Looking to shake things up a bit next time you go out on the town? Have you got a thing for the tasty, and the wonderful? Then Edinburgh’s best quirky restaurants will sort you out.
From a vintage New Orleans-style tavern to a restaurant with a Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory themed menu, the city is full of places that offer that something extra special to go with your food. Check out our picks for some of the quirkiest spots to eat in Edinburgh. Make your next dining experience an eccentric one!
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1. Hoot the Redeemer
Hoot the Redeemer is by far one of the city’s most eccentric cocktail bars. It transports you back in time to a vintage tavern, set in the 1950s New Orleans. Enter via an ornate door guarded by a Tarot reader figurine. Inside, quirky adornments fill the space. Expect to find retro arcade games, vintage magician posters, cinema-style seating and, of course, lots of popcorn. Look up to find a ceiling that's modelled on the Sistine chapel! From a vending machine, you can order alcoholic ice cream or a frozen slushie infused with gin, rum or tequila. What a fantastic grown-up spin on a childhood classic!
2. The Paradise Palms
The colourful and wacky Paradise Palms is an attractive proposition. Garishly decorated inside and out, it isn’t shy on decorations. Quirky wall hangings, neon lights, bunting, antiques and vintage records fill every nook. The pub’s soul is its exclusive veggie and vegan food menu. Try the likes of Southern Fried halloumi and barbecue jackfruit sandwiches, or how does tofu ban with homemade teriyaki sauce sound? There’s a fun and intriguing line-up of cocktails and beers too, including tiki-themed and infused fiery rum with fresh fruit. There are no dull moments at Paradise Palms.
Just beyond The Shore in Leith is this fresh, inventive and colourful pub that’s a favourite with locals and visitors alike. Roseleaf has taken the theme of the Mad Hatter’s tea party and run with it. Mismatched, ‘pre-loved’ furniture decorates the bar, vintage hats hang from hooks suspended in mid-air, and to top it all, they serve cocktails in teapots! The eccentricity continues with menus disguised within old copies of ladies’ magazines. There’s nothing usual about this bar! Step inside and understand how Alice must have felt as she tumbled down the rabbit hole.
4. Six by Nico Edinburgh
Visit one of the hottest restaurants in town and enjoy endless bragging rights. Six by Nico is an innovative, fine dining spot with a bold twist that delivers six-course tasting menus that change every six weeks. The food here is straight out of a chef's wild imagination. Themes include American diner, seaside, illusion, forest, and even quirkier menus included 'The Chippie', Disney films and Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory. Multiple trips to this ever-evolving restaurant are a must!
5. Hula Juice Bar & Café
If you're looking for something healthy, Hula Juice Bar & Café may be just the place. Their menus offer all the healthiest options including tropical açaí or a colourful poké bowl. That they look as good as they taste is just a plus! Their drinks menu is equally healthy and epic with options including fresh juices, smoothies, milkshakes, turmeric lattes and more. Hula’s interior design is also seriously photo worthy. You could feel like you’re in Bali with your smoothie bowl and bright, pastel wallpaper. Give it a try next time you're in town.
6. Artisan Cheesecakes
Artisan Cheesecake is a popular, family-run bakery. Their showstopping display of cheesecakes will make your stomach grumble. They make over 250 different kinds of epic cheesecakes, changing their flavours every day to keep things interesting. One of the shop’s most loved creations is the Eton Mess cheesecake. Think of a crumbly biscuit base with a rich, creamy filling and a sky-high topping of crunchy meringues, all finished off with soft whipped cream and fresh strawberries. The ultimate drool-worthy treat!
Warm, cosy and seasonal, Howies restaurants are casual, café-style restaurants serving seriously tasty Scottish cuisine. Options include real Scottish classics like Cullen skink (smoked fish and potato soup), haggis, neeps and tatties, and smoked salmon. Howies Waterloo Place is housed in a gorgeous Georgian building at the foot of Calton Hill – a real head turner with lots of natural light flooding the building, showcasing original period features and contemporary Scottish style. Howies Victoria Street, located in the city’s historic Old Town, boasts stone walls, wooden floors and an eclectic mix of Scottish art that marry with the historic surroundings.
8. The Voodoo Rooms
The Voodoo Rooms lives and breathes quirkiness. Located bang in the centre of town, this dynamic venue offers everything from cocktails to fine dining. Housed over numerous floors, it’s a pretty special place to spend your evening whatever the occasion. The glamourous dining room area comes adorned with ornate ceilings, huge arched windows and comfy, plush booth seating, while the bar stocks at least 60 varieties of tequila and rum at any given time. Their choice of cocktails and beers is dazzling too. Definitely one of the most unique bars in Edinburgh.
9. The Pop Up Geeks
Passionate about all things geeky, the Pop Up Geeks have become one of Edinburgh's hippest night spots. They create unique and immersive experiences based on popular films and TV shows. Games of Thrones, Stranger Things, Harry Potter and The Walking Dead are just a few examples of their themed nights. Prepare for an unmissable experience at this one-of-a-kind venue for after dinner drinks. Booking is essential as spaces are currently limited.
