Last Updated on August 13, 2022
Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
By Jim Ferri
I didn’t know anything about Grassmarket in Edinburgh since there’s little written about it in guidebooks on Scotland.
The first time I heard about it was late one afternoon when I asked for suggestions for a good place to go for dinner that evening.
Several different Edinburgh locals told me to wander down to Grassmarket in the Old Town. I thought that would be good, since it wasn’t far from my hotel. And it was just south of the Royal Mile and Edinburgh Castle. It turned out to be the perfect way for a solo traveler to spend the evening.
I didn’t know what to expect but even at night I found it to be a rather picturesque place. There were a lot of shops, although most, except for a bookshop, closed for the evening when I got there. And, as you might imagine, plenty of the ubiquitous Scottish pubs and restaurants.
Not all Grassmarket restaurants are Scottish though. I found Mama’s Italian restaurant, where a slice of pizza will set you back £1.95, not a bargain to me. And the cheerful Petit Paris, bringing a bit of France right there to you in Scotland. I couldn’t help but think how the European Union has homogenized half of Europe.
The Last Drop and Other Historical Grassmarket Pubs
The whole street was chockablock full of restaurants and popular, convivial pubs. Further up I came across one of them, the “Last Drop.” Is name comes from the fact that years ago it was where those condemned to hanging were brought to have their last drink and meal. The gallows were conveniently located across the street, right there in Grassmarket in Edinburgh.
Several doors down I found the White Hart. It was, according to the meticulous gold lettering on its dark green façade, established in 1516. One of the oldest pubs in Edinburgh, it has a huge selection of Scottish malts.
Even if you’re not interested in the malts you may want to stop by to be infused with its history. Robert Burns and William Wordsworth used to frequent this Grassmarket pub. A couple of infamous Scot murderers also found their prey here, later providing them for dissection at the local university. And it’s probably the only place you’ll ever visit that was bombed by a German Zeppelin in WWI.
A Delicious Meal
After peeking in here and there, a wonderful precursor to any dinner, I wound up at the “Mussel and Steak Bar.” It’s a Grassmarket restaurant that prides itself on serving “the best Scottish beef and seafood”. It turned out to be one of those great little restaurants you stumble upon every once in a while on your travels.
Right in the middle of Grassmarket, it was a very comfortable place, the staff very friendly, and the food delicious. An added bonus was the waitress who provided me with information on where to go and what to see around Edinburgh. It was the kind of info only a local would know.
One thing that I found really interesting was the flat screen TV on the wall by the bar. The TV’s sound was off, but it showed different tours around Scotland, of course running a small blurb about the “Mussel and Steak Bar” every once in a while along the bottom.
But what caught my attention in this Grassmarket restaurant was that every so often it would cut to a live feed from the kitchen, where I could watch the chef preparing everyone’s meal. Along with the chit-chat with the waitress, it was a clever way to keep me occupied while I waited for my meal, which turned out to be just as advertised.