Featured image credit: Peony Gent
I’ve just spent New Year in Edinburgh and have come to the conclusion that it is one of my favourite cities ever. This was about my sixth visit (the perks of having a friend with a flat there), so I thought I’d put together a list of my favourite inexpensive places to eat. This was tough. Everywhere I’ve eaten has been pretty amazing, but for me these are the ones that have stood out – either because they’ve been cheap and delicious (and therefore student budget-friendly), or because they’ve been worth splashing out on.
Best Indian: Tuk Tuk
I knew I was going to love this place before I even stepped in the door, but it more than lived up to my expectations. An Indian street food restaurant with an ambitiously wide-ranging menu, this place pretty much has something for everyone, and I had an absolute field day choosing for other people. I would recommend sharing several smaller dishes rather than going for the bog-standard curry and rice – but don’t overdo it! They suggest having 3-4 small dishes per person, but when I went we shared five between three and that was plenty with some bread on the side. I’d definitely go for the Channa Puri again. Watch out if you don’t cope well with spice, though – be sure to order a raita on the side to cool your mouth down (and that goes for most of the dishes). To top it all off, one of the best things about the restaurant is that it’s BYOB, so you can wash it all down with mouthfuls of delicious Cobra or Tiger (well, it’s got to be Indian beer) from the co-op just a couple of doors down. A student’s paradise!
Best place to splash the cash: Hanam’s
Though a bit pricey for a student budget if you go for dinner, Hanam’s is a real treat if you’re going to go for one more higher-end meal on your trip. This Middle-Eastern restaurant is something quite different from what I would usually go for, but a very enjoyable experience, with lots of dishes I’d never come across before. The lunch menu is very reasonable, with two courses for under a tenner (Monday to Thursday), but if you’re feeling extravagant definitely save it for an evening meal when the choice is much wider and more exciting. The starters had to be the hardest thing to choose because they all sounded so amazing, but I would highly recommend the Kulicha, a sophisticated twist on the student classic of pitta bread and hummus.
Best ice cream: Mary’s Milk Bar
Inspired by the milk bars which were at their peak in the 60s, Mary’s Milk Bar is absolutely the best place to get ice cream in Edinburgh. It’s only £2 for a generous scoop (or £3 for two), and they have some weird and wonderful flavours to complement the usual chocolate and (salted) caramel. Most recently I’ve tried Earl Grey, White Chocolate and Cardamon, and Prosecco and Strawberry Sorbet. All are incredible: make sure you try even the ones that you think sound weird. They’re all made from scratch, with beautifully chosen fresh ingredients. And if you don’t fancy ice cream? Try the milkshakes.
Best atmosphere: 10 to 10 in Delhi
If you’re a student there is nothing to dislike about this restaurant. Dirt cheap, cosy, cute and cool, it’s a great place to go for a bite to eat if your student loan is feeling a bit on the depleted side. My favourite thing about this place is not well-advertised on their website, and that’s the decor. The seats are strewn with beautiful cushions, and the aesthetic is reminiscent of an Jaipuri market, all heavily patterned material draped across the ceiling and walls. If you’re a student definitely go for one of the wraps – the Indian alternative to fajitas – from just £3.50 (go for the Channa Masala!).
Best veggie burger: Burger.
I would normally choose a chicken burger over a veggie one, not being vegetarian myself, but I actually think the chickpea, beetroot and tempeh burger from Burger. might be the better option in this case. Although I sort of disagree on principle with them putting an annoying full stop at the end of their restaurant name (and not just because it makes writing an article about it grammatically confusing), I had a great meal there, and the chips were also excellent. Would also highly recommend the milkshakes if you don’t actually fancy a meal – but don’t get one to take away, they’re a bit vom-inducing if you’re walking and drinking!
Best burger: Oink
An Edinburgh classic, Oink is so simple you can’t believe it hasn’t been done before. Taking the idea of perfecting one dish to the extreme, Oink does hog roast burgers and only hog roast burgers, and my God is it good. Fresh meat every day and they close when it’s all been eaten (so make sure you beat the lunchtime rush, because it will all get eaten!). Alongside your hog roast roll you can get apple sauce, stuffing, chilli relish, or haggis if you’re feeling brave, and you can also ask for crackling (though this often runs out quickly). All round a great lunch time experience. And if you’re not feeling too hungry but just want the experience, you can go for the Piglet, a smaller burger at a bargain price of just £2.95.
Best nachos: Teviot
This is definitely worth a visit if you can swing it. Though Teviot is one of Edinburgh University’s students’ union buildings, it’s open to the public during the day. The building is not only beautiful, but it has surely the best value nachos in town, at only £3.50 for a massive bowl – and let’s face it, you can’t really go wrong with nachos. It’s a really nice place to just sit and chill out, and you can ask to borrow board games from the cabinet if you’ve run out of sights to traipse round or people to see. Or if the weather is too crap for climbing Arthur’s Seat.
If all these places are a bit passé for you, then try and head down to the grassmarket on Saturdays from 10am-5pm to find something a bit different. The traders might differ from week to week, but there’s always something good, from paella to French crepes. Edinburgh foodie farmers’ market is also on Saturdays from 9am-2pm on Castle Terrace, with a pretty impressive backdrop (the clue is in the street name).