The title of this blog post comprises of an interesting question and one I have longed to have answered. Accessible, affordable, independent and tasty are all words I associate with the street food scene here in Edinburgh and I’ve been lucky to have a taster of this at the Neighbourhood Market last summer, in pop ups around the city and at the Fringe but a central permanent hub to bring these together has been something that has been sorely missing…until now.
I ventured to the recently opened ‘Edinburgh Street Food’ otherwise known as ESF earlier this week as it opened its doors on the 25 February. I was eagerly awaiting its arrival ever since it popped up on Instagram in January and safe to say I wasn’t disappointed. Conveniently located on Leith Street, just up from the Playhouse Theatre and attached to the Omni Centre (Greenside Place, Leith Street to be exact), this is perfectly placed to attract locals and tourists alike. But I doubt you are here to read about where it is… let’s get onto the important stuff.
You have three options when ordering which I am a big fan of – you either go up to the stalls themselves and order with the team, you can speak to a waiter and get them to give you a paper menu and order directly with them, or finally, you can order via the app as there is a QR code on every table. Either way, a waiter will come and take your food to you when it’s ready. Big thumbs up for inclusivity and making it less stressful.
First up in our plan of action was the ‘What le Duck’ and their Loaded Pomme Frites which involved french fries in caramelised onion gravy and a rich blue cheese sauce and of course, topped with duck. Not to jump straight to the best bit but this was probably the best thing I ate all day. To have somewhere do duck at such an accessible level was already a win for me but to also have it packed with flavour (and convert me to liking gravy on chips) was a fantastic start to the day. They are also well known for their ‘burger’ which is most definitely next on my list to try.
Before getting to ESF, there was one stall in particular that I was very excited to try – Bundits. Previously, I have never been in a convenient place to try them but am a big fan of bao buns. This one came packed with Korean braised short rib and pickled cabbage in a bun that was as soft as a pillow. With their unfortunate closure further down on Leith Street I am ecstatic to see them back in the game here at ESF. Not quite sure if I’d have this bun again, purely for personal taste reasons as I wanted a lot more punch in flavour, but you best believe I am going back to try the rest.
I could have stopped there but the fact Homies Pizza has taken a place at ESF meant I had to get my hands on a slice. I have never seen so much hype for a pizza joint, especially one that specialises in Detroit style pizzas. But now, quite possibly, I understand.
The image doesn’t do it justice, for just a slice you get a very good portion of pizza which is doused in a generous amount of sauce, hence the reference to ‘pie’, alongside a sourdough like base that is the right balance of crunchy and soft.
Its also not too oily but is definitely not dry – I mean you understand why they have shot to fame so quickly when they have done it so damm well. Me, being very simple with my pizza taste, went for a Margherita, but you can also get ingenious flavour combinations which I am sure will taste just as good.
A pizza joint in a market that opens to 1am and sells alcohol is a very good combination and one I am going back to try, for sure. Although it is worth noting that although DJ’s and events will take place on a Friday and Saturday to 1am, all kitchens will shut at 9pm.
These are just a small portion of what’s on offer – we also had mocktails as it was the middle of the day on a Monday and my sister had churros which gives a real flavour of the vast array of options on offer. Adding to that is Antojitos who specialise in plant based tacos, multiple street food award winners The Peruvian, CHIX made by fine dining experts who are specialising in fried chicken, The House of Tapas who are well known around Edinburgh for their paella, Fabbrica Pasta who pride themselves in fresh pasta made daily, Junk who have hit the town running in the past year or so with ‘junk food’ that’s by no means average, and for all you sweet tooth’s there is Soft Core who are bringing soft serve ice cream exclusively to ESF. Altogether there are 10 permanent traders and we’ve been promised additional rotating guest vendors. You could say (and I would) that there is something for everyone.
The venue is bright, modern and screams neon. They’ve gone all out with making this space feel bright and open and I believe in summer, this will be the perfect spot to sit out in the sun with some delicious food. Plus, the service is unbelievably fast (at least when we went it was) which I was thoroughly impressed with.
The market is open to 1am and includes a dance floor and with regular events on the cards it means this lucrative space turns into much more than just a food venue. I was impressed with how they’ve kitted it out. Yes, they could probably do with better signage to the toilets as its currently covered by another sign, I do wish they’d put coat hangers in the bathroom stalls so I didn’t have to leave my items on the floor and I have been told the heating will be fixed for next time as it was very draughty (not best suited for a country that is cold most of the time). But like with most new places, teething issues are natural.
I am delighted with this newest addition to Edinburgh and can’t wait to see where it goes. If, like me, you love supporting local independent businesses and you love food, then what are you waiting for!? The new home of street food has most definitely arrived.
You can follow Edinburgh Street Food on Instagram for further updates.