café Habana (---)Boston Bean Company (--) Regent (+) Kentucky Fried Chicken (-) Xanadu (+)Theatre Royal (-) Elm Bar (-) Treacle (+) Outhouse (-) Royal MacGregor (+) Garfunkels(-) Ensign Stewart (+) Deacon Brodie (=)  World’s End (-) Halfway House (=) Artcafe Morita (++) Arcade (++) Black Rose (+) Amber Rose (+) Maison Bleu (-) L’Escargot Bleu (+) Cramond Inn(+) Two Bridges Inn, South Queensferry (+) Old Clubhouse, Gullane (+) Four Mary’s, Linlithgow (-) Ricarton Arms, Currie (=) Bridge Inn at Ratho(+) Cafe Piccante (+) Sian Thian (=) Fiddlers Elbow (+) Smoke Stack (+) Mahlers (+) The Street (+) Sea Breeze (+) Silver Bowl (=) Deli Polonia (++) Bijou(+) Espey, Portobello  (+)  Glasshouse, Musselburgh (+) One-on-One bar, Musselburgh (+) Waterfront Cafe, Newhaven(+) Haman (+) Wok (+)

 

108 Reviews on a single webpage, including three unnamed restaurants (----) (--)  (+ )

 

Counts  (++) 10    (+ ) 63   (=) 9   (-)17   (--) 6  (---) 2   (----)1

 
 
TOP TEN RESTAURANTS
(1) Artcafe Morita on the Canongate,  (2=) Vittoria on the Walk,  (2=) Fishers on Thistle Street,  (4) Mussel and Steak in the Grassmarket,  (5) The Merlin Bar in Morningside,  (6) Café e Cucina in Morningside,  (7) The Arcade on Cockburn Street,  (8) La Tasca in Omni Centre,  (9) Café Renroc on Montgomery Street,  (10) Deli Polonia on Leith Walk
 
WOODEN SPOONS
Mama Roma,  Elm Rose Café,  Shezan,  Café Habana (--- no food),  Boston Bean Company,  A strange breakfast place in Abbeyhill (--),  Albanach  Bank Hotel
 
LEAD SPOON
Valvona and Crolla in Elm Row,  A nameless joint on the Royal Mile (----)
 
TOP CHIPPIES
(1) Giovanni’s on Northfield Broadway,   (2) Deep Sea Fry at top of Leith Walk
 
BEST BAR FOOD
(1) Cramond Inn,  (2) Bridge Inn at Ratho,  (3)Two Bridges Inn in South Queensferry,  (4) The Regent on Abbeymount

In Tom’s neck of the woods, Vittoria on the Walk is currently one of our favourite eating places. Young Alberto Crolla was educated at Edinburgh Academy. He’s particularly welcoming and hospitable, and will sometimes come into the street to greet you. While Grandpa Alberto can get a bit gruff, the owner Tony Crolla is reassuringly sensitive to his customers’ needs. While he’s an avowed perfectionist, he’s also a cultured gentleman of the old school.

[Just to avoid any misunderstanding, it was Antonio Crolla, who owns Bar Napoli on Hanover St., who got shot in the leg, and his assailant has never been caught. The extended Crolla family in Scotland has its origins in the tiny rustic town of Picinisco near Rome, which has about 1200 inhabitants, and at least four different Crollas own restaurants in Edinburgh]

Tony Crolla’s well-fed waiting staff in Vittoria are ultra-keen to pour on the pepper and the grated cheese, and to offer you exquisite desserts like tiramisu. But don’t return anything to the kitchen for extra gravy, or they’ll go frantic.

The week-day lunchtime and afternoon fare at Vittoria is surprisingly inexpensive, high quality, and nourishing. If you’re on a high bran diet try adding some of the nutritional vegetable side orders (e.g. camponata, asparagus, or el verdure) from the evening menu. Allan just loves the garlic and mushroom pizza, and Tom sometimes wonders whether he’s made of pizza.

 
 

Other early day highlights include the sautéed potatoes, minestrone, salmon, steak, calamari, pollo milanese and spaghetti marina. It’s usually best to miss out on the specials, particularly when the waiters try to hard sell them to you (they probably won’t have even sampled them themselves!), though they can occasionally be out of this world.