10. Mary’s Milk Bar
Mary’s Milk Bar is as cute-as-a-button. This quirky parlour serves ice creams, sorbets and chocolates with daily changing flavours that are mixed up every morning. Their reputation for soft and creamy delights has people returning many a time to try new flavours, which are often described as simply divine. Think of whisky marmalade, almond and lemon curd or cherry amaretto. Packed full of vintage features, it’s one of those spots where you’ll be taking photos before you even order your goodies!
11. Panda & Sons
Don't be fooled by the façade of an old-fashioned barbershop on the corner of Queen Street. Behind lies one of Edinburgh’s best-kept secrets and a true hidden gem. Panda & Sons is a 1920s, prohibition-style cocktail bar. Descend a hidden stairway and pass through a secret door cleverly concealed within an old bookcase to enter. That's cool, isn't it? On the other side, you’ll find a dimly lit drinking den with cosy leather armchairs, vintage books and gramophones. The décor gives the bar a quirky but relaxed atmosphere.
12. Badger & Co.
Did you know that Badger & Co. is the former home of Wind in the Willows author, Kenneth Grahame? This Georgian building has been transformed into a modern bar and restaurant with furnishings inspired by the gentleman’s club of the Edwardian era. Expect chandeliers, wood-panelled walls and leather Chesterfield armchairs. The rest of the look is partly a nod to the children's book, with paintings of the riverbank characters. There is a courtyard for al fresco drinks and dining and a private dining room. It’s a great Edinburgh hangout if you want to try something different.
13. The Lookout by Gardener’s Cottage
The Lookout By Gardener's Cottage takes Scottish dining to new heights – quite literally. This so-called ‘destination restaurant’ sits on top of Edinburgh's Calton Hill within the restored City Observatory and dome – a trendy art and restaurant complex. Imagine a cantilevered glass box suspended over the hill’s slope. To say the views are jaw-dropping here would be an understatement. The daily changing menus match the vistas without a doubt. You must experience it to appreciate the uniqueness of this place.
14. Makars Gourmet Mash Bar
Quick bit of advice: don't come here if you don't like potatoes. But if you do, then welcome to heaven. Makars Gourmet Mash Bar offers tasty and affordable bespoke Scottish dishes inspired by the fine local craft farmers, brewers and distillers. An eye-catching option includes Bonnie Prince Charlie chicken with whisky, mustard and cream sauce. Or how about a plate of Hornig’s haggis with turnip mash and a honey and thyme sauce? There’s black pudding for a side, while rösti stacks replace the traditional burger bun. All sounds perfect if you want to fill your belly but not empty your wallet! There’s also a small heated beer garden.
15. The Table Restaurant
One table, ten seats and one chef; this fine dining venue is rather special. The very definition of exclusive, you could say. The Table Restaurant might seem a tad refined for this list at first glance, but that doesn’t make it any less quirky. Held in an intimate setting, prepare for an interactive dinner. You’re greeted (in a friendly but socially-distanced manner) and served by the chefs. The table overlooks a gleaming open-plan kitchen, and they will talk you through each dish as it’s being prepared. It’s not cheap but you’re in for a truly theatrical experience that you won’t forget for a long while.
16. The Colonnades at the Signet Library
Located in a stunning setting of Signet Library, a meal at the Colonnades is a special treat. Housed within the historic Signet Library, this secluded restaurant is known for the three-tiers of deliciousness served as part of its afternoon tea. Indulge in a delightful selection of finger sandwiches and sweet treats, rounded off with a warming beverage or a glass of bubbly. Perfect for a special treat or celebration!
17. Boardwalk Beach Club
If you’re looking to explore the city, Boardwalk Beach Club is the perfect retreat. It’s the life and soul of Silverknowes beach promenade in north Edinburgh. Enjoying a spectacular beachfront location, grab a seat in one of the sheltered nooks outside under canopies and umbrellas. You can watch passing horses from local stables and the cricket club playing on the sand nearby. On a colder day, pull up a chair indoors and enjoy the weird and wonderful marine themed décor. There is rattan seating, Buddha statues, vintage tennis rackets, toy bicycles and other fitting trinkets and ornaments. This hidden gem undoubtedly deserves its place on this list.
18. The Sheep Heid Inn
While we would normally suggest you don’t play with your food, here you can – but of course, before or after your meal. The Sheep Heid Inn not only comes at you with steaks and burgers aplenty, but also lets you enjoy a round of skittles, a type of bowling game (indoor bowling alleys can now re-open in Scotland). There’s a hidden 19th-century skittles alley in the back of the restaurant. It’s said that James VI, son of Mary Queen of Scots, had a great time playing the game in 1580. The Sheep Heid Inn is one of Edinburgh’s oldest pubs.
We've only scratched the surface with some of our favourite places. There is plenty more fantastically quirky restaurants and bars in Edinburgh that will fulfil your strangest desires. Think of the likes of The Witchery for the sheer opulence of its interior; Brewhemia for providing whole sections devoted to German bratwurst, currywurst, and kaiser wurst; Lovecrumbs for their quirky flavours, e.g. bacon and maple cinnamon swirl cake with caramel cream cheese frosting; or for instance Urban Angel for their focus on ethical, sustainable food.
Let us know if you’ve tried any of these places or what your favourite is in the iKnow Community or on our social channels using #OnlyinScotland.