Last updated: June 2018
It’s the most wonderful time of the year – in Edinburgh anyway.
“Edinburgh Festival” is a collective name for the many different festivals that are happening during the month of August in Edinburgh. In short it’s a month-long spectacle of stand up comedy, street performances, theatre, literature, music and more.
From experience I know that a day in the life of an Edinburgh Festival goer is usually a frenzied one. There’s the inevitable hangover to deal with, followed by a mad rush to cram as many shows into every waking hour as possible. In between all of this madness, you suddenly realise you should get some sustenance into you.
Like most cities, Edinburgh has its fair share of tourist traps, and without a bit of pre-planning it’s very easy to wander into one. I should know. Having lived in Edinburgh for many years I’ve wandered into a fair few which is why I’ve put together this guide of the top five places to grab a bite to eat during festival time.
- Where: 6 Chapel St, Edinburgh, Midlothian EH8 9AY
- What to Eat: Molokhia, Lemon Sorbet
Nile Valley is easily located in one of the best festival spots. There are always plenty of shows happening around Chapel Street and it’s not too far to walk to The Pleasance either.
The outside of the restaurant isn’t particularly exciting; in fact it’s one of those places that you could easily walk past without noticing it even existed.
Nile Valley serves Sudanese food, a cuisine most of us probably haven’t tried before. Some of the dishes, like the Molokhia, definitely fall into the new experiences category but there are also plenty of dishes you’ll recognise from Middle Eastern restaurants, hummus and falafel for example.
Nile Valley is BYOB so don’t forget to bring a bottle of wine or beer with you.
- Where: 29 St. Leonard’s Street, Edinburgh EH8 9QN
- What to Eat: The Kismot Killer, but only if you’re feeling brave
Kismot has picked up numerous awards, and it was once also voted the number one Indian restaurant in the UK (2013). Situated on the same road as The Pleasance, where a huge proportion of Festival show takes place, this restaurant is in an ideal location for festival goers.
The atmosphere is laid back and friendly, helped by the fact there’s usually always a daring table of lads having a go at eating the ‘Kismot Killer’. The Killer is made up of a combination of the five hottest chillies in the world and from personal experience I can tell you that eating it is an absolutely mind-blowing experience. So mind-blowing that after several incidents involving ambulances you now have to sign a liability waiver before ordering.
Personally I always ask for either the Deshi lamb or Deshi chicken. It’s a family recipe and something a little bit different to the usual Jalfrezies and Baltis. Chocolate lovers if you’d like to try a different kind of Nan bread, order one of the chocolate or marshmallow nans. Or, since you’re in Scotland, the haggis nan.
- Where: 7 Nicolson Square, Edinburgh, Midlothian EH8 9BH
- What to Eat: Anything
Although Kismot is definitely the restaurant to go to for fun and atmosphere, for Indian food my festival choice is always Kebab Mahal. Situated on Nicholson Square, this is a bit of a further walk from the main festival hangouts but trust me, it’s worth it.
Kebab Mahal isn’t one of the better-known curry houses in Edinburgh. It usually gets overshadowed by Kismot, Kushis or its nearby neighbour The Mosque Kitchen, a rough-and-ready pop-up restaurant run by members of the nearby mosque.
During festival time knowing good, inconspicuous restaurants like Kebab Mahal can definitely be to your advantage. While it’s always busy, there won’t be huge queues and you can usually get a table. Or, if the weather is good you can have it was a takeaway and enjoy it on the grass in Nicholson Square.
- Where: 61-65 Rose St, Edinburgh EH2 2NH
- What to Eat: Mussels
If you like mussels, you’ll love the Mussel Inn. If you don’t like mussels, well you may not be as taken with it but don’t worry there are other things on the menu as well.
The Mussel Inn is a great place to come to experience Scottish seafood, something you may expect to find readily available throughout Edinburgh, although something you’ll soon realise is that it’s actually quite hard to find. Thankfully the Mussel Inn makes up for it with a great menu that includes everything from fish stews and seafood platters to lobster and, you guessed it, mussels.
Given that it’s the house speciality, the mussels are definitely worth a try. You can choose from a number of different sauces including Moroccan, blue cheese or shallot and each giant pot of mussels comes served with a baguette for soaking up those lovely sauces.
Located on Rose St, the Mussel Inn is ideal for gigs on George St or for when you’re out doing a little shopping on Princess St in between shows.