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The best restaurants and bars to visit during the Edinburgh Festival 

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Edinburgh's food scene has "exploded" over the past decade Credit: John and Tina Reid/Moment RF

The annual Edinburgh Fringe festival is well under way. Throughout August, hundreds of thousands of people will descend on the Scottish capital for a month of theatre, comedy, art, music and much more across both the Edinburgh International Festival and the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, supposedly the world's biggest arts festival. 

The swarms of tourists will no doubt need fuel to survive a packed schedule, and they're in luck because Edinburgh's gastronomic scene has improved dramatically over the past decade. These days, you can find foraged wild greens, sumptuous seafood, and fine dining that competes with anything on offer further south. 

One of the main areas driving the renaissance is Leith, now as famous for Michelin stars as the drug-fuelled escapades of Trainspotting. A couple of miles north of the Old Town, it's worth a detour when the busy theatre schedule gets a bit much (though there are plenty of venues in Leith, too). 

"The restaurant scene has really exploded," says Paul Wedgwood, co-owner and head chef at renowned Wedgwood the Restaurant, situated 100 yards from Edinburgh Waverley station. After working in Michelin-starred restaurants across the country, Wedgwood came to Edinburgh in 2008, two years after Tom Kitchin's acclaimed The Kitchin opened in Leith. 

"For such a small city to have such a number of restaurants, you'd think there's got to be an end somewhere, that we can't sustain it. But we seem to be able to," Wedgwood explains. According to the chef, with chains buying up prime locations in the centre, smaller independent eateries have been forced outwards – to areas like Leith. "It's bringing those neighbourhoods back to life," Wedgwood suggests. 

With new openings all the time, access to excellent produce and a hungry populace, Wedgwood sees Edinburgh as Britain's foodie capital. "I'm biased because I live here, but I'd say it's better [than London]. You don't have to travel to get anywhere. I adore London, but in Edinburgh it's so localised. We're proud of our ingredients, we've got some fantastic producers, all this great stuff on our doorstep, and now all these talented people actually using it as well." 

Foraged foods, seafood and, of course, game, should be on the menu for any festival goer. There are plenty of places serving up amazing things (Wedgwood "can't think of any right now that are mediocre"), like Scott Smith's recently opened Fhior, just yards from the famous Edinburgh Playhouse. 

Smith's Michelin-bound restaurant is one example of the countless new places popping up, pushing boundaries and setting new standards. "I'm not one of the new kids on the block," says Wedgwood, "I've got to constantly see what's going on and keep moving the menus on, not get left behind. It's fantastic." But Wedgwood highlights how uncompetitive the scene is: "We like to work together and help each other out." 

The festivals tie in with Glorious Twelfth, the day in August each year when the grouse shooting season begins. With such a strong focus on "modern Scottish" cuisine – the best local produce blended with French techniques – there's no doubt the bird will feature heavily on menus up and down the city. 

Seafood, too, is Scotland's forte. While much of it goes abroad, more and more is finding its way into Edinburgh's kitchens. "Anything that comes from Scottish waters, particularly shellfish or flatfish, because of how cold it is, it's second to none," Wedgwood explains. 

While there are plenty of excellent restaurants in Edinburgh to keep you sated, here are Wedgwood's favourites.

1. Fhior 

36 Broughton St, Edinburgh EH1 3SB 

A recent opening from Scott Smith, whose previous restaurant, Norn, was a hit. "It's wonderful fine dining, and very, very Scottish, from a very talented chef," Wedgwood exalts. "He's doing some wonderful things and being quite clever with ingredients. I love his modern approach, he's doing the wild food thing with a little bit more than just the odd leaf here and there." 

Star dish: "Lobster with fermented rhubarb and cucumber. Or lamb loin with sea buckthorn, carrot and burnt onion. Very well matched flavours." 

2. The Little Chartroom 

30-31 Albert Place, Edinburgh EH7 5HN

A tiny venue taken over by a couple who've worked at some of Scotland's best-loved restaurants like The Kitchin and Castle Terrace. "It's a tiny operation with about seven or eight tables, and it's absolutely fantastic. It's modern Scottish cuisine with a nod towards seafood, being the chartroom." 

