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Looking for one fancy lunch, one pub night, and plenty of cheap eats in Edinburgh

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Hi guys,

I'm going on a study tour of Edinburgh in late September after which I plan to head out on a Haggis Tour for the weekend. I have lunch and dinner on Friday to myself and was following the boards which seem to indicate that 21212, the Grain Store, and Kitchin are the best options. I'm planning to do the cheap thing of grabbing a set lunch at one of these places because the dinner seems unaffordable on a student budget.

So my questions are:
1. Given a choice, which should I pick for lunch? I'd prefer cheese to dessert if that's relevant. And yeah if I've missed a good restaurant here please let me know.
2. Do I need reservations for lunch and how far in advance should I look to make a booking?
3. In case I can spring an escape during the tour I'd like to grab lunch at the second best option, so which of these places am I likely to get a table at for lunch, sans reservations?

For the rest of the time, I'd love options for cheap (low carb) eats in Edinburgh including places to buy some good sausage as takeaway. Staying near the University of Edinburgh for the duration of the study tour.

And for the Friday night, one nice pub where I can possibly visit alone (staying near St. Andrew's Square most likely the night after) and have my much awaited Edinburgh pub experience.

I know this is a whole jumble of questions, thanks in advance for the replies!

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  1. We had the special lunch deal at The Kitchin and it was excellent, didn't have any of the 'budget' feel you get with some dishes on such menus.

    If it's a weekday you shouldn't have trouble reserving but I'd still do so as far in advance as you can.

    1 Reply
    1. re: ManInTransit

      Thank you!

    2. As an ex-edinburgh student, I've had many of the same questions as you!

      1. For lunch, I would pick the Kitchn over 21212 or the Grain Store, especially if you're after something more overtly Scottish. The Grain Store is very good, but quite traditional, and more of a dinner sort of place. 21212 is more modernist than the Kitchn.

      As alternatives can I suggest the dining room at the Scotch Malt Whisky Society? The set menu is excellent value, and really shows of Scottish produce at its best, plus you get access to the members only bar afterwards. Drams start at 3.50, and you'll get whiskies that you won't find anywhere else in the world.

      2. Booking is advised, but its never too full, so a few days should be fine for lunch.

      Alternatively, try The Scran and Scallie in Stockbridge, its a gastropub run by Tom Kitchn (of The Kitchn)

      2. You should try to reserve if you can at least a week in advance, but half the restaurant is reserved for walk ins

      3. Sorry, no idea

      Cheap Lunches near the Uni: The Mosque Kitchen, Kebab Mahal (curries etc), Mother India's Cafe (not as cheap, but great more middle class indian), Nile Valley Cafe (middle eastern, cheap wraps), Ong Gie or Kim's Mini Meals (korean), The Brazillian Crepe (I know, but its a thing apparently) stall at the top of middle meadow walk. Also worth a look in is Ian Mellis on Bow Street. A fantastic cheesemongers. Buy a wedge of cheese, a baguette, and you're in business.

      Sausages: Crombies on Broughton Street, without question.

      Pubs Near St Andrews Square: The Cafe Royale is great, and traditional, without being touristy.

      The Standing Order is also not bad. Its a wetherspoons, so its cheap, a bit scruffy, and the food is awful, but the building its in is quite impressive on the inside. Their selection of ales is usually quite good as well. May be rammed during sporting events though.

      A bit further out, but still very walkable, I used to love the Dagda, The Blue Blazer, or the Bow Bar.

      All I'll say is avoid The Royal Mile, The Grassmarket, and Rose Street and you can't go wrong pub-wise.

      On a side note, for a dinner you should also have a look at The Gardener's Cottage. 6 course set menu each night. Around 30 pounds. Great value

      3 Replies
      1. re: eljnwin

        Oh thank you! Such a wonderful response. Will look into all these options thanks :)

        1. re: eljnwin

          Just checked the Crombies website - they don't seem to sell cooked sausages, or maybe I'm missing something. Do they, or is there any place that does that you recommend?

          1. re: MumbaiCentral

            Crombies is a butchers, but they do sell sausage rolls/bacon sandwiches to take away in the mornings, and serve hot food at lunch to take away as well. At least they did while I was there. They supply alot of restaurants in Edinburgh, so you'll see crombies sausages advertised on plenty of menus around town as well

        2. As an ex-edinburgh student, I've had many of the same questions as you!

          1. For lunch, I would pick the Kitchn over 21212 or the Grain Store, especially if you're after something more overtly Scottish. The Grain Store is very good, but quite traditional, and more of a dinner sort of place. 21212 is more modernist than the Kitchn.

