Eating Out in Edinburgh: Some Cafes and Restaurants With a View – Slateplate
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Eating Out in Edinburgh: Some Cafes and Restaurants With a View

Edinburgh is one of the most spectacular cities in the United Kingdom, if not in Europe – and there are those who would argue that it is one of the best in the world. From the medieval Royal Mile there are views across the Firth of Forth to the hills of Fife; the stunning fortress of Edinburgh Castle gives views across the Lothians; and the extinct volcano of Arthur’s Seat dominates the eastern views of the city.

Edinburgh attracts many visitors and has many, many cafes and restaurants to feed them. But to make the most of its spectacular setting its worth choosing somewhere with spectacular views – and to carry on sightseeing even when stopping for a bite to eat. Below is just a selection of places in the city where good food is married with fine views.

The Tower Restaurant, Museum of Scotland

Widely regarded as one of the best restaurants in Edinburgh, the Tower is a place for a special occasion. Located on the top floor of the Museum of Scotland in Chambers Street, it is accessible out of museum hours by a separate lift. Picture windows and a rooftop terrace offer stunning views of the Castle (wonderfully floodlit at night) Greyfriars Church and the rooftops of the Old Town. Not far from a slate quarry, this restaurant makes beautiful use of slate plates for their restaurant, making their food pop with the black color of the slate.

The Tower serves lunch from 12-5pm and dinner from 5-11, with a special set lunch menu/two-course theatre supper (available until 6.30), as well as afternoon tea from 3-5 pm and a £30 set three-course dinner menu. Menus are based on seasonal ingredients, locally sourced, and offer a range of Scottish dishes including scallops, oysters and pigeon, with salmon and Scotch beef dishes also on the menu.

National Galleries of Scotland Café, Princes Street Gardens

Right in the city centre just off Princes Street, the café is located in the basement of the National Galleries complex: it’s open from 8am (10am on Sundays) but until the Gallery complex opens at 10am, access is only available through the gardens. Large windows look out onto Princes Street Gardens with views towards the Balmoral Hotel, North Bridge and the spine of the Old Town.

The café boasts of its quality and offers a less formal experience than a more traditional restaurant. Food is available all day; there is a separate breakfast menu (served until 11.45) with light lunches, snacks and a traditional Scottish high tea, which consists of a hot dish with bread and butter and a selection of cakes or scones. On the gallery concourse a small coffee shop sells coffee and cake – and shares the views.

Forth Floor Restaurant and Brasserie, Harvey Nichols

When ‘Harvey Nicks’ came to Edinburgh the Forth Floor restaurant , adjacent to the store’s food hall, was one of its main attractions. The eatery gained its punning name from its views – it looks out over the rooftops to the Firth of Forth with its islands and the Fife coast beyond. But there are panoramic views of the rest of the city too, taking in both the Old and New Towns.

Lunch and dinner are on offer in both the restaurant and brasserie, while the Sunday brunch is served in the brasserie only. The emphasis is again on fresh Scottish food, with porridge on the breakfast menu and such items as west coast scallops, venison and a selection of Scottish cheeses: the brasserie features a seafood bar. There are set menus for lunch.

The Elephant House, George IV Bridge

At first sight the Elephant House (famous as the place where JK Rowling sat drinking coffee while she wrote the first Harry Potter Book) doesn’t look like a place with a view. Situated on the busy George IV Bridge it appears cramped – but the large, airy back room offers quirky views over the erratic rooftops of Edinburgh, across to the Castle and the historic Greyfriars churchyard.

The Elephant House is a café rather than a restaurant. Open all day from 8am-11pm, it offers a wide range of coffees and teas. To eat, there’s an eclectic mix of main meals including haggis, enchiladas and lasagne; lighter bites include sandwiches, burgers and salads – along with that Edinburgh staple, a selection of cakes and traybakes.