Chef Barry Bryson gives us a run down on his favourite food spots and things to do in Edinburgh
Barry Bryson is one of Scotland’s leading events chefs and heads up a dynamic event catering firm called Cater Edinburgh. When he isn’t creating menus and cooking for prestigious brands such as Louis Vuitton and Glemorangie you’ll find him coordinating the food for arts venues such as Summerhall, The Edinburgh International Book Festival, Jupiter Artland and Dovecot Studios. Barry is also one of Edinburgh’s go-to private chefs for dining and entertaining in the home and even runs bespoke classes on hosting and cooking for guests.
To find out Barry Bryson’s recommendations for the best places to eat in Edinburgh, read below.
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For truly creative and bold seasonal cooking I have to say Aizle delivers for me every time. I love the concept of menu-free restaurants like this but often they can fall a bit short. This place however never disappoints. I love the laid-back dining room that allows the food and flavours to shine and excellent cocktails too. For the experience it delivers it’s also incredibly well priced.
Le Roi Fou
I think this is the best new dining experience in Edinburgh. It’s lavish and hearty yet no detail is missed with flavour and well-researched sourcing shining through on every dish. Plus the dining room is like no other: a stunning clever, warm interior. I was blown away both times I’ve been.
I love this place for almost every occasion I can think of: meeting friends, pre-theatre, lunch and dinner – it’s always excellent. The best of Scotland with a French twist is how they describe it and that’s spot on. Fantastic in its consistency and sourcing and one of the friendliest and most polished front of house teams in Edinburgh. I got hungry writing this about this place.
Relaxed friendly little restaurant with a brilliant husband and wife team. Everyone I’ve ever taken here absolutely loves it. It’s small so booking ahead is essential. I’ve had the great seafood and shellfish stew a few times. Value for money in a big way as the cooking here is top notch.
The Pompadour by Galvin
Possibly the best meal I’ve ever had in Edinburgh was here (a crab lasagna I’ll never forget). Recommended for the impeccable cooking, opulent yet restrained and airy dining room and immaculately well-judged front of house team. My go-to special occasion place but they do a great prix fix menu as well.
Spitaki, East Claremont St
I live the round the corner from here and when you spend long hours at work, it’s a perfectly relaxed food spot to spend time in unwinding and eating simply but well. I’m pretty obsessed with a dip they do called Htipiti, which I mop up with homemade pitta. As a semi- permanent meat avoider when I eat out, it’s brilliant for veggie food. The girls who run this place are warmer than the Greek sun and put up with me never booking in advance and taking my dog along as my dining pal.
In terms of staging and setting, this place takes some beating. It’s like stepping out of the city onto a film set and they have a brilliant front of house team that really deliver.
I think this is probably the best combination of accommodation and food in Edinburgh, with fantastic restaurants. It’s very old school in some ways but that’s what makes it feel special.
I’ve sent a few people here over the years and everyone’s loved it. Small stylish boutique style B&B with great personal attention to detail. Louise the owner is a fountain of local knowledge and I can vouch for the fact that she’s a great cook as well.
Another great food/accommodation combo. I love the modernity and style of the food slightly at odds with the trad dining room, a nice mix. The guest rooms are beautiful here and it’s a brilliant spot to explore the city from.
Atthol Apartments and Lateral City Appartments
I’ve cooked for private clients in a few of the apartments owned by these two high-end self-catering accommodation options. These are really spacious, stylish with modern interiors and amazing locations from which to explore Edinburgh. And of course, I can certainly vouch for the kitchens!
Coffee and Cake:
The Broughton Deli on Barony Street and Leo’s Beanery on Howe Street Both
These are New Town neighbourhood gems and well worth seeking out for great coffee and more. Bars and drinking spots:
The Last Word
This Stockbridge bar makes the best dirty martini in town and it’s nice and friendly too.
This stylish addition to the west end restaurant has a lovely wine bar with a superb wine list.
Le Roi Fou
When I saw that you can pop in here, sit at the beautifully tiled bar, order from their great wine list and get a bar snack, it was the cherry on the cake for me with this great place.
As a permanent man on a school night I can confirm this place on Broughton street does the best Virgin Mary as well as lots of less virtuous drinks, nice food too!
Lucky Liquor and Bramble
If you are feeling sturdy you can visit both these nicely contrasting Queen Street bars one after the other as they are only minutes apart on foot. Things to do for free.
Royal Botanic Gardens of Edinburgh
Visit these stunning gardens feel like you’ve left the world behind for the time you’re there. You can simply enjoy the fresh air and walk around or immerse your brain in the incredibly focused information available on all that’s around you.
The Fruitmarket Gallery
This is my space to think where I can lose myself and focus on someone else’s thoughts! The exhibitions are always supported by brilliant information assistants if you do want a chat about the work but sometimes I come here to make plans for my own work, a world away from the kitchen. A visit is nearly always followed up with sampling Milk’s great cafe here (a space I used to run in my 20s!) and, if I have time, a browse in the not-too-highbrow bookshop. This is an amazing Edinburgh resource.
Museum of Scotland
I should point out that you do have to pay for visiting exhibitions but the permanent collection is always worth a repeat visit. Space-wise this massively revamped institution is fantastic and no matter how busy it gets (and I mean thousands of people!), it still feels like they have room for me. You can wander around here at your own pace. Like most people I’m really tight for leisure time so I tend to do it in stages but anyone on holiday in Edinburgh could spend a superb day here.
Check out our Scottish itineraries here.