The evening menu is also available during the day, and you can still eat well for under twenty pounds. The breaded fish and chips is the best-served of the seafood, as long as it isn’t left to dry, and it’s better to try the salmon earlier in the day. The rack of lamb is delicious, though not that large. The stinco cotto (boiled ham on the bone), beef stroganoff and mixed grill are ginormous, and the venison-on-the-bone is also extremely tasty. Other highlights include the zuppe di pesce, which is larger than many seafood suppers. And the tagliatelle vittoria; it really is bellisomo!                                                                                    

And wash everything down with a glass of draught Moretti, or your choice of the well-selected wines. The Biferno and the Pecorino are to be recommended, though they’re on the expensive side.

When Tony Crolla expanded Vittoria several years back, all the way around the Eatalias chippie (which is good) to his function room, his effervescent Polish floor manager Kamil helped him to build up his business to where it is today, largely by attracting all those cute and well-remembered waiting staff who introduced fresh dimensions into their customers’ lives.

However, Kamil sought grandeur and diversified to Simply Sandwiches on Lothian Road. It’s well worth stopping by his place for the inexpensive cuisine and the lively, expertly-chosen, European waitresses who are always eager to please. Tell him that Tom sent you! They provide numerous office workers in the surrounding blocks with their lunch, by special delivery. So order early.

Simply Sandwiches is quite a contrast to the splendid carvery in the Sheraton opposite where they could be a mite more generous when they’re doling out the beef for twenty-odd quid.

Deep Sea Fry at the top of Leith Walk is top fish compares well with Eatalias, and Pasquale shoots a convincing line on European football and thinks he knows all the gossip. However, his coke, while fizzy, is exorbitantly expensive. Perhaps it’s been spiced!

Giovanni’s in Northfield Broadway serve ginormous fish to customers from far and wide. And their pizzas and kebabs are also fantastic. A chippie to be reckoned with.

Until late 2011, Massimo’s (the family’s restaurant in Glasgow is still superb) was the order of the day on Leith Walk, and Ernesto and Lisa Crolla offered chic Italian food and their excellent company at reasonable prices. However, they couldn’t control the lunchtime trade, and the ruthless owner was reportedly charging them over £70000 a year rent after they’d spent a similar amount redesigning the place. To top that, the owner threw them out on their ears when he wanted to move in, and they fled down Morningside Road and opened Café e Cucina where Loopy Lorna’s used to be.

The atmosphere in Café e Cucina is pure Morningside, and the locals congregate around the trestle tables in the afternoons. If you’re not that hungry, then the Stuzzichini menu offers delicious Italian nibbles, or you can order other light fare. The evening menu is ever improving, and the gamberi piccante and pollo alla mostarda are to be recommended.

Meanwhile Massimo’s near the top of Leith Walk suddenly lost its lovely round corner table and became Khushi’s, an upmarket restaurant proffering uniquely-spiced Indian food. Khushi’s and its prize-winning sister restaurant Mithas near Leith Docks are doubtlessly the most jam-packed in town. Khushi’s menu puts a spin on traditional Grill dishes alongside classics such as Chicken Tikka, Lamb Bhuna and Vegetarian Makhani Dalls. And you may bring your own wine without paying corkage.

 
 

When Khushi’s, established in 1947, first re-opened on Antigua Street, Tom decided to forgive the tough-talking owner’s dire mistreatment of Ernesto Crolla and to lunch in the same location as before several times a week, since he’d always enjoyed watching the pedestrians streaming along the pavement outside. However, this quickly turned into a bittersweet experience. The waiters were up to all sorts of underhand tricks. They would, for example, bring extra sauces, or suddenly produce a pickle tray, and tag the extra price on to the bill.

When Southern Indian food was added to the menu, Tom experienced the final straw. The much- vaunted chicken wrap stretched right across his plate, but there was only a small amount of, badly-cooked, chicken hidden in the middle. Tom therefore decided to stop patronising Mr. Khushi, for the time being at least.

We prefer to occasionally dine next door in the Gurkha Brigade. The helpful Nepalese lady serves up solid fare. The lamb jalfrezi and Chan Aloo chickpeas are highly recommended, but don’t bother with the bland parathas or Nan bread.

The nearby Shezan Indian Restaurant is a poor man’s Khushi’s. Before it’s latest expensive refurbishment, it boasted a time-honoured reputation for inflating the bills when compared with the stated menu prices. And the food has always been somewhere between average and mediocre. More recently, the waiters have got up to devious tricks. For example, they forced an expensive though skimpy pickle tray on Tom and twice tried to whip it away before he’d had time to digest it. After a couple of highly questionable courses, he left with a curse on his lips and hasn’t been there since.

