Coffee shops in Edinburgh City Centre

Following my first post listing a few of my favourite coffee shops near to Edinburgh Waverley Station, I have pulled together a further list - this time it's a selection of coffee shops in Edinburgh City Centre. There are numerous attractive options in the City Centre so I will most likely update this list at a later date. As before, due to the current covid-19 "lock-down" these are reviews of my visits carried out last month (March 20) before the lock-down took effect. Some of the shops are operating a restricted take-away service and many continue to offer an on-line (or telephone) ordering service for retail packs by post. We all look forward to a return to "normality" soon. Stay safe everyone.


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Fortitude Coffee
3c York Place, Edinburgh EH1 3EB (New Town)

www.fortitudecoffee.com




Fortitude Coffee is a speciality coffee roaster in Edinburgh with a coffee shop on York Place. It's a smallish shop with around 12 seats inside and a few seats outside on the steps up from pavement level. I am aware that they opened a second shop at Hamilton Place, Stockbridge just before the covid-19 lock-down was put in place, so I haven't been able to visit yet.

The shop at York Place is easy to miss if you're not paying attention - up a set of steps from the main street. Each time I have visited, the shop has been busy but fortunately on this occasion I was able to get a seat. There are only a few small tables and chairs on one side of the shop, with some retail coffees displayed on shelving above the tables. Along the opposite wall is a long wall bench with stools and I was able to take one of these.


There is always a friendly welcome here and the service is quick, while the staff always appear unhurried. The small counter towards the rear of the shop has a glass display cabinet of tasty looking cakes, pastries and sandwiches; and I ordered a piece of carrot and walnut cake - and a flat white of course. The shop has a great atmosphere, with a nice balance of lively chat and chilled music.


My flat white was excellent. It was expertly made, well balanced with just a wee touch of "fruitiness". Prices are in line with other speciality shops in the area, my flat white was £2.80, a latte costs £2.90 and a pour-over £3.50. Fortitude roast seasonal single origin coffees and the staff are delighted to offer advice on the various beans when asked.


The shop has a toilet facility at the rear. The large window and narrow glazed double doors at the entrance and the light decor helps to provide a cheery and bright interior. The steps up to the entrance from the main road would restrict wheelchair access.


In my opinion this is one of Edinburgh's finest speciality coffee shops and I can't wait to visit their new shop in Stockbridge at some point in the (hopefully, very near) future.




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Lowdown Coffee
40 George Street, Edinburgh EH2 2LE (New Town)

facebook.com/lowdowncoffee




Lowdown Coffee is a modern speciality coffee shop in George Street, Edinburgh's prime shopping street. It's a small basement shop but has a modern bright, almost minimalist, interior and seats around 15. They serve speciality single origin coffees, which are rotated. The coffee used at the time of my visit was an Ethiopian Halo Espresso, from The Coffee Collective in Denmark. Lowdown also serve fine teas and a light food menu, which includes (I'm happy to report) a great selection of cakes.

You access the coffee shop down some steps from pavement level, onto a small basement courtyard which has a few tables and chairs. When you enter the coffee shop, you are welcomed by the staff at a small counter and shown to a table. A menu is brought to your table along with a carafe of fresh water and a glass - a nice touch while you ponder the menu.

Lowdown doesn't have a traditional serving counter so the whole room is open plan. The espresso machine and drinks prep area is on a countertop set against the back wall, which seems strange at first, however this allows you to see your drinks being made (impeccably I might add). I ordered a flat white and a piece of lemon cake. I watched my flat white being made from scratch, from the weighing out of the beans, the grinding, the precise timing of the espresso brew, the milk steaming and latte art. I was enjoying myself - and the coffee and cake were both excellent. Prices are a little more expensive than other speciality shops in the area - my flat white cost £3:00, a latte also costs £3.00.

The steps down from the main street obviously are not wheelchair friendly, the coffee shop has a toilet facility and the menu stipulates a maximum stay of 1.5 hours. Overall, Lowdown Coffee is a key player in Edinburgh's speciality coffee scene.

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Wellington Coffee
33a George Street, Edinburgh EH2 2HN (New Town)


Wellington Coffee sits on the corner of George Street and Hanover Street, at basement level. It is small inside but has tables and chairs on the basement patio area and in good weather tables and chairs are also available on the main pavement area.

