It seems like a silly question to ask in a city centre, but lunch can be a tricky minefield sometimes. Of course Edinburgh has got at least one of nearly every chain out there, but do you really want another one of the same? If you do, then fair enough, but for those of us who want something that isn’t a mass produced product the choice can be more difficult.
For both visitors and those working there, the New Town is awash with these chains. To me Subway smells weird, Baguette Express tastes like plastic and whilst its much better quality, there’s only really so many avocado-themed wraps you can have from Pret before you’re bored and broke; let’s just not talk about Greggs. I’m really looking for something fresher and with ingredients that don’t come in giant industrial bags. Here are a few options if you’re in the New Town (we’ll do an Old Town edition as well):
Sitting on Hanover Street (the north side, between George and Queen Streets) this unassuming little white shopfront sets you up with something to last you through until dinnertime. Choices range from baguettes and wraps to more substantial pastas and salads; the sandwiches are made fresh in front of you and with a meal deal costing (at time of writing) £3.95 (baguette/wrap, juice and crisps/fruit) it’s not extortionate.
Almost across the road from Papaii (just on to Thistle Street, at the corner with Hanover) this tiny little shop gets very busy very quickly. Its blackboard lists all the different types of subs, baguettes and wraps on offer. From a Cesar to a ploughmans, BBQ chicken to prawn mayo, most bases are covered by the extensive collection – you might not get tot the end of the list by the time you’re at the head of the queue. Sandwiches vary in price from about £2.50 to £3.50, but those at the lower end of the scale are in the meal deal for £3.49 (sandwich, juice, crisps/fruit). There’s also always two soups on offer, although they are less popular in summer (oddly enough).
The Charlotte Square end of Rose Street is where these lunches are made – there are are baguettes, sub rolls, salad boxes, baked potatoes and soups on offer here, something for every kind of a day. It’s erring towards a chain (there’s another version of it at the bottom of Lothian Road) and there are few shortcuts they make, but nonetheless it’s a place I keep coming back to. In the winter their soups are good (they are still there in summer, I just haven’t tried them) and for the summer a deli salad box is what to get. A large salad box is £3.50, so it is not a cheap lunch if you’re adding juice and other bits on top, but the soup is cheaper and there’s loads of choice for the salad boxes.
This philanthropic venture is perhaps the most hit and miss of the list. A crowd-funded venture, this social enterprise aims to give every bit of profit back to those in need, splitting its proceeds between homeless charities here in the city and a children’s charity in Africa. The premise behind it is highly commendable and the vast majority of the time it’s delicious, but I find their prices are sometimes too high for the quality on offer, and the soups sometimes too watery for their own good. If you’re feeling like a good person though, I would suggest giving it a go some lunchtime – I know many people who rave about this place, and its newly-opened branch down on Shandwick place.
In the West End, this corner shop was once a jewellers (if my memory serves me correctly); today though the green exterior offers up a world of baguettes, panini, wraps, salads and baked potatoes. It’s a busy street and inside Pinocchio is no quieter. Every sort of filling is available and the chicken, cheese and salsa wrap I saw being made the last time I was in gave me some serious lunch envy. Again, it’s around £3-3.50 for most of what is on offer.
It seems remiss to end this here – the list could literally just keeps on going. Let us know your favourite lunchtime haunt on Twitter and we’ll check it out.