Edinburgh: Southside

Feature by Alastair Roy | 18 Sep 2009


Edinburgh’s Southside bursts with the city’s most iconic buildings and cultural institutions – from the stunning pink National Museum of Scotland, to the curved glass facade of the Festival Theatre, and imposing neo-gothic black beauty that is the Bedlam. Turn off Nicholson Street (just down from South Bridge) to escape the map-clutching tourists and you’ll discover the cobbled oasis of West Nicholson Street – lined with intimate coffee houses, restaurants, boutiques and bars. Turn back on yourself (up Chambers Street) toward Bristo Square and you’ll find a great setting to chill out on the steps and watch skateboarders chase that elusive kickflip. Just off Teviot Place is the Meadows – the city’s green soul; a massive expanse of parkland crossed with romantic tree-lined pathways. There’s a pitch and putt golf course as well as The Golf Tavern and The Links pubs to offer quick shelter from Edinburgh’s hissy-fit weather. A stroll through the park takes you to Marchmont – a leafy residential area dotted with coffee houses and quirky stores to explore.


Grab a tray and choose from the mix 'n' match of organic food in Susie's Wholefood Diner (51-53 West Nicholson Street), a counter service gem that offers quick and tasty veggie meals for around a fiver. Mismatched tables and chairs and quirky artwork complete the Bohemian setting. Tucked away behind the majestic Edinburgh Central Mosque building is the Mosque Kitchen (50 Potterow), an Indian restaurant that is about as no frills as you can get. Its plastic tables and chairs under coloured corrugated iron roof all lend to its charm however, and its fast food is as delicious as it is authentic. The Forest Cafe (3 Bristo Place)'s bric-a-brac decor is about as eclectic as its mish mash menu of burritos, sushi and wholesome veggie food. More than a cafe, the Forest has its own studio to showcase new artists, and they also run free workshops on everything from photography to composting and even have a swap shop. And there are regular bands and DJ nights (all free entry) – is there anything that they don’t do?


The Jazz Bar (1 Chambers St) on Chambers Street offers super cool yet unpretentious surroundings, with ever-changing artwork that keeps the venue as fresh as its music. As well as jazz, they deliver funk, hip hop, acoustic sessions, new band showcases and DJs – with funky electro played out into the wee hours most nights/mornings. The intimate Wee Red Bar (Lauriston Street), wedged within the grounds of the Edinburgh College of Art, offers all the character you’d expect from its creative surroundings. Cheap drink and institutions like the weekly indie night The Egg has made this a student favourite for the last 20 years.  And if you fancy something more relaxed head back over to the Bridges to Drummond Street where you'll find the Brass Monkey (14 Drummond St). A celebration of Lennon and Yoko’s Lie-In, this laid back pub is adorned with photos of iconic film stars. However, it's the side room (in effect one massive bed with a roll down screen for movie screenings) where a film buff's dream truly materialises.  Just round the corner on Roxburgh Place is the multi-arts bar and venue The Bowery (2 Roxburgh Place) that aims to recreate its NY namesake in a haze of dim red lighting.