The standard of fare in the Passage of India tends to go up and down. Last time Tom ate there it was on an all time low. Perhaps we should try out the Indian restaurants on the west side of town. We’ve heard that the Omar Khayyam is quite good, and it certainly was seventeen years ago.

Across Leith Walk on Elm Row, Jolly’s Italian restaurant provides senior citizens and genuine types with substantial three-course lunches for under six quid. The owner Vito Alongi is charmingly extrovert and philanthropic, and the rumours about Love Hearts are totally misguided. He reportedly lost all of his hair when a stray fire-engine crashed into his establishment, and he offers reduced price deals in the evenings to his favourite regulars.

However, the basic foodstuff at Jolly’s isn’t obviously of particularly high quality health-wise and, while Vito’s more than generous, we’ve experienced a plethora of problems over the years, including invariably flat soda, stroppy waitresses, sour orange juice, burnt or under-cooked pizza, inadequate vegetables (e.g. just peas), silly knobs of garlic bread, incorrectly selected or cooked steak, badly-boiled potatoes that may have been left-overs and could have caused food-poisoning, and an over-abundance of not-so-great chips. But the tortellini al brodo and prawn salad are good. Menu choice at Jolly’s is all important, and we’re usually too polite to complain since we enjoy being jolly.

Jolly’s preferable to Guiliano’s, formerly an outstanding family restaurant, where the inflated prices are inconsistent with the marginally-less-than-generous helpings and the brash waiters have been known to ask for their tips.

The owner/chef of Ferri’s is keen to express his own high opinion of his prize-winning culinary expertise. However, his prices are high, and he can sometimes be seen expressing himself alone in his restaurant. Perhaps his vegetables and preponderance of chips don’t match up to his cordon bleu, but we’ve only ventured in a couple of times.

 
 

The Elm Rose Café fobs you off with left-over pasta. And they say they don’t care. But the backroom restaurant in Valvona and Crolla on Elm Row gets a heavy lead spoon. I was once charged six-fifty for a tiny peasant breakfast that had to be seen to be believed. And it’s never got better since, although the stuck-up waiters will happily call you ‘M’sieur’. The celebrated deli is snotty, extortionately priced and pretentious. Tom was once charged seven pounds for a small jar of honey. And when he spent fifteen pounds on a small box of chocolates for Heather, they were gone in a flash.

Mama Roma isn’t worth the powder. Le Ciero on South Bridge is much more hospitable and caring, and their tortellini carbonara is a treat. La Rusticana in New Town is palatable, but they do keep pressuring you ad nausaeum to order extra items. And that ain’t user friendly.

At least one of Vito’s five pretty nieces is nowadays in regular attendance in Jolly’s. That makes a change from the succession of maladjusted waitresses who take it out on their customers. One doughty waitress once called Tom a ‘boring old fart’ and went screwball when he complained. Another one stoically declined to know more than sixteen words of the English language, and blamed her customers when she slipped up on their orders.  Nevertheless, Vito and his brother Alfredo are our personal friends. Vito’s a local institution, and we wish him well.

The Blue Moon on Broughton Street is a lively, LGBT-friendly social hub. The food has reportedly substantially improved since we were last there, and everybody loves the nachos. But they could also try the hospitable Mezz for a convivial atmosphere.  

The Omni Center offers several exciting choices. Not including the Playfair where the attitude can be misguided and the atmosphere depressing. Frankie and Benny’s and the Filling Station proffer traditional American music and food. However, the top of the list is La Tasca where the range of delicious tapas and cocktails are very appealing to the young at heart. The Slug and Lettuce is rather more congealing and you can keep the Pizza Hut, but the Walkabout produces some genuine Aussie grub. Allan loves the kangaroo burgers.

Around the corner on York Place, the Conan Doyle hasn’t improved since its refurbishment. While still tasty, many of the helpings seemed to have been shaved. And the brash Aussie waitstaff have all left.

In addition to Vittoria on the Walk, Tony Crolla owns two other restaurants on Leith Walk. The menu at La Favorita is more innovative but the atmosphere is less cosy, Tom loved the fish soup, and his lawyer friend went bananas on the pasta. In contrast, the food in the highly popular Taste of Italy is surprisingly mediocre, and the hordes of enticing waitresses don’t tip the balance.

Tony has turned into quite the fatcat. As well as putting both of his sons through Edinburgh Academy and visiting Milan to watch quality football, he owns Vittoria on the Bridge. When Allan’s parents ate there they thought that its high quality matched the other Vittoria, with a few roundabouts and swings. But you risk being thrown out on your butt with five minutes notice if the hitherto-charming waiters need your table. Allan’s parents and their church friends got the boot ninety minutes after they arrived, even though they’d reserved their table. Be well advised. It’s best to book for after 7.30.