At first glance the interior seems plain and uninspiring, however once you're inside and get used to the space (and smell the coffee) it actually has a great atmosphere. With the old wooden tables and stools; and part wood-clad walls, you quickly feel at home. This is a popular spot for coffee lovers so you'll do well to get one of the 16 seats.

Wellington doesn't offer a wide menu for eating but concentrates on the coffee and treats. I had a flat white with a huge slab of chocolate brownie and both were delicious. The coffee is Red Brick, supplied by Square Mile coffee roasters in London. My flat white was well made and chocolatey, so I had another. At £2.85 for my flat white and £3.00 for a latte, prices are a smidgen above average in comparison with others in the area.

The coffee shop has a toilet but the steps down to the entrance will obviously restrict wheelchair access.

This is a great coffee stop in a good location with a great atmosphere, whether you are visiting on your own or meeting friends.

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Cairngorm Coffee
41a Frederick Street, Edinburgh EH2 1EP (New Town)
Cairngorm Coffee has two coffee shops in Edinburgh - one in Edinburgh's West End and this one, which is the smaller of the two, in Frederick Street. This is another basement coffee shop which you can easily pass by without noticing.

Cairngorm Coffee have their own roastery (in the Cairngorms funnily enough) and serve the usual pastries, cakes and brownies; and some spectacular looking toasted sandwiches. The entrance to the shop is down some steps from pavement level. It's fairly small inside - the servery counter faces you immediately as you walk in. The seating area is over to the right of the counter, with around 20 seats in a mix of industrial style benches and stools. The ceiling over the seating area is lined with old hessian coffee bags but with light coloured walls and generous lighting the small space inside is bright enough and very cosy looking.

The menu - and a sign behind the counter - advertised "coffee & grilled cheese", so I ordered the cheese toastie with a flat white. My flat white tasted nice, although I found the steamed milk a bit thin and so the "latte art" on top didn't last for long. The toastie however was amazing - with thick, stringy melting cheese oozing out the sides. The cheese was very strong (which I like) and a good choice on a cold day. My flat white cost £2.80 which is about average for speciality shops in the area and a latte was priced at £2.90. Filter coffee and speciality teas are also available.

The shop has a toilet - there are a few seats outside on the basement patio area and further seating outside at pavement level. Overall, a cosy and friendly coffee shop with a laid-back atmosphere.

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Burr & Co
20 George Street, Edinburgh EH2 2PB (New Town)



Burr & Co sits on George Street, within the larger footprint of The Intercontinental George Hotel. While the coffee shop supports hotel guests, it is also a popular venue with the general public. It is cosy, welcoming, affordable and easy going; and the brand is "inspired by Victorian coffeehouses, with a 21st century twist". Burr & Co have a second location in London, on the corner of Bernard Street and Russell Square and their coffees are supplied by Caravan Coffee Roasters in London.

Entrance to the coffee shop is directly from George Street. There is a window bar either side of the entrance door which I always make for, if free. The interior of the shop has a continental look, with wood-panelled walls, large mirrors, small round marble-topped tables and mosaic tiled floor. A long servery counter runs deep into the shop, displaying the range of cakes, pastries, sandwiches and light lunches on offer. As usual, I was happy to order a flat white but it was approaching lunchtime so I added a ham and cheese croissant. I thought at first that the clientele would mostly be business types from the hotel but I couldn't have been more wrong. Burr & Co is a friendly, lively coffee shop which has a good local following.


My coffee and croissant were both excellent. The shop offers the usual espresso based drinks and has a brew bar with single origin coffees from Caravan Coffee, London. The espresso is a bespoke George Street Blend produced for Burr & Co. It was pleasantly chocolatey, with just a hint of fruitiness. I had tasted a few different coffees earlier that day and fancied a cup of tea, so I ordered an Earl Grey to finish off with. The tea was excellent - from speciality tea supplier Shibui Tea based in Loanhead, not far from Edinburgh. The prices in Burr & Co are very reasonable and in line with speciality coffee shops in the area - my flat white cost £2.70 and a latte was priced at £2.90.