          As alternatives can I suggest the dining room at the Scotch Malt Whisky Society? The set menu is excellent value, and really shows of Scottish produce at its best, plus you get access to the members only bar afterwards. Drams start at 3.50, and you'll get whiskies that you won't find anywhere else in the world.
          Booking is advised, but its never too full, so a few days should be fine for lunch.

          Alternatively, try The Scran and Scallie in Stockbridge, its a gastropub run by Tom Kitchn (of The Kitchn)

          2. You should try to reserve if you can at least a week in advance, but half the restaurant is reserved for walk ins

          3. Sorry, no idea

          Cheap Lunches near the Uni: The Mosque Kitchen, Kebab Mahal (curries etc), Mother India's Cafe (not as cheap, but great more middle class indian), Nile Valley Cafe (middle eastern, cheap wraps), Ong Gie or Kim's Mini Meals (korean), The Brazillian Crepe (I know, but its a thing apparently) stall at the top of middle meadow walk. Also worth a look in is Ian Mellis on Bow Street. A fantastic cheesemongers. Buy a wedge of cheese, a baguette, and you're in business.

          Sausages: Crombies on Broughton Street, without question.

          Pubs Near St Andrews Square: The Cafe Royale is great, and traditional, without being touristy.

          The Standing Order is also not bad. Its a wetherspoons, so its cheap, a bit scruffy, and the food is awful, but the building its in is quite impressive on the inside. Their selection of ales is usually quite good as well. May be rammed during sporting events though.

          A bit further out, but still very walkable, I used to love the Dagda, The Blue Blazer, or the Bow Bar.

          All I'll say is avoid The Royal Mile, The Grassmarket, and Rose Street and you can't go wrong pub-wise.

          On a side note, for a dinner you should also have a look at The Gardener's Cottage. 6 course set menu each night. Around 30 pounds. Great value

          1. 1. One lunch in Edinburgh would have to be The Kitchin. It is refined but stand out because of the focus on Scottish produce
            2. If you're going for The Kitchin then you'll need to book in advance even at lunch during the week. It's very popular and will get tourist trade on a Friday
            3. It depends what day you're talking about but I would generally suggest that 21212 is most likely to have space at the last moment as it's slightly away from the city centre but I'd give then a quick call just so you don't head out there and there is no space!

            Sausage as Takeaway? Generally it's hard to get unless you get a breakfast roll or a chipshop take away, both of which are unlikely to be great quality! I wasn't aware Crombies did take out but if they do I'd back that recommendation.

            Cafe Royale is a lovely looking bar. I'd also recommend The Guildford Arms which is right next to CR and in my opinion has better beers and certainly is a bustling Edinburgh bar, even if it doesn't look as impressive as CR!

            PS, I'm not convinced that low carb is going to be well served in the Uk on budget eats, we like our bread/pasta/rice/potato accompaniment!

            1 Reply
            1. re: AWaiting

              Hi AWaiting, thanks!

              I'm going to book The Kitchin and was also suggested Gardeners Cottage for dinner. Sadly we'll be staying at a hotel and not a hostel with a kitchen facility where I could cook up my own sausages - but that said maybe I can load up on a full Scottish breakfast and just skip straight to dinner!

            2. Update: I tried to get a reservation at the Kitchin for dinner (YOLO and all that) and I'm going at the end of September and they were all booked out and had exactly one space on a Wednesday - I was looking for a booking for Friday.

              Also looking at Mussel Inn because I love seafood and it doesn't seem really expensive (I hope they do takeaway!)

              2 Replies
              1. re: MumbaiCentral

                If you can't get into The Kitchin try Castle Terrace, which is again part of Tom's empire and starred, albeit with his friend and partner Dominic Jack behind the stoves. I went to both on a recent Edinburgh trip and still can't decide whether CT edged it or not.

                The other special occasion places are Martin Wishart, which is very good (many wonder how he has eluded a second star for so many years now), although I'd recommend going a la carte over the degustation; his portion sizes seem to be tiny for some reason, even by usual degustation standards. And then there's Number One at Balmoral, but this does seem to be the culinary dark horse and is rather over shadowed by those already listed here and the aforementioned 21212. I love 21212's dining room BTW, it has to be one of the best looking dining spaces in the country, let alone Edinburgh. For that reason alone it's also worth considering.

                I haven't been but if you love seafood Ondine has a stellar reputation and legion of admirers. I'm sure other 'Hounders can elaborate on this.

                1. re: marcusj

                  Thanks, Marcusj! I managed to get a weeknight reservation at The Kitchin, but I am thinking I can afford a lunch at 21212. But yes, I love seafood so any recommendations there are welcome. Mussel Inn seems to have been mentioned a few times as well on other threads.