The street food scene in Scotland has slowly been growing over recent years and now it has become a much-loved, welcome and in some places (e.g. festivals) expected part of our culinary landscape.
Being able to set up a kitchen in a van, and serve your creations to a captive audience, has paved the way for some of our celebrated casual restaurants and chefs - Julie Lin and El Perro Negro are two that spring to mind.
This cost effective way to trial recipes and businesses has led to street food festivals, street food awards and permanent street food markets. Glasgow alone has the Big Feed, which is gearing up to co-host a street food and music festival this September weekend, and Dockyard Social.
Edinburgh lagged behind on this (especially after the Pitt StreetFood Market closed) until this February when the permanent Edinburgh Street Food market (ESF) was set up outside the Omni Centre.
The ESF line up includes Junk, Bundits, Chix, What Le Duck, Antojitos, The Peruvian, House Of Tapas, Homies, Fabbrica Pasta and SoftCore, with room for further rotating guest traders outside along with live music and events.
We headed along for some dinner right smack bang in the middle of the Fringe. It’s an ideal spot as it’s quick, easy to get a seat and brimming with atmosphere due to the crowds and music.
There’s no stress over queues or a booking, it’s all very straight forward. Music to anyone’s ears when battling the crowds in the capital in mid-August.
Orders for food and drinks are made online via a QR code at the table, which are long and with benches - made for sharing.
We had a night of whisky ahead of us so opt for soft drinks, although there’s a selection of cocktails available including: Picante and Passion highball along with wines and beers from West, Pilot, Campervan and Barney’s.
The food menu is extensive, with classic fried chicken from Chix, fresh pasta from Fabbrica and pizza by the slice from Homies.
We deliberate but ultimately are drawn to street food award winners Junk, who opened their first standalone restaurant in Edinburgh in late 2022, after a whirlwind few months.
They came out on top at the 2022 British Street Food Awards, ahead of opening their restaurant, and were nominated for a Scran award earlier this year.
Junk are Cam and Jade, who started their business as a blog, which developed into a recipe site that then led to their street food venture only four months ago. From their menu we opted for the fillet ‘o fish burger (£9).
Over at Bundits, another Edinburgh street food success story, we chose the Pork Chashu Bao (£6).
Voted Best Newcomer at the Edinburgh Restaurant Awards in 2022, Bundits launched a Leith pop-up in 2021 and have a range of East Asian fusion fluffy Hirata bao buns on their menu at ESF.
From Chix, which also has an outlet at Bonnie and Wild in the St James Quarter, and is the brainchild of head chef Ed Cresswell, whose background is in ultra fine dining establishments including working with Heston Blumenthal, we ordered a classic three spicy tendies (£6).
Getting a bit carried away now, we also decided to try the Tequenos (£6.50) from The Peruvian and Allez les Bleus - Loaded Frites (£7.50) from What Le Duck, which promises classic French confit duck with a Scottish twist (and what’s more of a Scottish twist than chips?)
All of this food,which is shared between two, arrived quickly and efficiently despite us sharing a table with at least two other groups.
The main and standout dish, alongside the boa bun, is the fish burger which really is, as the name suggests, a much nicer take on the classic McDonald’s one that no one orders.
Two thick slices of crispy tempura coley are balanced on a brioche bun and covered with crisp lettuce, a slightly spicy tartar sauce and sprinkled with slivers of salt and vinegar matchstick fries.
There’s thin and crispy onions in there too. It’s messy but tasty and bursting with flavours and textures. Inside the bao bun was squidgy pork croquettes topped with dense, sticky sauce, spring onion and thin slices of cucumber. It’s sweet, fresh and rich all at once - just what you want from this kind of dish.
The Tequenos, crisp cheese parcels, were served on a bed of lettuce with a fresh, avocado dip. Surprisingly light and not at all oily.
The loaded fries were a riot of shredded duck, rosemary scented gravy and crispy chips. The rosemary flavour from the gravy was strong but not overpowering and complemented the herby, succulent duck (I’ve had a bad experience in the past with duck but this was very enjoyable).
Everything was rich but flavourful -and a bit like poutine. Finally the crispy, quite spicy chicken tenders were fine and would be ideal as a kids’ order.
Sadly there was no room for dessert, despite the warm cookie calling to me from SoftCore.
Edinburgh Street Food is undoubtedly a welcome, relaxed and efficient addition to the Edinburgh food scene and the Scottish street food scene in general.
With indoor seating and such a wide range of food (veggie and vegan options are in plentiful supply), it’s easy to see why the owners are keen to roll out the concept elsewhere.
Eating well, on time and without a reservation in Edinburgh in August, is a winner for me.