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)

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)

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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  1. Great blog, very informative! My only point would be you have to consider the cost of the cafe’s beans when comparing flat white prices :)


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