Access from the main street is fine for wheelchairs and the shop seats around 26. Although the shop doesn't have a dedicated toilet in the space, you are directed through the back of the shop to the hotel toilets, which is an experience in itself. The toilets are immaculately laid out, with fresh flowers, fancy hand soaps, lotion and individual cotton hand towels.


Whether you visit Burr & Co for one of their excellent coffees or teas, you won't be disappointed. Overall, an excellent coffee shop for some "me time" or to meet a friend.



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Castello Coffee Co
7a Castle Street, Edinburgh EH2 3AH (New Town)



Castello Coffee Co is situated on Castle Street, not far up from the junction with Princes Street. It only has a small frontage, amongst a row of large commercial buildings, so it's easy to miss. 

The interior is bright and modern although small, with around 15 seats - a mixture of small tables with chairs; and some wall bar seating. You enter the shop from the main pavement level and so has good access for wheelchairs; and there are more seats outside. The counter has a display of cakes and sandwiches on offer and the menu board advertises breakfast and brunch including home made soup.

I ordered a flat white and cake; and the service was quick and friendly. Castello use Allpress Espresso - and the coffee was excellent. This is Allpress's signature coffee, a lovely smooth blend with notes of chocolate and caramel; and a wee hint of fruitiness and perhaps even a feint hint of spice?  While I enjoyed my coffee and cake it was obvious that the shop has a loyal local following, with a steady flow of take-away orders too. 


Overall, Castello Coffee Co is a small, friendly, modern coffee shop, with great coffee and some delicious looking light meals.



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Introductory Post

I'm lucky enough to be able to spend a lot of my time visiting my favourite coffee shops in and around Edinburgh, so I decided to write this blog to share my experiences. Edinburgh has a great range of coffee shops, from smaller independent businesses to the larger chain coffee shops. My own preference is to use the smaller independent shops when I can but some of my family and friends like to visit the larger chain outlets, so I will try to cover a wide variety of the coffee shops available.

Of course, it is not possible to visit any coffee shops at the moment due to the covid-19 "lock-down". So I thought I would start my blog with a brief snapshot of just a few of my favourites, which I visited last month just prior to the lock-down. These are all pretty close to Edinburgh Waverley Station and a good nearby choice if you are travelling by train. There are the usual chain coffee shops inside the station complex such as Costa, Pret and Cafe Nero but there are also a number of coffee shops nearby which offer the choice of speciality coffees.


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The Milkman
7 Cockburn Street, Edinburgh EH1 1BP (Old Town)


The Milkman is a small independent coffee shop situated towards the bottom of Cockburn Street which has a striking authentic shop front. Although restricted to around 10 seats internally, the interior of the shop is lovely with exposed stone and brick, striking industrial type light fittings and some attractive plants in hanging baskets. The shop is accessible to wheelchairs however there are no toilet facilities. Outdoor seating is provided.
Good quality coffee is served here and prices are average in comparison to similar speciality coffee shops in the area – I ordered a Flat White at £2.70, a latte costs £2.80, a black coffee £2.40 and filter coffee £2.60. My Flat White was well presented with the obligatory rosette drawn with the foamed milk, although the fuller than medium roast was a bit too strong for me. Speciality loose leaf teas are available at £2.80. There was a small range of cakes and tray bakes on display although I didn’t try anything at this visit.
The shop was full at my visit – I took the last vacant seat. Most people were lingering over a coffee, a few working on laptops or smart phones. There was some nice chilled music being played and the chat level was low so the atmosphere was cosy and quiet.
Overall, a very pleasant visit with good quality coffee.


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The Wall Coffee & Design House


