Last Updated on November 8, 2021 by Jim Ferri
Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
By Jim Ferri
I didn’t know anything about Grassmarket in Edinburgh since there’s very little, if anything, 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, which wasn’t far from my hotel and 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 with a lot of shops (most, except for a bookshop, closed for the evening when I got there) and plenty of the ubiquitous Scottish pubs and restaurants.
I saw a number of other Grassmarket restaurants as well, including 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, which was trying to bring a bit of France right there to you in Edinburgh. 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,” so named because years ago it was the place where those condemned to be hanged were brought to have their last drink and meal before being brought to the gallows across the street, right there in Grassmarket in Edinburgh.
Several doors down I found the White Hart, which 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, as did a couple of infamous Scot murderers who found their prey here, later providing them for dissection at the local university. It’s also probably the only place you’ll ever visit that had a bomb dropped on it by a German Zeppelin in WWI.
A Delicious Meal
After wandering the street and peeking in here and there, a wonderful precursor to any dinner, I finally wound up going to the “Mussel and Steak Bar” 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. As an added bonus the waitress provided me with a lot of information as to where to go and what to see around Edinburgh, 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.