The Pizza Express on North Bridge serves high quality pasta and pizza, and the atmosphere is classy. But it’s not worth stumbling into the Albanach around the corner. The last time Allan went there, it stank. However, Mithras to the left serves good quality bar food.

 
 

In contrast, the Bank Hotel on the other side of the High St. serves horribly bland, though much-vaunted, Scottish breakfasts. You may wish to retreat the Calton Highland hotel, where the meals are traditional and suitably classy. However in the afternoons and evenings, Spoon on Nicolson Street is trendy and intellectual with lively music and tasty snacks. The City Restaurant still serves wonderful breakfasts and meals, and a snazzy extra floor has been added for courting couples.

The Brasserie on the west end of George St. is well worth a visit. They serve traditional Scottish food in a convivial atmosphere. Further to the west, La Petite Folie serves extremely high-quality French food in medium quantities and at an affordable price.  Further to the east, Café Andaluz serves magnificent Spanish tapas in a more vibrant atmosphere, though it can get a bit too noisy.

We’ve visited Hendersons on Hanover St. several times with discussion groups from our church. The healthy deli counter is complemented by delicious pastries and panini.

Some of us congregate in the Fruit Market on Jeffrey St. after church on Sundays. The soup is well-spiced and the specials offer all sorts of tasty crepes, curries and chic salads. The service is sprightly and the trendy waiting staff are good-humoured. There’s a bookshop and an art gallery attached where you can browse.

Around the corner on Waverley Bridge, Jimmy Chung’s offers a plentiful buffet of stodgy Chinese food. But beware the paltry breakfasts! However, back up the hill the Radisson Inn on the Royal Mile offers magnificent early morning buffets.

If you fancy expensive Thai food, then the Phuket Pavilion beats the erstwhile Thai Me Up hands up.

The proprietors of Thai Me Up sold up under debatable circumstances. Wild rumours were flying around the Pink Triangle, and many gay customers reportedly voted with their feet. According to a friend from Hong Kong, Mood and his partner have now opened up again somewhere near Leith Docks, maybe in the Ocean terminal. We haven’t had time to check out the ownership of the Yuet Ben yet, but we do hope that our friend Lucky isn’t serving tables in the boom docks.

The Oriental decor and the fish tank in the Phuket Pavilion are high brow, and the Irish owner is utterly charming. He nevertheless tends to over-focus on his profit margins. Try to avoid getting to share a bowl of rice during an eighty-quid meal à deux, and count the infinitesimal number of lychees in your pricy ice-cream-splattered afters. The appetizers and sizzling duck dishes are superbly prepared with subtle seasonings, but leave the tepid coffee for later or your bill will ratchet up. Beware the super-expensive monk fish, in case it vanishes on your plate.

Anna, the lovely Swedish owner of Pearce’s bar on Elm Row originally tried to pamper her anticipated clientèle of artists and writers with an exquisite Scandinavian cuisine. However, the poor lady’s head chef turned megalomaniac, and the menu and Swedish meatballs became more limited and mediocre. Their high-priced wine often turns out to be seriously inferior. And manager Pete is relaxed about keeping reserved tables free for the people who reserved them, even if it’s your birthday. But that guy’s relaxed about everything, including his beard and the extremely tall chef!  Please remember us to the tall barman from Gothenburg with the floppy cap.

Treacle on Broughton St. should be recommended to all your naff friends. The atmosphere is electro-electronic and the food is fabulous. In contrast, the food in the Outhouse rarely comes up to expectations on food, though it’s good for a drink.

Café Renroc on Montgomery St. is trendy and Bohemian, and there are plenty more tables down the spiral staircase. The spicy sausages and breakfast paninis are excellent, and the atmosphere is nostalgic. This place is a gem!

 
 

As well as Café e Cucina, there are several other splendid restaurants in Morningside. These include the Merlin, a bar restaurant that’s been a local institution for years. The bar food is generous and of an unusually high quality. The restaurant menu changes every day. Last time Alan was there he ordered the asparagus soup, sea bream on a bed of roasted potatoes with Irish potatoes, an New York cheesecake, all freshly made. A wonderful experience!

The Pine Garden is just across Morningside Road from the Merlin. The ambience inside this traditional Chinese restaurant is intimate and friendly, the portions are generous and well-flavoured. The king prawns in black bean sauce is there for the connoisseur, and the chicken in chilli and garlic sauce is a crispy treat.

