Break the Chain: Eat Local

In his most recent quarterly rant, fellow blogger and friend Lunchquest bemoaned “the arrival of the chain-dominated ‘cuisine quarter’ in St Andrew Square,” along with the expansion of the Christmas markets. It seems the rise of big names in the city centre has lead to a downturn in trade for local Edinburgh restaurants.

Ginger chicken udon at Wagamama

Ginger chicken udon at Wagamama

This hadn’t passed me by. St Andrews has become something of a mini London, which I find troubling. At just a hair’s breadth from the station, isn’t a shame that new arrivals to our city should be presented with such ubiquitous fare? It’s certainly not representative of the vibrant dining scene Edinburgh offers.

But then… I have to confess a certain penchant for Wagamama, and a secret liking for Dishoom. So whilst I agree with Lunchquest, what’s a girl to do when she’s just off a train and gasping for a bowl of ramen?

Well, that’s easy. Edinburgh is awash with fabulous eating establishments, providing a range of cuisines from dedicated chefs. So fret not, friends: here’s a list of St Andrew Square alternatives, all less than 15 minutes walk away.

Instead of Wagamama (Asian fusion)

Tang’s, Candlemaker Row
Distance: 11 mins walk.
In short: not as slick as Wagamama, sure, but cute. Tang’s has stood the test of time and will do you a lovely plate of katsu, or a lip-smacking bowl of ramen.

Special mention: Yes Sushi, Hanover St. For steaming hot pot surrounded by Chinese students, and a side of dragon rolls.

Swap out Dishoom (Indian)

Try: Passage to India, Union St
Distance: 12 mins walk.
In short: oh sure, it’s decor isn’t in the same league of cool, but it’s way more authentic. Try the Hiralyi chicken tikka for something different and delicious.
Read our review.

Hiralyi chicken tikka at Passage to India

Herby Hiralyi chicken tikka at Passage to India

Replace The Refinery (“British favourites”)

Try: Educated Flea, Broughton St
Distance: 12 mins walk.
In short: a concise menu offering Asian and Middle Eastern flair, outstanding meat and seafood sharing boards, and impressive homemade desserts.

Special mention: The Dogs, Hanover St. Solid, satisfying dishes made with personality from an Edinburgh stalwart.

Switch Gaucho (Argentinian steaks)

Try: Chop House, Market St
Distance: 11 mins walk.
In short: generous portions of seafood, hearty sides and incredible dry-aged prime cuts of locally sourced Scottish meats, sold by weight. Don’t be shy.
Read our thoughts.

Fiery BBQ Rib with 'slaw

Fiery BBQ Rib with ‘slaw at Chop House

An alternative to Wahaca (Mexican)

Try: El Cartel, Thistle St
Distance: 5 mins walk.
In short: channel London by waiting for a table – no reservations here – but oh, the cocktails! Small plates for sharing, freshly made with zesty flavours that eschew the mainstream.

Rather than The Ivy (“British favourites”)

Try: The Guildford Arms, West Register St
Distance: 4 mins walk.
In short: a more traditionally ornate interior in which to enjoy straight forward, top notch pub fare, washed down with a pint of local real ale.

Special mention: Cafe Royal, West Register St. For a dozen oysters, just before you jump on the train. Or as soon as you arrive in the city. Or both.


So there it is. Tell your friends. Take your friends. Feast with friends. Edinburgh is small, and wonderful.

Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

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About AmyB

I established my career in marketing by eating and drinking my way around Edinburgh, for both personal and professional reasons. I have an encyclopaedic knowledge of Edinburgh's dining options, achieved through an unrivalled dedication to consuming everything the city has to offer.

One Comment

  1. This is a great idea! There is so much going for the local eating scene in Edinburgh, that it seems mad to go for these generic experiences. Giving folk a sense of what else is nearby (and much better) is brilliant! I wrote a blog post this week about – amongst other things – using local produce:
    Check it out, and feel free to like, share, and/or follow.

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