It’s a well-known fact that the best way to spend a drizzly Edinburgh afternoon is with good food, good drinks and good company. So, when Eat walk Edinburgh owner Alan Chalmers invited one of the VieAmhor crew to tag along on one of his foodie tours, I jumped at the chance.
The tour took us to six different foodie hangouts dotted across Edinburgh’s Old and New Towns. Read on for my breakdown of the afternoon, plus my verdict on whether it gets the ‘live like a local’ seal of approval.
I met Alan and my fellow foodie tourists in the Hotel du Vin restaurant, just off Bristo Place near the University. After a quick round of getting-to-know-yous, our herring arrived and Alan began the first many fascinating stories about Edinburgh’s past. Delicious food I expected, but the wonderful storytelling was a sweet surprise.
Pan-fried oatmeal-crusted herring with a tomato chutney relish.
The Hotel du Vin is located in the former Bedlam madhouse, where the now renowned Scottish poet Robert Fergusson lived as a patient and died at the young age of just 24. Although he wasn’t famous at the time of his death, he was a great inspiration for two of Scotland’s most famous authors: Robert Burns and Robert Louis Stevenson.
After a glimpse around the Hotel du Vin’s wine-tasting room, we were off to our next stop. Portable headsets on, Alan filled us in on the story of Greyfriars Bobby as he led us down Candlemaker Row and into the always charming Grassmarket. Our second foodie pit-stop was at ‘liquid deli’, Demijohn, where we each sipped a flavour-infused spirit (or two) of our choice.
A wee taste of the Rhubarb vodka – delicious!
An outline of the Grassmarket’s medieval gallows is marked by stones just outside ‘The Last Drop’ and ‘Maggie Dickson’s’ pubs. One of Old Town’s most famous characters, Maggie Dickson famously survived her public execution, ‘waking up’ in her own coffin after the hanging.
Feeling a bit warmer after our liquid snacking, we headed out of Old Town by way of Makar’s Court (home of the Edinburgh Writers Museum). Our next stop was hidden gem Calistoga, a California-inspired restaurant just off the scenic Rose Street. This was were we enjoyed our main course, along with a lovely Cabernet Sauvignon from the Golden State itself.
Pigeon with a ‘scotch egg’ of black pudding.
As we walked down the Mound into New Town, Alan explained the origin of Edinburgh’s one o’clock gun. The cannon, which fires at 1pm every day except Sundays, was originally located on Calton Hill and used to inform the sailors at Leith Docks of the local time. When the cannon was first moved to Edinburgh Castle, it still had to be connected to the ‘master clock’ on Calton Hill by an electric cable.
For the whisky lovers in our group, the next stop on our tour was like a dream come true. I am not a huge fan of the ‘water of life’ (I know, who am I?), but I was very impressed with the the Scotch Malt Whisky Society building and all of its sophisticated cosiness. And the haggis, neeps and tatties had all of us scraping our bowls for every last morsel.
A dram of 13-year-old single-cask whisky from a bourbon barrel – plus a wee pot of haggis, neeps and tatties!
Just down the hill from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society is the former residence of Robert Louis Stevenson. Alan walked us by the Jekyll & Hyde author’s childhood home on our way to the West End. Situated at 17 Heriot Row, the Georgian townhouse (not unlike VieAmhor’s Hillside townhouse) is where Stevenson, an often sickly child, spent a lot of time in the company of his beloved nurse Alison Cunningham.
The city’s West End is a nice area to keep in mind if you’re visiting Edinburgh for a second or third time and want to delve deeper into the local scene. It was there that we visited our penultimate eatery, the French-Scottish wine bar Le Di-Vin. From the lovely wine and cheese to the impressive ‘last supper’ chalk mural, I was very impressed with the all around good vibes in Le Di-Vin. Can’t wait to return!
More wine, accompanied by a platter of cheeses, meats, oatcakes and bread.
As we crossed Charlotte Square and headed toward Le Di-Vin, we learned about the history of this particular corner of the city. In the Georgian era, it was one of the most prestigious places you could live. Today, you can still spot signs of their posh lifestyle, such as the mounting blocks next to the pavement (for an easier step into your carriage), the H-shaped boot scrapers on the porches (for scraping the mud off your shoes before entering the house) and the inverted cones within the railings (where those hired to light your way home at night could snuff out their torches).
As the rain began to pour, we quickly dashed across the road to the popular bar, restaurant and Ceilidh-hall, Ghillie Dhu. When we arrived, a booth was waiting for us, along with Scotland’s (in my opinion) most scrumptious dessert. With our bellies full of delicious food and our brains full of Edinburgh’s rich history, our group chatted about our lives in the ‘real world’ for a bit before bidding each other adieu.
Traditional Scottish cranachan (Oats mixed with cream, whisky and honey, and topped with fresh raspberries)
Just before we ducked out of the rain and into the Ghillie Dhu, Alan pointed out St. Cuthbert’s Church at the base of Edinburgh Castle. It’s where, in 1930, crime novelist Agatha Christie had her under-the-radar wedding with second husband, British archaeologist Sir Max Edgar Lucien Mallowan.
The restaurants and bars that we visited all get the ‘live like a local’ seal of approval. Just the food alone would have left me feeling satisfied – but Alan’s insight into the history of Edinburgh was the icing on the cake. It’s what really sets this tour apart, and the reason why I would recommend it to anyone visiting Edinburgh, ‘foodie’ or otherwise!