Star dish: "A clever play on a classic: plaice, clams, mussels, sea plantain, brown butter and buckwheat. Or raw mackerel with gooseberries, cucumber and wood sorrel. Very clever use of the tartness of gooseberries against the oiliness of mackerel, and hint of lemon from wood sorrel." 

3. Ostara 

52 Coburg St, Edinburgh EH6 6HJ

"It's in a strange location, but it's built a reputation through word of mouth, as there's not much passing trade. But it's always busy, and always good. They're adventurous, and it does quite healthy brunches.

Star dish: "A standout dish I had there was fried potatoes with baked eggs, chorizo and black pudding, it was stunning. Quite an unhealthy one actually – but we're allowed to indulge in that now and then aren't we?"

Three tips from Telegraph food writer and Edinburgh festival fanatic Pip Sloan

1. Wings

5/7 Old Fishmarket Close, Edinburgh, EH1 1RW

Suffering from Fringe burnout? If you're planning to spend a lengthy amount of time there, it will surely happen. When it does, you would be wise to make your way to Wings on Old Fishmarket Close. 

A chicken wing specialist with over 50 different types of rubs, marinades, sauces and toppings, it's the perfect place for a messy blowout – knives and forks not needed. Go for the sweet and sticky Oh Canada maple BBQ. Divine. 

2. Ox 184

184-186 Cowgate, Edinburgh EH11 1JJ 

Situated in the shadow of South Bridge near a number of renowned venues (The Three Sisters down the road is always buzzing with comedy) and open until 3am every day, this barbecue, whisky and cocktail joint is perfect for a post-show meal and a blood orange Margarita or two.

The highlight? A huge and very delicious flank steak with homemade slaw, chips and corn. All the fuel you'll need for a night of theatre and comedy. 

3. Howies Restaurant 

10-14 Victoria Street, Edinburgh EH1 2HG

Located just minutes away from the fantastic Cowgate Udderbelly venue and metres from lively Grassmarket, Howies is a solid bet for a pre- or post-show meal full of elegant takes on Scottish classics like cullen skink, smoked salmon and Scotch beef. 

I was taken on a date here by a performer once – it didn't work out, but we shared some great haggis, neeps and tatties.

And if you're after a good drink, here are some tips from Calum Mackinnon, co-founder of London's Scottish restaurant Mac & Wild, who previously worked on the bar scene in Edinburgh

1. The Devil's Advocate 

9 Advocate's Close, Edinburgh EH1 1ND

"It's tucked away off the Royal Mile, down a narrow medieval close, and for me really is what Edinburgh is about," says Mackinnon. "The interior is beautiful, and the atmosphere is always buzzing. It's a great place to go for a romantic date, cocktails with friends, or a dram by yourself. 

"It's owned by the hugely talented Stuart McCluskey, who has curated a wonderful cocktail list where you really can't go wrong – and they also do a mean old fashioned." 

Star cocktail: "I like my whisky cocktails so it's Idle on Islay, it's short, boozy and smoky, made with Bowmore 15yo, cardamom-infused Kahlua, Noilly Prat, Elements of Islay PEAT and Hopped Grapefruit Bitters."

2. The Cumberland Bar

1-3 Cumberland Close, Edinburgh EH3 6RT

"Featured in Alexander McCall's novel 44 Scotland Street, The Cumberland is a true local's bar in a lovely residential area. It also has one of the best beer gardens in Edinburgh. 

"It's a lovely setting for a quiet pint and chat with friends, and the beer garden is always bustling when the sun is out. There are some great ales on draught and a good whisky offering." 

Star beers: "William Brothers Joker IPA and Ceaser Augustus and they also have a few guest tap ales."

3. Timberyard 

10 Lady Lawson Street, Edinburgh EH3 9DS

"More of a restaurant than a bar, but near the Grassmarket in a beautiful ex-industrial warehouse space. It's owned and run by a family and their attention to detail is amazing – and they've put the same effort into their drinks menu. 

"The restaurant is always busy but there are a few areas where you can sit and enjoy some drinks in the beautiful setting. They've sourced some great wines and beers, and their cocktails are really impressive – I really enjoyed the pine sap negroni." 

Star dish: "When I last went they had an amazing venison fillet on but that was a while ago but looking at their current menu, the turbot, daikon, apple, coastal herbs, cod roe sounds good."