45 Cockburn Street, Edinburgh EH1 1BP (Old Town)
The Wall Coffee & Design House is an independent coffee shop situated midway up Cockburn Street. It has an eye-catching shop front with a (fully working) copper Victoria Arduino espresso machine positioned proudly at the window. The interior of the shop is also eye-catching, with exposed stone and brick walls and furnished with industrial type benches and stools. I think the interior is great, if a little confusing - I believe the shop is named after Pink Floyd’s “The Wall" but the “Design House" in the name threw me a bit. Place your order at the counter and your drinks and food are brought to your table.
The shop is accessible to wheelchairs although most of the tables are high with bar stools. There is a single toilet cubicle, which has been formed by partitioning off an area in the far corner of the shop. The toilet includes what looks like the original stone fire place in the room, which makes the toilet look quirky and quite cute. Outdoor seating is provided.
The coffee is made on the Victoria Arduino espresso machine and the beans are of an Italian type, medium roast blend. Prices are expensive though in comparison to similar speciality coffee shops in the area – I ordered a Flat White at £3.45, a latte costs £3.15 and a black coffee £2.95. (Yikes!). My flat white was nicely presented and was smooth and with a pleasant nutty background. Speciality loose leaf teas are available from £3.15. (The shop has a minimum order of £5.00.)
There was a small range of cakes on display at the counter however the presentation wasn’t great. Only one portion of each cake was on display in the cabinet, each wrapped in cling film. They didn’t look particularly appealing so I plumped for a croissant from an open display on the counter and it was fresh and a perfect accompaniment to the coffee. Toasties (£6.45), Panini (£7.95) and Sandwiches (£7.95) are also available, as are “Hand Made Greek Pies” advertised on the menu boards and a variety of salads.
The shop wasn’t busy at my visit so I had the pick of the 30 or so seats. I decided not to flaunt myself on the comfy looking sofa at the front window and sat at one of the high tables and stools positioned along the main wall.
Overall, a very pleasant visit with nice coffee but a bit expensive. Intriguing interior.


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Gordon Street Coffee
6 Market Street Edinburgh EH1 1DE  (Old Town)


Gordon Street Coffee is a small batch coffee producer based in Glasgow. In addition to their main Glasgow outlet, they have opened a second shop situated in Edinburgh’s Market Street, adjacent to Waverley Station – so very handy for a caffeine shot if you’re travelling by train. At the time of my visit construction work was being carried out in the Market Street area including a great deal of scaffolding and contractor vehicles (and noise), however this eventually decreases as you reach the clean lines of the new looking shop. The shop has a modern bright interior with large floor to ceiling windows running the length of the shop. The long servery counter displays a selection of cakes and pastries; and a large mouthwatering display of chocolate truffles. The shop has a single accessible toilet and is accessible to wheelchairs. Seating is provided outside.

You can't help but notice the roasting machine at the far end of the shop and roasting takes place in full view of the customers, with roasting days advertised on the wall boards. I ordered a flat white at £2.80 which was the House Blend and was nicely presented. An “Edinburgh Blend" is also available but is a darker roast and a bit too strong for me. The House Blend was lovely though – well balanced with just a hint of “nuttyness”. A latte also costs £2.80, a long black £2.50 and filter coffee at £2.20. A range of teas are also available.
As well as the cakes (and chocolates) displayed, the menu lists a few hot food choices also available. The chap seated next to me had soup and a toasted sandwich and I must say they looked delicious.
Overall, a very nice modern coffee shop with great coffee; and the opportunity to watch coffee beans being roasted. 


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Williams & Johnson Coffee Co
Waverley Mall, Princes Street, Edinburgh EH1 1BQ (New Town)

www.williamsandjohnson.com



Williams & Johnson Coffee Co is a small speciality coffee roaster based in Edinburgh, with their flagship store and roastery in Leith. They opened a second shop in Princes Street in 2018, situated above Waverley Mall, set back from Princes Street and in the shadow of the imposing Balmoral Hotel. The shop has a modern bright interior with large windows to the front, looking out onto Princes Street. 
The interior has a contemporary (Scandic) look with a mix of light coloured wood and bare plywood on the walls. The shop has around 30 seats inside, a mix of bench style tables and stools; and a few sets of tables and chairs. Additional seating is available in a room behind the main counter which appears to be used for small events - currently a pop-up book shop.
The counter display has a selection of cakes and sandwiches with soup and toasties advertised on the menu board. I had a flat white (£2.80) - a latte also costs £2.80 and filter coffee at £2.20. A range of teas are also available at £2.50. I thought the thin foam topping on my flat white was a little bit thin and my wee latte art “rosette" disappeared fairly quickly but the coffee tasted ok.


Overall, a bright modern coffee shop right in the centre of Edinburgh with decent coffee. Perhaps a bit "IKEA-ish" looking inside to create an atmosphere in which I would want to linger a while.


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Introduction to Edinburgh Coffee Shops Blog

Union Brew Lab, meticulously brewed single origin coffee