The Waiting Room bar on Balcaress St. offers budget-priced, good quality fare. Allan and a friend usually share a seafood or Indian platter. The prawns with pieces of sea bass, calamari, mussels and salmon are a great deal for a tenner.

Howies in Bruntsfield serve local and Scottish fare with a modern twist. Allan has only been there for their for their lunchtime deals. Last time a rolled salmon starter and haddock and queen scallops with sautéed potatoes were the order of the day.

When Allan and Tom can afford an extra-special treat, then Fishers on Thistle Street (to the east of the feted Oxford Bar) and The Shore on the Shore sometimes take their fancy. Fishers on the Shore is similarly enticing, but the premises on Thistle Street are much more spacious. All three offer exquisitely-prepared, classic seafood in plush surroundings.

The Mussel and Steak is both magnificent food-wise and toddler-friendly. That makes a change for the Grassmarket.

If you plan to eat on the High St., then the Royal MacGregor is our pick of the bunch. The Ensign Stewart runs second, well ahead of the Deacon Brodie.

Tom particularly recommends the steak-and-ale pie in the Royal MacGregor, and Allan likes the well-seasoned cullen skink. The World’s End bar falls short on attitude and quality of food, and the quality and quantity in the quaint Halfway House on Fleshmarket Close are mixed e.g. the bangers were small wedges of meat the last time we sampled them.

In a nameless first-floor joint on the Royal Mile close to the Royal MacGregor, Tom was once served with entirely different bits and pieces of rabbit than he’d ordered. Then the manic female owner came out of the kitchen, ranting and screaming. Tom paid up and scarpered. There goes our second lead spoon!       

Garfunkels is much better, at least by lunch-time.

Artcafe Morita on the Canongate is out of this world. The walls are covered with paintings that the Japanese owner Kozo Hoshina has brought over from his mansion in Mayfield, which houses the luxurious guesthouse the Art House Morita. The food is amazingly inexpensive and superlative. Last time, Tom tried the subtly-flavoured noodle-based soup yakisoba, with a poached egg on top, followed by the yakitori chicken kebabs. Allan ate the vegetable noodles tsukimi udan. Then the both filled the gaps with a slice of tarte au citron. Try going there after ten for a breakfast that’s different. Evening meals with multi-choice set menus are served on Friday and Saturday evenings. The interior of the café is much grander than the ordinary exterior.

Mr. Kosino also organizes splendid tours of Scotland via his company Morita Emporium, and heads an Anglo-Japanese art trust with several thousand paintings. A gentleman and a connoisseur if ever there was one. He walked us across the street to our taxi when we left.

 
 

The Arcade on Cockburn St. is chic, delightful, and LGBT friendly. Such heart-warming mulled wine to wash down the haut cuisine in the winter. Eva also runs Frenchies, a plush cocktail bar on North Rose Street lane where she and the ever ingratiating Polish barmen serve muffins with the cappuccino, and the free peanuts are delicious.

The Black Rose at the neat end of Rose St. near Charlotte Square serves generous, high-quality food, and the Scottish barmen there are equally helpful. The Amber Rose on Castle St. serves genuine pub grub in a vibrant, hospitable atmosphere.

With the exception of La Petite Folie, the Arcade contrasts well with the French restaurants in town, most of which are seriously overrated. Take, for example, the fêted Maison Bleu on Victoria St., where Tom and his seven relatives were once served unexpectedly meagre portions in seriously compressed space that hung over the stairs.

Tom also had mixed experiences in L’Escargot Bleu on Broughton St. He broke a tooth on the appetizer, and then the loquacious owner tried to explain away the absence of the pommes de terre, that’d been promised with the main course, as a French eating experience. Despite the obvious high quality, Tom told the handsome owner that he had ‘une araignée dans le plafond’, and he hasn’t been back since. But L’Escargot Bleu is probably ranks a not-so-close second out of the French restaurants in Edinburgh.

If you fancy a short scenic drive, then the Cramond Inn is an excellent prospect. The seafood chowder and the views of the Firth, and the Romanesque village outside are absolutely scrumptious. The Two Bridges Inn in South Queensferry is similarly appealing.

If you take a tour, you could discover the splendid Old Clubhouse in Gullane, noted for its traditional cullen skink, and the Four Mary’s in Linlithgow that is pretentiously mediocre and where the unfortunate cullen tends to gets drowned in the skimpy skink. The Ricarton Arms in Currie offers adequate family fare with a pleasant drink.

