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Junk, Edinburgh, restaurant review - try this street food champion's small plates

They're serving imaginative dishes on the Southside

Published: August 19, 2023

I might have the metabolism of a hummingbird.

Recently, I discovered that I could sample the wares of 11 street food vendors, with two dishes from each, at the Scottish Street Food Awards, before heading home to munch a relatively normal dinner.

That July afternoon was a memorable date in my gluttony calendar.

This weekend, our finalists - the talented Bia, Choola and Fred’s Backyard Barbecue - will be cooking in London, as part of the British Street Food Awards. Whoever wins that will be heading to the European Street Food Awards.

Then, they will inherit the earth, before, I imagine, being shortlisted for the Galactic Street Food Awards, where all the judges are aliens.

Last year, Edinburgh’s Junk managed to take home all three of the top prizes.

Now they have a presence at Edinburgh Street Food and a restaurant on the Southside.

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Their stand-alone joint was buzzing on a mid-Festival evening, with a pub vibe inside, thanks to neon lights and black walls. Unfortunately, I hadn’t brought my reading glasses or night vision goggles, so I struggled to read the small print on the menu. Working from home, in a gloomy living room, has given me the sight of a 90-year-old Victorian seamstress.

Thus, ordering duties were passed onto my sister, who requested a bottle of Lessino Durello DOC Casa Defra, Veneto (£30) before I could suggest we try their cocktails, which include the Tea Total After This (£10, with Six Spirits mix, burnt citrus and cola).

Her choices came as they were ready, and the first to land, in their “sophisticated take on junk food” style was the homely Le Macaroni au Fromage (£5, for two) - two crispy-edged baked tiles of Gruyere-plastered carb, both topped with caramelised onions, a blob of bacon jam and feathery grated cheese.

Good start, but we preferred the El Taco (£7.50 for two). There were two crispy tostada sandwiches of tomato-y barbacoa lamb belly with apricot mustard. These were gussied up with pink pickled onions, micro herbs and dots of crema. They could’ve racked these up and we would’ve happily sunk a dozen.

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Their Snow Cones option (£6.50 for two pieces) was like a very special canape - something that you might be served at a polar explorer’s wedding breakfast, I suppose. We were presented with two lightly crisp cones stuffed with langoustine, a mild “cherry hot sauce” and chives, as well as two teaspoons of bloody Mary granita on a separate plate.

I was a fan of the On the Gyro (£13.50) - a bigger course that would pass as a small-ish main, which featured a soft piece of marinated chicken breast and a cumin tzatziki. They should sell pots of this, so I can spread it over all my lunches and dinners. There was also endive and courgette on the plate, a herby green oil, and I kept getting hits of the billed guindilla chilli, like sniper attacks, from somewhere or other. Well, if you don’t bring your reading glasses, expect to be taken down unexpectedly.

The Gumbo (£14) was another larger option, with a rich terracotta-coloured roux, mussels, corn, peppers and morteau sausage, plus, on the side, four matchbox-sized squares of sweet and slightly charred cornbread topped by blobs of bright yellow rouille. This dish’s name made it sound humbler than it was. This was properly fancy.

There are just three puddings to choose from, and my less visually-challenged sister went for two after squinting at the list. The Jaffa (£7) is a tribute to this cake (nope, it’s definitely not a biscuit, the courts decided). This consisted of a block of sponge topped in a glossy varnish of blood orange jelly, tuille sails, a scoop of chai masala ice-cream and chocolate soil on the side.

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Our Peach Melba (£7) dessert was a pleasant and breezy bowlful of tasty bits, like wedges of the eponymous furry fruit, dots of meringue, creme fraiche mousse, raspberry, frangipane and a Pilot Peach Melba Sour ice-cream.

All the food was lovely and this place retains an irreverent street food vibe, even if we did, conveniently, have a roof over our heads. It’s also worth mentioning the staff, who are extra friendly and chatty (my receipt says Shannon, who gets top marks).

So, lots of luck to the new winners, but don’t forget last year’s ones.

58 South Clerk Street


(0131 563 9085,

Gaby Soutar is a lifestyle editor at The Scotsman. She has been reviewing restaurants for The Scotsman Magazine since 2007 and edits the weekly food pages.

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