And the Bridge Inn at Ratho has a superb menu, including steak stuffed with haggis, and an excellent view of the barges on the Union Canal. So take a canal trip after you’ve stuffed yourself silly! 

Let’s return to the top of Leith Walk, and Broughton St. The Café Piccante is a sit-in chippie that serves palatable late-night kebab. Siam Thian serves Thai food without frills, and may be worth a try when you’ve been on a binge.

The so-called Café Habana in the much-respected Edinburgh Playhouse is a grotty gay bar that doesn’t serve food, which it’s reportedly supposed to under its contract with its brewers. Beware the self-acclaimed police-killer should you venture in. He isn’t part of the theatrical performance.

That place is no match for the all-accepting Regent on Edinburgh’s Abbeymount, where Heather and her cronies serve delightful food with the drinks. Indeed, the Regent is the only decent eating place in Abbeyhill. Tom went to some strange breakfast place on London Road where the misfits stared at the walls, and the badly-attituded waitresses glared at him. What a shame for such a lovely district. Perhaps the Kentucky Fried Chicken that controls the Meadowbank Shopping Park has something to do about all this, though they do leave some meat on the greasy bones. It’s chicken licken bad!

 
 

The Xanadu is on London Road just west of Meadowbank Stadium. The budget-priced Chinese food is of remarkably high quality. Allan enjoyed the king prawn, bean curd and oyster sauce, washed down by a glass of refreshing lager. A shining beacon in that part of town.

The Boston Bean Company in the King James’ Thistle Hotel is the pits, and you won’t get your money back. The less-than-exciting food in the Theatre Royal does not do justice to the quality of this historic bar. The nosh in the tawdry Elm Bar is better.

The Fiddlers Elbow (previously Thai Me Up) was extremely unwelcoming on the two occasions when we tried to eat there, and they seemed to have lost their chef. We thought that they might learn a lesson or two from the bouncers outside the colourful GHQ bar in the cellar. Perhaps the shady Glesca magnate Stefan King is still operating the entire building from afar, after he took on the much-feared Diane in C.C. Blooms opposite. But beware the fickle reviewer! We’ve now heard from several sources that Fiddlers Elbow has got much more customer-friendly and that the food varies between ordinary and great. So that’s a (+) instead of a (--), and no wooden spoon. It’s also a quirky place to stay, though we’d be scared to bits. One for the connoisseur!

The last time Tom tried eating breakfast in the Smoke Stack on Broughton St, he got less than he bargained for. We’ve however heard that it now serves delicious steaks. Mahlers is a welcoming, traditional Scottish bar that sells juicy burgers. And the trendy Street serves palatable nosh.

If you’re brave enough to venture down Leith Walk beyond Vittoria, the standards quickly deteriorate. We don’t want to mention the name of the first Chinese restaurant on the right, as they once stood us up while we were dying of hunger on Boxing Day. Perhaps they should rename it the Number Seventeen Viet Cong. However, they do serve delicious plum sauce on their duck. They therefore deserve to be recommended. Further along, the Sea Breeze serves excellent late morning breakfasts. Their Desperate Dan takes the biscuit. We had an average experience in the Silver Bowl Chinese and Thai place.

However the Deli Polonia is fantastic, a squeaky-clean oasis in the middle of nowhere. The Polish breakfast is breath-taking, with an enormous traditionally-shaped sausage. Try some bigos on the side, and don’t forget to take away a few loaves of their wonderfully-grained breads.

Let’s take a few last lingering looks around and about the city. 

The popular Bijou bistro on Leith Links offers a light breakfast and a substantial dinner.

It is difficult to recommend too many places in Portobello, which seems to be lost somewhere back in time. However, the Espy bar on the Esplanade is run by a hospitable Australian couple. There’s a playroom for children and board games for the adults, and the atmosphere is very relaxing. The bar menu offers tasty fare, and the evening menu changes every day with a slightly Latin and New World twist. The kangaroo burgers are one of the delicacies.

In Musselburgh, the Glasshouse is said by an artist friend to be the best, but Allan’s parents prefer the One-on-One bar on New St. The Waterfront Café in Newhaven serves good family food, and there’s a playroom where you can throw the kids.

Back in town, Allan’s parents like the Kurdish platters and buffet in the Haman restaurant off the High St.  Allan likes the Wok on Causewayside where the Chinese dishes are fresh and crispy. It’s certainly no greasy spoon.    TO BE CONTINUED

 
 
 
 
 
  © Thomas Hoskyns Leonard, 2012